Davis #198028 v. Church et al
OPINION ; signed by Judge R. Allan Edgar (Judge R. Allan Edgar, cam)
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
ANDRE K. DAVIS,
Case No. 2:14-cv-238
Honorable R. Allan Edgar
ELIZABETH B. CHURCH,
This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
The Court has granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Under the Prison Litigation
Reform Act, PUB. L. NO. 104-134, 110 STAT. 1321 (1996), the Court is required to dismiss any
prisoner action brought under federal law if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from such
relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The Court must read Plaintiff’s pro
se complaint indulgently, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and accept Plaintiff’s
allegations as true, unless they are clearly irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504
U.S. 25, 33 (1992). Applying these standards, Plaintiff’s action will be dismissed for failure to state
Plaintiff Andre K. Davis, a state prisoner currently incarcerated at the Chippewa
Correctional Facility (URF), filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
Defendants Elizabeth B. Church, Chief Judge in the 91st District Court, Tammy Schroeder, Chief
Deputy Clerk 91st District Court, and Catherine C. Maleport, Chippewa County Clerk. In Plaintiff’s
complaint, he alleges that Defendants violated his state and federal rights in the course of his
criminal prosecution. Plaintiff asserts that as a result of Defendants’ misconduct, he was convicted
of a felony. Plaintiff seeks equitable relief.
Failure to state a claim
A complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it fails “‘to give the
defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.’” Bell Atl. Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). While
a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff’s allegations must include more
than labels and conclusions. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements,
do not suffice.”). The court must determine whether the complaint contains “enough facts to state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial
plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Although
the plausibility standard is not equivalent to a “‘probability requirement,’ . . . it asks for more than
a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 556). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the
mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged – but it has not ‘show[n]’ – that the
pleader is entitled to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2)); see also Hill
v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (holding that the Twombly/Iqbal plausibility
standard applies to dismissals of prisoner cases on initial review under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b)(1)
To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right
secured by the federal Constitution or laws and must show that the deprivation was committed by
a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Dominguez v. Corr.
Med. Servs., 555 F.3d 543, 549 (6th Cir. 2009). Because § 1983 is a method for vindicating federal
rights, not a source of substantive rights itself, the first step in an action under § 1983 is to identify
the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994).
The federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and Plaintiff has the burden of
proving the Court’s jurisdiction. United States v. Horizon Healthcare, 160 F.3d 326, 329 (6th Cir.
1998). Even where subject matter jurisdiction is not raised by the parties, the Court must consider
the issue sua sponte. See City of Kenosha v. Bruno, 412 U.S. 507, 511 (1973); Norris v. Schotten,
146 F.3d 314, 324 (6th Cir. 1998); Mickler v. Nimishillen & Tuscarawas Ry. Co., 13 F.3d 184, 189
(6th Cir. 1993).
This Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s claims. A federal district
court has no authority to review final judgments of state-court judicial proceedings. District of
Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 482 (1983); Gottfried v. Med. Planning
Servs., Inc., 142 F.3d 326, 330 (6th Cir.1998). A loser in the state court may not be heard in the
federal district court on complaints of injuries by a state-court judgment rendered before the federal
proceeding commenced. Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 283-84
(2005). Even constitutional claims that are inextricably intertwined with the state-court decisions
are not reviewable. Feldman, 460 U.S. at 483 n.16; Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413,
415-16 (1923); Patmon v. Michigan Supreme Court, 224 F.3d 504, 509-10 (6th Cir. 2000); United
States v. Owens, 54 F.3d 271, 274 (6th Cir. 1995). A federal claim is inextricably intertwined with
the state-court judgment “‘if the federal claim succeeds only to the extent that the state court wrongly
decided the issues before it. Where federal relief can only be predicated upon a conviction that the
state court was wrong, it is difficult to conceive the federal proceeding as, in substance, anything
other than a prohibited appeal of the state-court judgment.’” Peterson Novelties, Inc. v. City of
Berkley, 305 F.3d 386, 391 (6th Cir. 2002) (quoting Catz v. Chalker, 142 F.3d 279, 293 (6th Cir.
