Davis v. United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio
Memorandum of Opinion and Order granting the motion 7 of Defendants Collier-Williams, O'Malley, and Piteo to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, and this action is dismissed against all defendants for lack of jurisdiction and pursuant to Apple v. Glenn. The plaintiff's remaining motions (Doc. Nos. 3 and 4 ) are denied as moot. The Court further certifies, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915(a)(3), that an appeal from this decision could not be taken in good faith. Judge Donald C. Nugent on 10/25/2017(C,KA)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
Jeff Sessions, et al.,
CASE NO. 1:17 CV 1354
JUDGE DONALD C. NUGENT
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION
Pro se plaintiff Cortez Davis has filed a complaint in this action against twelve defendants:
United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions; Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine; Cuyahoga
County Court of Common Pleas Judge Cassandra Collier-Williams; Ohio Court of Appeals Judge
Kathleen Ann Keough; City of Cleveland Law Director Barbara A. Langhenry; Cuyahoga County
Prosecutors Michael O’Malley and Brandon Piteo, criminal defense lawyers Donald Williams and
Mary Catherine O’Neill, Cuyahoga County public defender Erika Cunliffe, and Bruce Garner and
David Crane. (Doc. No. 1.) The plaintiff’s complaint does not set forth discernible specific factual
allegations regarding any of the named defendants but, with the exception of the Attorneys General,
the defendants all appear to be connected in some to a state criminal case brought against the
plaintiff in state court, State v. Davis, CR-16-607798-A, (Cuyahoga County Court of Common
Pleas). The plaintiff was found guilty by a jury in the state case of carrying a concealed weapon and
improperly handling firearms in a motor vehicle. He was sentenced to time served and agreed to
forfeit the weapon and ammunition seized from him. (See id., at Ex. 2.)
The plaintiff appealed his conviction to the Ohio Court of Appeals, but the Court of Appeals
dismissed his appeal on June 6, 2017, because the plaintiff failed to file assignments of error and a
pro se brief as the Court of Appeals directed him to do after two court-appointed lawyers were both
permitted to withdraw from representing him. See State of Ohio v. Cortez D. Davis, CA-17-105471
(Ohio App 8th Dist.).
Instead of appealing or seeking further relief in state court, the plaintiff filed the complaint
in this case pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6) to “Vacate [a] void” judgment of
the Ohio Court of Appeals and to void his state convictions based on “ineffective [assistance of]
appellate counsels for not filing appellant brief, and [because] the trial Lacked Jurisdiction abinitio.”
(See Doc. No. 1.) Cuyahoga County Defendants Collier-Williams, O’Malley and Piteo have filed
a motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a
claim. (Doc. No. 7.) They argue the plaintiff’s complaint does not allege any discernible federal
cause of action, and that the Court lacks federal subject-matter jurisdiction to review judgments of
the state court. The plaintiff filed an objection to the motion, which sets forth a number of unclear
legal assertions and conclusions, but nonetheless makes clear that the only relief the plaintiff seeks
in the case is to “vacate the decision of the 8th dist[rict] court of appeals.” (Doc. No. 8 at 13.)
Although pro se complaints are liberally construed and held to less stringent standards than
formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011), pro se
litigants are not exempt from the pleading requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a) requires that a pleading set forth “a short and plain statement of the grounds for
the court’s jurisdiction” and “a short and plain statement of the claim showing the pleading is entitled
to relief.” The Sixth Circuit has recognized that, despite a plaintiff's pro se status, federal courts are
not required to “guess at the nature of the claim asserted.” Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th
Cir. 1989); see also Payne v. Sec’y of Treas., 73 F. App’x 836, 837 (6th Cir. 2003) (affirming sua
sponte dismissal of a pro se complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) and stating that "[n]either
this court nor the district court is required to create the plaintiff’s claim for her”).
Further, federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and have an independent duty to
determine whether they have jurisdiction in cases before them and to “police the boundaries of their
own jurisdiction.” Douglas v. E.G. Baldwin & Assoc. Inc., 150 F.3d 604, 606 (6th Cir. 1998),
overruled on other grounds, Cobb v. Contract Transp., Inc., 452 F.3d 543, 549 (6th Cir. 2006). A
federal district court has the authority to dismiss a complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction
under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) at any time “when the allegations of [the] complaint are totally
implausible, attenuated, unsubstantial, frivolous, devoid of merit, or no longer open to discussion.”
Apple v. Glenn, 183 F.3d 477, 479 (6th Cir. 1999), citing Hagans v. Lavine, 415 U.S. 528, 536-37
(1974); see also In re Benedictin Litig., 857 F.2d 290, 300 (6th Cir. 1988) (recognizing that federal
jurisdiction is divested by obviously frivolous and unsubstantial claims).
Upon review, the Court finds the plaintiff’s action must be dismissed for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction and pursuant to Apple v. Glenn. Even liberally construed, the plaintiff’s
complaint does not set forth any plausible federal claim or cause of action, or any facts as to specific
conduct against any defendant in the case. The only relief sought by the plaintiff in the action is
relief from judgment in a state criminal case. Federal district courts lack the power to review
decisions rendered by state courts. See Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S.
280, 283 (2005) (“appellate jurisdiction to reverse or modify a state-court judgment is lodged . . .
exclusively in [the United States Supreme] Court”). The Rooker–Feldman doctrine bars district
courts from hearing both challenges to state court judgments and claims that are “inextricably
intertwined” with state court judgments. See Hood v. Keller, 341 F.3d 593, 597 (6th Cir. 2003). “In
practice this means that when granting relief on the federal claim would imply that the state-court
judgment on the other issues was incorrect, federal courts do not have jurisdiction.” Pieper v. Am.
Arbitration Ass'n, 336 F.3d 458, 460 (6th Cir. 2003); see also Pennzoil Co. v. Texaco, Inc., 481 U.S.
1, 25 (1987) (Marshall, J., concurring) (“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.”). Accordingly, the
Court finds it lacks jurisdiction to hear the plaintiff’s action.
For the reasons stated above, the motion of Defendants Collier-Williams, O’Malley, and
Piteo to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction is granted, and this action is
dismissed against all defendants for lack of jurisdiction and pursuant to Apple v. Glenn. The
plaintiff’s remaining motions (Doc. Nos. 3 and 4) are denied as moot. The Court further certifies,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915(a)(3), that an appeal from this decision could not be taken in good faith.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATE: October 25, 2017
/s/Donald C. Nugent
DONALD C. NUGENT
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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