Virginia Lawyers Weekly//November 20, 2023
Virginia Lawyers Weekly//November 20, 2023//
Where a woman’s federal court suit essentially sought to void a state court judgment, her suit was dismissed because of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.
Doris E. Tucker, proceeding pro se, seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis Tucker’s complaint names three defendants. The complaint does not allege, however, what any of the specific defendants did, nor does she identify her relationship to them.
Instead, her complaint states that the relief she is seeking is for this court to “void the judgment that was granted in Roanoke State Circuit court.” She claims that the judgment was entered in error because the complaint should have been dismissed under the bankruptcy code, and she argues that the state court lacked jurisdiction.
She also contends that the plaintiffs in the first state court suit filed in 2012 — none of whom are named as parties here — were time-barred from collecting on her mortgage debt as a result of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and Regulation F. Separately, she alleges that the state court violated her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights when it warned her that if she spoke again, she would be held in contempt.
In her request for relief, she asks the court to “Stop the eviction and [sale] of her home, Nov. 9, 2023, Until this court have a trial or court void judgment” on the grounds she has set forth. She further says that the court “should dismiss the Roanoke City Action.” She also includes a document titled as a “Memorandum in Support of Emergency Petition,” although she has not filed a separate motion seeking any particular type of relief. This document mostly reiterates the same types of claims made in her complaint.
Tucker’s complaint does not clearly state a basis for jurisdiction. However, she refers to federal bankruptcy law, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and several amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Presumably, then, she invokes this court’s federal question jurisdiction, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. But critically, the only relief she seeks is that the court either void the state court judgment in the earlier case or dismiss the pending state case, which has a trial set for Nov. 9, 2023.
The court concludes that it is barred from considering Tucker’s claims pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Under that doctrine, federal districts courts do not have subject matter jurisdiction to hear “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.”
“The controlling question in the Rooker-Feldman analysis is whether a party seeks the federal district court to review a state court decision and pass upon the merits of that state court decision. Here, that question is easily answered.
The only relief requested in Tucker’s complaint is that the court either void the judgment of the earlier state court case, or stay the enforcement of the current proceedings and stop the Nov. 9, 2023, proceeding (presumably the foreclosure sale) ordered in the second action. Either of those requires the court to pass on the merits of the state court’s rulings. Accordingly, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars this court from exercising jurisdiction over Tucker’s claims and complaint.
Even if the court had jurisdiction, Tucker’s complaint fails to identify what any specific defendant did that she believes gives rise to a legal claim. The constitutional claims appear to be based on the actions of a state court judge, who is not a party to this action and who is entitled to judicial immunity for actions taken in the course of a legal proceeding and within his role as a judicial officer.
Moreover, as to the named defendants, Tucker fails to identify any particular action or omission by any of them or any details in support of any legal claim. The Fourth Circuit has made clear that collectively deeming “defendants” to have committed some act generally is insufficient to state a claim against any of them. Tucker fails to identify any action by any particular defendant. For this additional reason, her complaint also fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted.
Plaintiff’s request to proceed in forma pauperis granted. Complaint dismissed.
Tucker v. U.S. Bank Trust National Association, Case No. 7:23-cv-00713, Nov. 1, 2023. WDVA at Harrisonburg (Dillon). VLW 023-3-696. 5 pp.