McMullen v. Cain
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS, The Magistrate Judge RECOMMENDS that the District Court GRANT Defendant Deanna Cains Motion to Remand, Dkt. No. 11 , and REMAND this action to state court. Signed by Judge Andrew W. Austin. (dm)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
THE HONORABLE LEE YEAKEL
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Before the Court are Defendant Deanna Cain’s Motion to Remand to State Court, Dkt. No.
11, and Plaintiff Stuart McMullen’s Response, Dkt. No. 13, as well as McMullen’s Motion to
Strike for Failure to Include all Pages and Failure to Include Certificate of Service, Dkt. No. 12. The
Court submits this Report and Recommendation to the United States District Court pursuant to 28
U.S.C. §636(b) and Rule 1 of Appendix C of the Local Rules.
Plaintiff Stuart McMullen removed this dispute, raising divorce and child custody issues,
from Williamson County District Court. Over many pages, McMullen argues that the state court
proceedings have violated his civil rights. To that end, he seeks “such appropriate declaratory and
injunctive relief as to due process and equal civil rights,” as well as damages. Dkt. No. 1 at 16.
Defendant Deanna Cain moves to remand this case to state court.
Pro se complaints are liberally construed in favor of the plaintiff. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S.
519, 520-521 (1972). The court must “accept as true factual allegations in the complaint and all
reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom.” Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996).
A pro se complaint can only be dismissed for failure to state a claim when “it appears ‘beyond doubt
that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.’”
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520–521 (1972). However, a petitioner’s pro se status does not
offer him “an impenetrable shield, for one acting pro se has no license to harass others, clog the
judicial machinery with meritless litigation, and abuse already overloaded court dockets.” Farguson
v. Mbank Houston N.A., 808 F.2d 358, 359 (5th Cir. 1986).
“Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of
America, 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). This Court lacks jurisdiction to hear McMullen’s claims under
the Rooker–Feldman doctrine. As the Fifth Circuit has explained:
The Supreme Court has definitively established, in what has become known as the
Rooker–Feldman doctrine, that federal district courts, as courts of original
jurisdiction, lack appellate jurisdiction to review, modify, or nullify final orders of
state courts. If a state court errs the judgment is not void, it is to be reviewed and
corrected by the appropriate state appellate court. Thereafter, recourse at the federal
level is limited solely to an application for writ of certiorari to the United States
Weekly v. Morrow, 204 F.3d 613, 615 (5th Cir. 2000) (internal quotations and footnotes omitted).
Federal courts frequently apply the doctrine to bar federal jurisdiction over family law matters such
as child support and divorce proceedings. See, e.g., Gorzelanczyk v. Baldassone, 29 F. App’x 402,
403–04 (7th Cir. 2002) (finding suit challenging contempt order enforcing child support order barred
by Rooker–Feldman); Laskowski v. Attorney Gen. of Tex., 2006 WL 2479101, at *2 (S.D. Tex.
Aug.25, 2006) (finding suit challenging child support arrearages barred by Rooker-Feldman). As
this is a family law matter, under the Rooker–Feldman doctrine this Court lacks jurisdiction to
entertain McMullen’s claim. See Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284
(2005) (stating the Rooker–Feldman doctrine applies to “cases brought by state-court losers
complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before the district court
proceedings commenced and invoking district court review and rejection of those judgments”).
In addition, this case is also subject to dismissal under the domestic relations exception to
federal jurisdiction. Under the domestic relations exception, federal courts have traditionally refused
to adjudicate cases involving marital status or child custody issues. Rykers v. Alford, 832 F.2d 895,
899 (5th Cir. 1987). Courts have reasoned that (1) the state courts have greater expertise and interest
in domestic matters; (2) such disputes often require ongoing supervision, a task for which the federal
courts are not suited; (3) piecemeal adjudication of such disputes increases the chance of different
court systems handing down incompatible decrees; and (4) such cases serve no particular federal
interest, while crowding the federal court docket. Id. at 899-900. “If the federal court must
determine which parent should receive custody, what rights the noncustodial parent should have,
how much child support should be paid and under what conditions, or whether a previous court’s
determination on these matters should be modified, then the court should dismiss the case.” Id. at
Based upon the foregoing, the Magistrate Judge RECOMMENDS that the District Court
GRANT Defendant Deanna Cain’s Motion to Remand, Dkt. No. 11, and REMAND this action to
state court. All other motions should be DISMISSED AS MOOT.
The parties may file objections to this Report and Recommendation. A party filing objections
must specifically identify those findings or recommendations to which objections are being made.
The District Court need not consider frivolous, conclusive, or general objections. See Battle v.
United States Parole Comm’n, 834 F.2d 419, 421 (5th Cir. 1987).
A party’s failure to file written objections to the proposed findings and recommendations
contained in this Report within fourteen (14) days after the party is served with a copy of the Report
shall bar that party from de novo review by the District Court of the proposed findings and
recommendations in the Report and, except upon grounds of plain error, shall bar the party from
appellate review of unobjected-to proposed factual findings and legal conclusions accepted by the
District Court. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150-53, 106 S. Ct. 466,
472-74 (1985); Douglass v. United Servs. Auto. Ass’n, 79 F.3d 1415, 1428-29 (5th Cir. 1996) (en
SIGNED this 31st day of August, 2016.
ANDREW W. AUSTIN
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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