United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER OF SUMMARY DISMISSAL
F. COX, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
a pro se civil rights case brought pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Michigan prisoner James Arthur Stevens
(“Plaintiff”), currently confined at the Gus
Harrison Correctional Facility in Adrian, Michigan pleaded
nolo contendere to first-degree home invasion and assault
with intent to commit murder in the Van Buren County Circuit
Court and was sentenced to concurrent terms of 13 to 20 years
imprisonment and 17 to 20 years imprisonment in 2010. In his
complaint, he alleges that his constitutional rights were
violated during his state court post-conviction habeas
proceedings. He names Lenawee County Circuit Court Judge Anna
Anzalone and the 39th Circuit Court as defendants in this
action and sues them in their official capacities for
injunctive and declaratory relief. The Court has granted
Plaintiff leave to proceed without prepayment of the filing
fees for this action. See 28 U.S.C. §
the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996
(“PLRA”), the Court is required to sua
sponte dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint
before service on a defendant if it determines that the
action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief against
a defendant who is immune from such relief. 42 U.S.C. §
1997e(c); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). The Court is
similarly required to dismiss a complaint seeking redress
against government entities, officers, and employees which it
finds to be frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief
from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A. A complaint is frivolous if it lacks an
arguable basis in law or in fact. Denton v.
Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992); Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989).
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires that a complaint set
forth “a short and plain statement of the claim showing
that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” as well as
“a demand for the relief sought.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2), (3). The purpose of this rule is to “give the
defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley
v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957) and Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2)). While such notice pleading does not require
detailed factual allegations, it does require more than the
bare assertion of legal conclusions. Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555. Rule 8 “demands more than an unadorned,
the defendant-unlawfully-harmed me accusation.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
“A pleading that offers ‘labels and
conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.'”
Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
“Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders
‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further
factual enhancement.'” Id. (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).
state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must
allege that (1) he was deprived of a right, privilege, or
immunity secured by the federal Constitution or laws of the
United States; and (2) the deprivation was caused by a person
acting under color of state law. Flagg Bros. v.
Brooks, 436 U.S. 149, 155-57 (1978); Harris v.
Circleville, 583 F.3d 356, 364 (6th Cir. 2009). A
pro se civil rights complaint is to be construed
liberally. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21
(1972). Despite the liberal pleading standard accorded
pro se plaintiffs, the Court finds that
Plaintiff's civil rights complaint is subject to summary
39th Circuit Court Not an Entity Subject to Suit
initial matter, the Court notes that the Plaintiff's
claims against the 39th Circuit Court must be dismissed
because the state court it is not a proper defendant in this
action. Neither the state, nor a governmental entity that is
an arm of the state for Eleventh Amendment purposes, nor a
state official who acts in his or her official capacity, is a
“person” within the meaning of § 1983.
Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S.
58, 70-71 (1989). The United States Court of Appeals for the
Sixth Circuit has thus held that a state court is not a
“person” for purposes of 42 U.S.C. § 1983
and is not subject to suit under that provision. See
Mumford v. Basinski, 105 F.3d 264, 287 (6th Cir. 1997);
Mumford v. Zieba, 4 F.3d 429, 435 (6th Cir. 1993)
(citing Foster v. Walsh, 864 F.2d 416, 418 (6th Cir.
1988)). Plaintiff's claims against the state court must
therefore be dismissed.
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
challenges the constitutionality of his state court
post-judgment habeas proceedings, essentially asserting that
he should have been given an in-person hearing on his habeas
claims. In part, he raises a due process “as
applied” challenge to certain provisions of Michigan
law, namely Mich. Ct. R. 3.3303(D) and Mich. Comp. Laws
§ 600.4316. This Court, however, lacks the authority to
review any such claims under the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine, Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413
(1923); District of Columbia Ct. of App. v. Feldman,
460 U.S. 462 (1983), which “holds that lower federal
courts lack subject matter jurisdiction to engage in
appellate review of state court proceedings or to adjudicate
claims ‘inextricably intertwined' with issues
decided in state court proceedings.” Peterson
Novelties, Inc. v. City of Berkley, 305 F.3d 386, 390
(6th Cir. 2002); see also Hutcherson v. Lauderdale Co.,
Tenn., 326 F.3d 747, 755 (6th Cir. 2003). “The
Rooker-Feldman doctrine prevents the lower federal
courts from exercising jurisdiction over cases brought by
‘state-court losers' challenging ‘state-court
judgments rendered before the district court proceedings
commenced.'” Lance v. Dennis, 546 U.S.
