Finley-Swanson v. Cass County Bank et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION - The Court will abstain from exercising jurisdiction over plaintiff's claims. However, the Court will dismiss plaintiff's Amended Complaint without prejudice to reassertion in state court. Ordered by Senior Judge Lyle E. Strom. (Copy e-mailed to pro se party) (TEL)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
DISTRICT OF NEBRASKA
CASS COUNTY BANK, JEFFREY
B. SWANSON, DENNIS BROWN,
MATTHEW S. HIGGINS, and
FIRST NEBRASKA TITLE COMPANY, )
This matter is before the Court on defendants’ Motions
to Dismiss (Filing Nos. 26, 31, 33 and 38).
As set forth below,
the Motions will be granted.
BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF COMPLAINT
Plaintiff filed this matter on October 17, 2011.1
(Filing No. 1.)
This matter relates entirely to defendant
Jeffrey B. Swanson’s purchase of real property and its effect on
his and plaintiff’s ongoing divorce proceedings.
Plaintiff filed a nearly-identical, related case on
October 13, 2011, against some of the same defendants. (Case No.
8:11CV357, Filing No. 1.) For the same reasons as set forth in
this Memorandum Opinion, the Court will also dismiss that
Plaintiff filed her Amended Complaint on December 7, 2011.
(Filing No. 20.) In accordance with NECivR 15.1, the Amended
Complaint “supersedes the pleading amended in all respects.”
Thus, only the claims and defendants contained in the Amended
Complaint are before the Court.
In their Motions to Dismiss, defendants argue that
dismissal is warranted because this Court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction, because plaintiff’s Amended Complaint fails to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and because this
Court should abstain from hearing in light of the underlying,
ongoing state-court divorce matter.
Despite having several
months in which to do so, plaintiff did not respond to the
Motions to Dismiss.
(See Docket Sheet.)
DEFENDANTS’ MOTIONS TO DISMISS
Defendants argue that the claims against them should be
dismissed because, among other things, plaintiff may raise her
claims in the ongoing state-court divorce proceedings.
No. 27 at CM/ECF p. 2; Filing No. 32 at CM/ECF pp. 7-8; Filing
No. 35 at CM/ECF pp. 3-4; Filing No. 39 at CM/ECF p. 6.)
To promote comity between state and federal judicial
bodies, “federal courts should abstain from exercising
jurisdiction in cases where equitable relief would interfere with
pending state proceedings.”
774 (8th Cir. 2004).
Aaron v. Target Corp., 357 F.3d 768,
Courts use the doctrine developed in
Younger v. Harris to carry out this policy.
401 U.S. 37 (1971).
Under Younger, a federal court should abstain from jurisdiction
“‘when (1) there is an ongoing state judicial proceeding which
(2) implicates important state interests, and when (3) that
proceeding affords an adequate opportunity to raise the federal
Norwood v. Dickey, 409 F.3d 901, 903 (8th
Cir. 2005) (quoting Fuller v. Ulland, 76 F.3d 957, 959 (8th
Cir.1996); see also Parejko v. Dunn Cnty. Cir. Ct., 209 F. App’x
545, 546-47 (7th Cir. 2006) (“[F]ederal courts have long
recognized that domestic relations litigation-from marriage to
divorce-is an area of significant state concern from which the
federal judiciary should generally abstain under Younger.”); Kahn
v. Kahn, 21 F.3d 859, 861 (8th Cir. 1994) (“In addition . . .
when a cause of action closely relates to but does not precisely
fit into the contours of an action for divorce, alimony or child
custody, federal courts generally will abstain from exercising
In the case at bar, we determine that [the
plaintiff’s] claims for relief, although drafted to sound in
tort, are so inextricably intertwined with the prior property
settlement incident to the divorce proceeding that subject matter
jurisdiction does not lie in the federal court.”).
Here, plaintiffs’ pleadings show that she is involved
in an ongoing divorce action in Nebraska state court, which is
currently pending on appeal.
(Filing No. 20 at CM/ECF p. 1.)
Indeed, plaintiff alleges in her Amended Complaint that defendant
Swanson, with the help of the remaining defendants, “defrauded
and denied Plaintiff” an interest in the “marital property” when
he recently purchased a home “without Plaintiff’s knowledge or
consent and with proceeds from the parties’ marital estate.”
(Id. at CM/ECF pp. 1-2.)
Plaintiff further alleges that
defendants “knew or should have known” that the purchase of the
property may affect the ongoing divorce proceedings.
CM/ECF p. 3.)
Plaintiff also complains of other unspecified
“attempts to defraud Plaintiff throughout the parties’ divorce
(Id. at CM/ECF p. 4.)
Plaintiff requests that the
court file criminal charges against defendants, award her
monetary relief, direct the Douglas County, Nebraska, Register of
Deeds Office to add plaintiff’s name to the property deed, and
“enter an Order requiring the Nebraska Court of Appeal [sic] to
hold the proceedings pending before [it] . . . in abeyance
pending final disposition of” this matter.
(Id. at CM/ECF pp. 7-
These allegations clearly show that there is a
parallel, ongoing divorce proceeding in state court which
implicates important state interests involving domestic
In addition, plaintiff did not respond to the
To the extent the divorce proceedings are now final, this
court would be barred from exercising jurisdiction over that
final state-court judgment because the Rooker-Feldman doctrine
prohibits lower federal courts from exercising appellate review
of state-court judgments. Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S.
413, 416 (1923); District of Columbia Court of Appeals v.
Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 482 (1983); see also Jacobs v. Gear
Props., 2 F. App’x 617, 617 (8th Cir. 2001) (affirming dismissal
of civil rights action relating to state-court eviction in
accordance with Rooker-Feldman doctrine).
Motions to Dismiss, and has therefore not alleged or demonstrated
that the ongoing state-court divorce proceedings will not provide
her with the opportunity to raise the claims and arguments raised
in her Amended Complaint.
Plouffe v. Ligon, No. 08-3996, 2010 WL
2178863, *2 (8th Cir. June 2, 2010) (applying Younger and finding
abstention warranted where the plaintiff failed to show that the
state court proceedings did “not afford him an adequate
opportunity to raise his constitutional claims”).
the Court will abstain from exercising jurisdiction over
However, the Court will dismiss plaintiff’s
Amended Complaint without prejudice to reassertion in state
A separate order will be entered in accordance with this
DATED this 8th day of March, 2012.
BY THE COURT:
/s/ Lyle E. Strom
LYLE E. STROM, Senior Judge
United States District Court
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