JOHNSON v. FUBER et al
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE C. DARNELL JONES, II ON 5/20/2016. 5/20/2016 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PRO SE.(sg, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
PRESIDENT JUDGE WILLIAM J.
FURBER, JR., et al.
Plaintiff Thomas Johnson brings this civil action based on his dissatisfaction with judicial
rulings in a custody matter in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas. He seeks leave
to proceed in forma pauperis. The Court will grant plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauper is
and dismiss his complaint.
According to the complaint, plaintiff was granted primary custody of his children in
February of 2014, when his ex-wife failed to appear for a hearing in the course of a domestic
relations case in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas. The Honorable Kelly Wall
of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas subsequently "overturned that order and
compelled the Plaintiff to have a trial for custody of his children." (Compl. at 3.) After trial,
plaintiffs custody order was modified, apparently to allow plaintiffs ex-wife to see the children
two nights a week and every other weekend in Philadelphia. 1 Additionally, the amount of child
support that plaintiff receives from his ex-wife was "reduced drastically ... which does not
adequately assist the Plaintiff." (Id.) Plaintiff also alleges that his ex-wife is "consistently"
permitted to be late on payments even though plaintiff "has witnesses [sic] himself, the same
Plaintiff is dissatisfied with that ruling because it "permit[s] his children to be in a dangerous
city more time." (Compl. at 3.)
Defendant, Judge Wahl [sic], send African-American males to the county jail or work release for
Based on those allegations, plaintiff initiated this civil action against President Judge
William J. Furber, Jr.; Judge Wall; Gary Kline, the Director of the Domestic Relations Division
of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas; the Domestic Relations Division of the
Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas; and several John Doe defendants. He alleges that
the defendants discriminated against him on the basis of his race (African-American) and gender
(male) and cites Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a), as the basis for his claims. Plaintiff alleges
that he wrote to "each of the Defendants and their Supervisors" and "filed a complaint with the
Judicial Board and ... the Attorney General of Pennsylvania." (Compl. at 3.) He seeks to
reinstate the state court's initial order granting him primary custody and also requests monetary
Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis is granted because it appears that he is
incapable of paying the fees to commence this civil action. Accordingly, 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) requires the Court to dismiss the complaint if it fails to state a claim. To
survive dismissal, the complaint must contain "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(quotations omitted). "[M]ere conclusory statements do not suffice." Id. As plaintiff is
proceeding prose, the Court construes his allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d
333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011). Furthermore, "[i]f the court determines at any time that it lacks subjectmatter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3).
Pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, federal district courts lack jurisdiction over
"cases brought by state-court losers complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments
rendered before the district court proceedings commenced and inviting district court review and
rejection of those judgments." Great W Mining & Mineral Co. v. Fox Rothschild, LLP, 615
F.3d 159, 166 (3d Cir. 2010) (quotations omitted). In other words, federal district courts do not
serve as a venue for a plaintiff to appeal a state-court order with which he is dissatisfied.
Accordingly, to the extent plaintiff is seeking review and rejection of the state court's judgment
based on injuries caused by that judgment, this Court lacks jurisdiction over his claims.
To the extent plaintiffs claims are not barred by Rooker-Feldman, he has not stated a
claim. Title VII prohibits race and gender discrimination, among other things, in the context of
employment. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. It does not have any application to this case. In any
event, plaintiffs allegations of race and gender discrimination are entirely conclusory. The fact
that plaintiff did not prevail in his case does not equate to a discrimination claim, even if he is a
member of a protected class. 2 Accordingly, the Court will dismiss the complaint. Plaintiff will
not be given leave to amend because it appears that amendment would be futile. An appropriate
order follows, which shall be docketed separately.
Even liberally construing the complaint as raising equal protection claims under 42 U.S.C. §
1983, the Court cannot ascertain a plausible basis for a claim because (1) state courts and
divisions of state courts are entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity, see Will v. Michigan
Dep't ofState Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66 (1989); Benn v. First Judicial Dist. of Pa., 426 F.3d 233,
241 (3d Cir. 2005); (2) judges are immune from § 1983 claims based on their judicial rulings, see
Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 355-56 (1978); (3) most of the defendants do not appear to
have had any personal involvement in the events giving rise to plaintiffs claims, see Baraka v.
McGreevey, 481F.3d187, 210 (3d Cir. 2007); and (4) plaintiffs allegations of discrimination
are entirely conclusory.
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