459, 460 (2006) (per curiam) (quoting Exxon Mobil Corp.
v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005)).
The Rooker-Feldman doctrine applies “when a
plaintiff complains of injury from the state court judgment
itself.” Coles v. Granville, 448 F.3d 853, 858
(6th Cir. 2006). “In determining the applicability of
the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, federal courts . . .
must pay close attention to the relief sought by the
federal-court plaintiff.” Hood v. Keller, 341
F.3d 593, 597 (6th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation omitted).
“If the source of the injury is that state court
decision, then the Rooker-Feldman doctrine would
prevent the district court from asserting jurisdiction. If
there is some other source of injury, such as a third
party's actions, then the plaintiff asserts an
independent claim.” McCormick v. Braverman,
451 F.3d 382, 393 (6th Cir. 2006). The doctrine applies to
attempts to relitigate state court judgments entered before
the federal suit is filed; it does not abrogate concurrent
jurisdiction in federal and state courts, nor is it analogous
to a preclusion doctrine. Exxon Mobil, 544 U.S. at
Rooker-Feldman doctrine is a rule of federal
jurisdiction.” Frederickson v. City of
Lockport, 384 F.3d 437, 438 (7th Cir. 2004).
Consequently, it may be raised sua sponte. Saker
v. National City Corp., 90 Fed.Appx. 816, 818 n.1 (6th
Cir. 2004). When a claim is barred by the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine, a court must dismiss the
claim for lack of jurisdiction. Steel Co. v. Citizens for
a Better Environment, 523 U.S. 83, 94 (1998).
the foregoing principles to the present complaint, the Court
finds that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear
Plaintiff's “as applied” challenges to
Michigan's habeas or collateral review provisions
pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Plaintiff
challenges the application of state court rules to his case.
He complains that the state court orders are procedurally and
constitutionally unsound and essentially asks the Court to
overrule or vacate them. That is exactly the sort of
appellate review of state court judgments that federal courts
are barred from engaging in under Rooker-Feldman.
The complained of-injuries are the dismissals of his state
habeas case and related actions, and those injuries are
directly and solely traceable to the state court rulings and
judgments. In other words, Plaintiff is turning to federal
court to undo the state court judgments, Exxon
Mobil, 544 U.S. at 293, and his “as applied”
claims are based upon the premise that the state court
judgments are invalid. The Court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction over any such claims based upon the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine. See Carter v.
Burns, 524 F.3d 796, 799 (6th Cir. 2008) (affirming
district court's dismissal of prisoner's “as
applied” civil rights challenge to the
constitutionality of Tennessee's collateral review
statutes); Moore v. People of State of Michigan, No.
15-CV-12430, 2015 WL 5817932, *1-2 (E.D. Mich. Oct. 6, 2015)
(citing Rooker and denying prisoner permission to
file civil rights complaint challenging state courts'
denial of post-judgment relief).
Plaintiff's federal claims are barred even if they were
not specifically presented in the state courts. A federal
claim that calls into question the validity of the state
court judgment is inextricably intertwined with the judgment
even if the federal claim was not presented in the state
court proceeding; all that is required is that the federal
plaintiff had the opportunity to present the issues involved
to the state court. Kropelnicki v. Siegel, 290 F.3d
118, 128 (2d Cir. 2002); Brown & Root, Inc. v.
Breckenridge, 211 F.3d 194, 201 (4th Cir. 2000);
Valenti v. Mitchell, 962 F.2d 288, 296 (3d Cir.
1992) (quoted with approval in Wilde v. Ohio Veterinary
Med. Licensing Bd., 31 Fed.Appx. 164, 166 (6th Cir. Feb.
21, 2002)). Plaintiff had the opportunity to present his
claims in the state trial court and/or the Michigan Court of
Appeals. He could then appeal to ...