1998)) (other internal citations omitted); see also Hood v. Keller, 341 F.3d 593, 597 (6th Cir. 2003)
(where a party losing in state court seeks to challenge the state-court judgment, the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine bars federal district court jurisdiction); Johnson v. De Grandy, 512 U.S. 997, 1005-06
(1994) (holding that, under the Rooker- Feldman doctrine, “a party losing in state court is barred
from seeking what in substance would be appellate review of the state judgment in a United States
district court, based on the losing party’s claim that the state judgment itself violates the loser’s
federal rights.”). A defendant who loses in state court and then sues in federal court is asserting
injury at the hands of the state court and his federal suit is making an impermissible attempt to obtain
federal collateral review. Garry v. Gels, 82 F.3d 1362, 1367-68 (7th Cir.1996); Stewart v. Fleet
Financial Group, No. 96-2146, 129 F.3d 1265, 1997 WL 705219, *1 (6th Cir. Nov. 4, 1997).
Plaintiff’s claims are “inextricably intertwined” with decisions of the state courts
because they amount to nothing more nor less than a “prohibited appeal” from the decisions of the
Michigan state courts in ordering and enforcing child support obligations. Peterson Novelties, 305
F.3d at 390. Indeed, the Sixth Circuit previously has found that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars
a federal action challenging a state-court judgment that a party was in arrears on his child-support
obligations. See Belock v. Burt, 19 F. App’x 323, 324 (6th Cir. 2001); Rowe v. City of Detroit, No.
00-1353, 2000 WL 1679474, at *1 (6th Cir. Nov. 2, 2000). Similarly, the Sixth Circuit has
concluded that the federal district court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction to review a the termination
of parental rights in state court proceedings because such an action would be an attempted appeal
from a state court decision. See Bodell v. McDonald, No. 00-5679, 2001 WL 137557, at *2 (6th Cir.
Feb. 7, 2001); accord Evans v. Yarbrough. No. 00-3588, 2001 WL 1871701, at *2 (6th Cir. Dec.
13, 2000) (applying Rooker-Feldman to bar review of a decision by the state courts regarding
parental visitation). The recourse available to Plaintiff in response to adverse state-court decisions
was to pursue timely appeals in the Michigan Court of Appeals, thereafter seek leave to appeal to
the Michigan Supreme Court, and if necessary apply for a writ of certiorari to the United States
Supreme Court. See Gottfried, 142 F.3d at 330 (“[L]ower federal courts do not have jurisdiction to
review a case litigated and decided in state court; only the United States Supreme Court has
jurisdiction to correct state court judgments.”).
Because the Rooker-Feldman doctrine clearly precludes a lower federal court from
reviewing state-law decisions, Plaintiff’s case is dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction
under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. A claim dismissed the basis of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine
is legally frivolous and constitutes a dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). See Alpern v. Lieb,
38 F.3d 933, 934 (7th Cir. 1994); Parker v. Phillips, No. 01-5325, 2001 WL 1450704 (6th Cir. 2001)
(holding action to be frivolous under § 1915(g) where one ground for dismissal is Rooker-Feldman);
Carlock v. Williams, No. 98-5545, 1999 WL 454880 (6th Cir. June 22, 1999) (same).
Having conducted the review required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the Court
determines that Plaintiff’s action will be dismissed for failure to state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b), and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c).
The Court must next decide whether an appeal of this action would be in good faith
within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3). See McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 611
(6th Cir. 1997). For the same reasons that the Court dismisses the action, the Court discerns no
good-faith basis for an appeal. Should Plaintiff appeal this decision, the Court will assess the
$505.00 appellate filing fee pursuant to § 1915(b)(1), see McGore, 114 F.3d at 610-11, unless
Plaintiff is barred from proceeding in forma pauperis, e.g., by the “three-strikes” rule of § 1915(g).
If he is barred, he will be required to pay the $505.00 appellate filing fee in one lump sum.
This is a dismissal as described by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).
A Judgment consistent with this Opinion will be entered.
/s/ R. Allan Edgar
R. ALLAN EDGAR
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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