Swift v. Thomas et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER that Plaintiff's complaint is dismissed without prejudice. Judgment will be entered by separate document. Ordered by Senior Judge Richard G. Kopf. (Copy mailed to pro se party) (LAC)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEBRASKA
WADIE THOMAS, and MATTHEW )
Plaintiff filed his Complaint in this matter on April 29, 2016. (Filing No. 1.)
Plaintiff has been given leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Filing No. 6.) The court
now conducts and initial review of the Complaint to determine whether summary
dismissal is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).
I. SUMMARY OF COMPLAINT
Plaintiff’s Complaint alleges that Judge Wadie Thomas denied Plaintiff’s motion
to proceed without counsel in a state court proceeding. Plaintiff requests that this court
“direct Wadie Thomas to enter order directing” that Plaintiff be allowed to proceed
without counsel. (Filing No. 1.) Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant Matthew
Kahler is “violating [Plaintiff’s] self representation, due process, equal protection
rights by continuing to masquerade as [Plaintiff’s] counsel over [Plaintiff’s]
II. STANDARDS ON INITIAL REVIEW
The court is required to review in forma pauperis complaints to determine
whether summary dismissal is appropriate. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). The court must
dismiss a complaint or any portion of it that states a frivolous or malicious claim, that
fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief
from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
Pro se plaintiffs must set forth enough factual allegations to “nudge their
claims across the line from conceivable to plausible,” or “their complaint must be
dismissed.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 569-70 (2007); see also
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“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.”).
“The essential function of a complaint under the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure is to give the opposing party ‘fair notice of the nature and basis or grounds
for a claim, and a general indication of the type of litigation involved.’” Topchian v.
JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., 760 F.3d 843, 848 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Hopkins v.
Saunders, 199 F.3d 968, 973 (8th Cir. 1999)). However, “[a] pro se complaint must
be liberally construed, and pro se litigants are held to a lesser pleading standard than
other parties.” Topchian, 760 F.3d at 849 (internal quotation marks and citations
Liberally construed, Plaintiff here alleges federal constitutional claims. To state
a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege a violation of rights protected
by the United States Constitution or created by federal statute and also must show that
the alleged deprivation was caused by conduct of a person acting under color of state
law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Buckley v. Barlow, 997 F.2d 494, 495
(8th Cir. 1993).
Plaintiff contends that his constitutional rights were violated when a state court
judge denied his request to proceed without counsel in a state court action. The
Rooker-Feldman doctrine precludes consideration of Plaintiff’s claim.
The Rooker-Feldman doctrine provides that, with the exception of habeas
corpus petitions, lower federal courts lack subject matter jurisdiction over challenges
to state court judgments and state proceedings. Mosby v. Ligon, 418 F.3d 927, 931
(8th Cir. 2005). See D.C. Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 476 (1983);
Rooker v. Fid. Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923). Specifically, the doctrine “bars federal
courts from hearing cases brought by the losing parties in state court proceedings
alleging ‘injury caused by the state-court judgment and seeking review and rejection
of that judgment.’” Mosby, 418 at 931 (quoting Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic
Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280 (2005)). The Rooker-Feldman doctrine also applies to state
proceedings that are essentially judicial in nature. Feldman, 460 U.S. at 467. See also
Ballinger v. Culotta, 322 F.3d 546, 548 (8th Cir. 2003). It appears that Nebraska state
courts have ordered that Plaintiff cannot proceed pro se in certain state court
proceedings. In order for Plaintiff to properly challenge these state court orders, he
must seek the appropriate state remedies.
Moreover, to the extent that any portion of Plaintiff’s Complaint could survive
the jurisdictional bars of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, Younger abstention is
warranted. Under the Younger abstention doctrine, abstention is mandatory where: (1)
there is an ongoing state proceeding; (2) an important state interest is implicated; and
(3) the plaintiff has an avenue open for review of constitutional claims in the state
court. Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971); see Aaron v. Target Corp., 357 F.3d
768, 774 (8th Cir. 2004) (“Under Younger v. Harris,  federal courts should abstain
from exercising jurisdiction in cases where equitable relief would interfere with
pending state proceedings in a way that offends principles of comity and federalism”).
Therefore, Plaintiff’s Complaint must be dismissed.
IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff’s complaint is dismissed without prejudice.
Judgment will be entered by separate document.
DATED this 1st day of July, 2016.
BY THE COURT:
s/ Richard G. Kopf
Senior United States District Judge
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