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Heck v. City of MT. Clemens

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

May 1, 2019

ROGER VAN HECK, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF MT. CLEMENS and LAUREL EMERSON, Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION GRANTING DEFENDANTS' AMENDED MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT PURSUANT TO FED. R. CIV. P. 56 [DOC. #16]

          Victoria A. Roberts United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The City of Mt. Clemens and Laurel Emerson, (“Defendants”) filed this Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and/or Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. They say Plaintiff Roger Van Heck (“Van Heck”) failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted because his pleadings do not satisfy Fed.R.Civ.P. (8). They also say Van Heck failed to show a genuine issue of material fact as required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 because his claims are barred by both the res judicata and Rooker-Feldman doctrines.

         Van Heck filed this action pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He claims Defendant Emerson violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights when she, among other things, trespassed and took photographs of his private property. He also brings claims under Michigan law. Van Heck previously filed suit against these Defendants in state court alleging the same claims. The Macomb County Circuit Court dismissed his claims with prejudice.

         Because Van Heck asks the Court to address claims already litigated in state court, his claims are barred by the doctrine of res judicata. The Court need not decide whether Van Heck satisfied Fed.R.Civ.P. (8).

         The Court GRANTS Defendants' Amended Motion for Summary Judgment.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is proper if “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The movant has the initial burden to demonstrate the basis for its motion and to identify portions of the record which show the absence of a genuine issue of fact. Mt. Lebanon Personal Care Home, Inc. v. Hoover Universal, Inc., 276 F.3d 845, 848 (6th Cir. 2002). Once the moving party meets this burden, the non-moving party must set forth specific facts that present a “genuine issue for trial.” Id. The existence of a mere scintilla of evidence to support a plaintiff's position will not suffice; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986). The parties must support assertions of fact by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Van Heck's Claims Are Barred by the Doctrine of Res Judicata

         Defendants say Van Heck's claims are barred by the doctrine of res judicata because his complaint is virtually identical to the claims raised in the Macomb County Circuit Court, which disposed of his claims with prejudice on the Defendants' Motion for Summary Disposition. The Court agrees.

         Van Heck admits the Macomb County Circuit Court did dismiss his complaint with prejudice and barred him from refiling a like or similar complaint in the state court. He says, however, “[s]tate [c]ourt rulings do not and cannot dictate what the [f]ederal [c]ourt may hear or rule on.” Van Heck's Brief and Response [Doc. #20].

         Van Heck says “filing an appeal would be fruitless” because the trial judge, while a prosecutor, obtained a conviction against him which was subsequently overturned by the Michigan Supreme Court. Van Heck claims this was “upsetting” to the trial judge. He says the trial judge's sister is a Michigan Court of Appeals judge, and the trial judge's mother is a Michigan Supreme Court judge. Van Heck also argues his state claims were wrongly dismissed. He claims in his response the trial judge dismissed his claims because he failed to file an answer to Defendants' response; Van Heck says he did file. Defendants say this is an attempt to undermine and challenge the state court ruling.

         Res judicata bars a subsequent action between the same parties or their privies based on the same claims or causes of action that were or could have been raised in the prior action. Sanders v. County of Wayne,87 Fed.Appx. 449, 450 (6th Cir. 2003). “Federal courts must give state court judgments the same effect the rendering state court would give them.” Hutcherson v. Lauderdale County, Tennessee326 F.3d 747, 755 ...


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