Vos v. Gough Family Trust et al, No. 4:2015cv02239 - Document 4 (N.D. Ohio 2015)

Court Description: Memorandum Opinion and Order granting Plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis. This action is dismissed as the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. An appeal from this decision could not be taken in good faith. Judge John R. Adams on 12/15/15. (K,C)
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Vos v. Gough Family Trust et al Doc. 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO DONALD L. VOS, Plaintiff, v. THE GOUGH FAMILY TRUST, et al., Defendants. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) CASE NO. 4:15 CV 2239 JUDGE JOHN R. ADAMS MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER On November 2, 2015, Plaintiff pro se Donald L. Vos filed this in forma pauperis action against the following Defendants: The Gough Family Trust, Jefferson Gough, Attorney K. Brett Apple, Judge Scott Washam, Chesapeak Exploration, L.L.C., and Jane Doe Beneficiary of Gough Family Trust. While the Complaint is unclear, Plaintiff apparently seeks to challenge a decision of the Columbiana County Court of Common Pleas in a forcible entry and detainer action.1 He asserts the decision is a product of a conspiracy among the Defendants, and violates Plaintiff’s constitutional rights and Ohio law. Although pro se pleadings are liberally construed, Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982) (per curiam), the district court is required to dismiss an action under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or if it lacks an arguable basis in law or fact.2 Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319 (1989); Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470 (6th 1 2 See, ECF No. 3 in the instant case, wherein Plaintiff requests a stay of Judge Washam’s judgment against him in forcible entry and detainer. An in forma pauperis claim may be dismissed sua sponte, without prior notice to the plaintiff and without service of process on the defendant, if the court explicitly states that (continued...) Dockets.Justia.com Cir. 2010) A cause of action fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted when it lacks “plausibility in the complaint.” Bell At. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 564 (2007). A pleading must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009). The factual allegations in the pleading must be sufficient to raise the right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The plaintiff is not required to include detailed factual allegations, but must provide more than “an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (2009). A pleading that offers legal conclusions or a simple recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not meet this pleading standard. Id. Principles requiring generous construction of pro se pleadings are not without limits. Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1277 (4th Cir. 1985). A complaint must contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements of some viable legal theory to satisfy federal notice pleading requirements. See Schied v. Fanny Farmer Candy Shops, Inc., 859 F.2d 434, 437 (6th Cir. 1988). District courts are not required to conjure up questions never squarely presented to them or to construct full blown claims from sentence fragments. Beaudette, 775 F.2d at 1278. To do so would "require ...[the courts] to explore exhaustively all potential claims of a pro se plaintiff, ... [and] would...transform the district court from its legitimate advisory role to the improper role of an advocate seeking out the strongest arguments and most successful strategies for a party." Id. Even construing the Complaint liberally in a light most favorable to the Plaintiff, Brand v. Motley, 526 F.3d 921, 924 (6th Cir. 2008), it does not contain allegations reasonably suggesting (...continued) it is invoking section 1915(e) [formerly 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d)] and is dismissing the claim for one of the reasons set forth in the statute. Chase Manhattan Mortg. Corp. v. Smith, 507 F.3d 910, 915 (6th Cir. 2007); Gibson v. R.G. Smith Co., 915 F.2d 260, 261 (6th Cir. 1990); Harris v. Johnson, 784 F.2d 222, 224 (6th Cir. 1986). -2- he might have a valid claim for relief. Federal courts do not have jurisdiction to overturn state court decisions even if the request to reverse the state court judgment is based on an allegation that the state court’s action was unconstitutional. Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 292 (2005). Federal appellate review of state court judgments can only occur in the United States Supreme Court, by appeal or by writ of certiorari. Id. Under this principle, generally referred to as the Rooker-Feldman Doctrine, a party losing in state court is barred from seeking what in substance would be appellate review of the state judgment in a United States District Court based on the party’s claim that the state judgment itself violates federal rights. Berry v. Schmitt, 688 F.3d 290, 298-99 (6th Cir. 2012). The Rooker-Feldman doctrine is based on two United States Supreme Court decisions interpreting 28 U.S.C. § 1257(a).3 See District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983); Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923). This statute was enacted to prevent “end-runs around state court judgments” by requiring litigants seeking review of that judgment to file a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court. The doctrine is based on the negative inference that, if appellate court review of state judgments is vested in the United States Supreme Court, then such review may not occur in the lower federal courts. Exxon Mobil Corp., 544 U.S. at 283-84; Kovacic v. Cuyahoga County Dep't of Children and Family Services, 606 F.3d 301, 308-311 (6th Cir. 2010); Lawrence v. Welch, 531 F.3d 364, 369 (6th Cir. 2008). 3 28 U.S.C. § 1257(a) provides: Final judgments or decrees rendered by the highest court of a State in which a decision could be had, may be reviewed by the Supreme Court by writ of certiorari where the validity of a treaty or statute of the United States is drawn in question or where the validity of a statute of any State is drawn in question on the ground of its being repugnant to the Constitution, treaties, or laws of the United States, or where any title, right, privilege, or immunity is specially set up or claimed under the Constitution or the treaties or statutes of, or any commission held or authority exercised under, the United States. -3- To determine whether Rooker–Feldman bars a claim, the Court must look to the “source of the injury the plaintiff alleges in the federal complaint.” McCormick v. Braverman, 451 F.3d 382, 393 (6th Cir.2006); see Berry, 688 F.3d at 299; Kovacic, 606 F.3d at 310. If the source of the plaintiff's injury is the state-court judgment itself, then the Rooker–Feldman doctrine bars the federal claim. McCormick, 451 F.3d at 393. “If there is some other source of injury, such as a third party's actions, then the plaintiff asserts an independent claim.” Id.; see Lawrence, 531 F.3d at 368–69. In conducting this inquiry, the court should also consider the plaintiff’s requested relief. Evans v. Cordray, No. 09–3998, 2011 WL 2149547, at *1 (6th Cir. May 27, 2011). Plaintiff seeks to directly attack the state court’s decision in his case. Any review of the federal claims asserted in this context would require the court to review the specific issues addressed in the state court proceedings. This Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to conduct such a review or grant the relief requested. Feldman, 460 U.S. at 483-84 n. 16; Catz, 142 F.3d at 293. Accordingly, the request to proceed in forma pauperis is granted, and this action is dismissed under section 1915(e). The Court certifies, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3), that an appeal from this decision could not be taken in good faith. IT IS SO ORDERED. Date: December 15, 2015 /s/ John R. Adams JOHN R. ADAMS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE -4-