Anderson v. Gaul et al

Filing 5

Opinion and Order. Action is dismissed under section 1915(e). The Court certifies, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3), that an appeal from this decision could not be taken in good faith. Judge Christopher A. Boyko on 3/8/2018. (H,CM)

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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO WILFRED L. ANDERSON, Plaintiff, v. JUDGE DANIEL GAUL, et al., Defendants. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) CASE NO. 1:17 CV 2451 JUDGE CHRISTOPHER A. BOYKO MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER On November 22, 2017, pro se Plaintiff Wilfred S. Anderson filed this in forma pauperis action against Defendants Judge Daniel Gaul and Judge Peter J. Corrigan. Plaintiff alleges Defendants were responsible for his being improperly determined to be a vexatious litigator under Ohio law. He asserts this violates this First Amendment rights and seeks injunctive and monetary relief. Although pro se pleadings are liberally construed, Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982) (per curiam), the district court is required to dismiss an action under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or if it lacks an arguable basis in law or fact.1 Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319 (1989); Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470 (6th Cir. 2010). United States District Courts do not have jurisdiction to overturn state court decisions even if the request to reverse the state court judgment is based on an allegation that the state court’s action 1 An in forma pauperis claim may be dismissed sua sponte, without prior notice to the plaintiff and without service of process on the defendant, if the court explicitly states that it is invoking section 1915(e) [formerly 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d)] and is dismissing the claim for one of the reasons set forth in the statute. Chase Manhattan Mortg. Corp. v. Smith, 507 F.3d 910, 915 (6th Cir. 2007); Gibson v. R.G. Smith Co., 915 F.2d 260, 261 (6th Cir. 1990); Harris v. Johnson, 784 F.2d 222, 224 (6th Cir. 1986). was unconstitutional. Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 292 (2005). Federal appellate review of state court judgments can only occur in the United States Supreme Court, by appeal or by writ of certiorari. Id. Under this principle, generally referred to as the RookerFeldman 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 party’s claim that the state judgment itself violates federal rights. Berry v. Schmitt, 688 F.3d 290, 298-99 (6th Cir. 2012). The Rooker-Feldman doctrine is based on two United States Supreme Court decisions interpreting 28 U.S.C. § 1257(a).2 See District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 103 S.Ct. 1303, 75 L.Ed.2d 206 (1983); Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 44 S.Ct. 149, 68 L.Ed. 362 (1923). This statute was enacted to prevent “end-runs around state court judgments” by requiring litigants seeking review of that judgment to file a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court. The doctrine is based on the negative inference that, if appellate court review of state judgments is vested in the United States Supreme Court, then such review may not occur in the lower federal courts. Exxon Mobil Corp., 544 U.S. at 283-84; Kovacic v. Cuyahoga County Dep't of Children and Family Services, 606 F.3d 301, 308-311 (6th Cir. 2010); Lawrence v. Welch, 531 F.3d 364, 369 (6th Cir. 2008). To determine whether Rooker–Feldman bars a claim, the Court must look to the “source of the injury the plaintiff alleges in the federal complaint.” McCormick v. Braverman, 451 F.3d 382, 2 28 U.S.C. § 1257(a) provides: Final judgments or decrees rendered by the highest court of a State in which a decision could be had, may be reviewed by the Supreme Court by writ of certiorari where the validity of a treaty or statute of the United States is drawn in question or where the validity of a statute of any State is drawn in question on the ground of its being repugnant to the Constitution, treaties, or laws of the United States, or where any title, right, privilege, or immunity is specially set up or claimed under the Constitution or the treaties or statutes of, or any commission held or authority exercised under, the United States. -2- 393 (6th Cir.2006); see Berry, 688 F.3d at 299; Kovacic, 606 F.3d at 310. If the source of the plaintiff's injury is the state-court judgment itself, then the Rooker–Feldman doctrine bars the federal claim. McCormick, 451 F.3d at 393. “If there is some other source of injury, such as a third party's actions, then the plaintiff asserts an independent claim.” Id.; see Lawrence, 531 F.3d at 368–69. In conducting this inquiry, the court should also consider the plaintiff’s requested relief. Evans v. Cordray, No. 09–3998, 2011 WL 2149547, at *1 (6th Cir. May 27, 2011) Plaintiff seeks to directly attack a state court decision. Any review of the federal claims asserted in this context would require the court to review the specific issues addressed in the state court proceedings. This court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to conduct such a review or grant the relief requested. Feldman, 460 U.S. at 483-84 n. 16; Catz, 142 F.3d at 293. Further, judicial officers are generally absolutely immune from civil suits for money damages. Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 9 (1991); Barnes v. Winchell, 105 F.3d 1111, 1115 (6th Cir. 1997). This far-reaching protection is needed to ensure that the independent and impartial exercise of judgment is not impaired by the exposure of potential damages. Barnes, 105 F.3d at 1115. For this reason, absolute immunity is overcome only in two situations: (1) when the conduct alleged is not performed in the judge’s judicial capacity; or (2) when the conduct alleged, although judicial in nature, is taken in complete absence of all jurisdiction. Mireles, 502 U.S. at 11-12; Barnes, 105 F.3d at 1116. Plaintiff alleges no facts reasonably suggesting either of these criteria has been met in this case. Accordingly, this action is dismissed under section 1915(e). Further, the Court 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. s/ Christopher A. Boyko CHRISTOPHER A. BOYKO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE DATED: March 8, 2018 -3-

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