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Kircher v. City of Ypsilanti

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

April 8, 2019

David Kircher, Plaintiff,
v.
City of Ypsilanti, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO ALTER OR AMEND JUDGMENT

          Sean F. Cox United States District Court Judge

         The undersigned inherited this case, which was filed back in 2004, after the Honorable Gerald Rosen retired. The case involves protracted state-court litigation between Plaintiff David Kircher, a property owner in Ypsilanti, Michigan, and the City of Ypsilanti and several of its officials. Judge Rosen stayed the case, under the Younger abstention doctrine, while the state-court litigation between these parties proceeded. After that finally ended, the stay in this case was lifted.

         Kircher then hired new counsel, who sought leave to file an amended complaint in order to assert constitutional claims. Defendants opposed that motion and filed a Motion to Dismiss. This Court issued an Opinion & Order, denying leave to file an amended complaint and granting Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. The Court concluded that the constitutional claims that Kircher seeks to raise in this action are barred under the applicable preclusion doctrines. The Court also rejected Kircher's arguments that he can avoid preclusion because he filed an “England reservation of rights” in each of the state-court cases.

         The matter is now before the Court on Kircher's “Rule 59(e) Motion to Alter Or Amend The Judgment.” The parties have briefed the issues and the Court concludes that oral argument is not necessary. For the reasons that follow, the Court shall DENY the motion.

         BACKGROUND

         This case involves protracted state-court litigation between Plaintiff Kircher, a property owner in Ypsilanti, Michigan, and the City of Ypsilanti and several of its officials. Kircher also sued two state-court judges, but they were dismissed early in the case based on judicial immunity.

         Acting through counsel, Kircher filed this action on July 1, 2004. (ECF No. 1). Kircher's complaint alleged that in 2000 Kircher rejected an offer to sell his property in Ypsilanti and that “[f]rom that time on, the Ypsilanti Defendants, under color of law, have been striving to transfer Plaintiff Kircher's property” to others “without due process of law.” (Id. at PageID.14) (emphasis added).

         At the time this federal action was filed, there was already state-court litigation between the parties, concerning several properties owned by Kircher, that was proceeding in state court. That state-court litigation began in 2001 and 2002.[1]

         In October of 2016, Judge Rosen issued an “Order Staying Case In Favor Of Parallel State Court Proceedings” (see ECF Nos. 37 & 38) wherein he ordered “that all proceedings in this case are STAYED until such time as the related state court actions have fully concluded, including any appeals that are pending or that the parties might elect to pursue.” (Id.). Judge Rosen remanded the matter to state court under the Younger abstention doctrine.[2] Judge Rosen expressly cautioned Kircher and his Counsel that the constitutional claims Kircher seeks to assert in this action would very likely be barred by res judicata and/or collateral estoppel if Kircher were to attempt to return to federal court after the conclusion of the state-court litigation:

The Court cautions Plaintiff . . . that it will carefully review Plaintiff's submissions to the Court following the conclusion of the state court proceedings . . . As a general matter, this Court does not view a § 1983 due process claim as an appropriate vehicle for a federal court to engage in “second-guessing' review of a complete and thorough course of state court proceedings, including appeals, to ensure that all of the various rulings along the way comported with the federal constitution. On more than one occasion, the Supreme Court has “emphatic[ally] reaffirm[ed] . . . the constitutional obligation of the state courts to uphold federal law, and its . . . confidence in their ability to do so.” Allen, 449 U.S. at 105, 101 S.Ct. at 420 . . . In addition, this Court has already noted that the doctrine of issue preclusion, see Allen, 449 U.S. at 105, 101 S.Ct. at 420, and claim preclusion, see Migra v. Warren City School District Board of Education, 465 U.S. 75, 85, 104 S.Ct. 892, 898 (1984), will be fully applicable in this case upon the conclusion of the state court proceedings. In light of the extensive overlap between the issue litigated in state court and the allegations in Plaintiff's federal complaint, it appears likely that the state court proceedings will have a considerable preclusive effect upon any further proceedings in this Court.

(ECF No. 38 at PageID 934).

         Approximately ten years later, Kircher filed a motion seeking to end the stay. Defendants agreed that the stay should be lifted and the Court lifted it.

         Thereafter, Kircher obtained new counsel and filed a motion seeking leave to file an amended complaint.

         Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss arguing, among other things, that the constitutional claims Kircher wished to raise now are barred by res judicata and/or collateral estoppel.

         Those motions were fully briefed by the parties and the Court heard oral argument on the motion. During oral argument on the motion, this Court directly asked Kircher's Counsel if Kircher had asserted any counterclaims in the state-court litigation and counsel responded as follows:

THE COURT: Did Mr. Kircher assert a counterclaim during the state court litigation.
MS. OKASINKI: Not that I am aware of, Your Honor.
THE COURT: And did he assert a due process counterclaim during the state court litigation?
MS. OKASINSKI: Not that I'm aware of.

(4/12/18 Hrg. Tr. at 5) (emphasis ...


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