United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Tallahassee Division
ORDER AND REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
CHARLES A. STAMPELOS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
proceeding pro se, submitted a complaint, ECF No. 1, and a
motion requesting leave to proceed in forma pauperis, ECF No.
2. Plaintiff's financial affidavit demonstrates good
cause, ECF No. 2, and the motion is granted.
complaint has been reviewed to determine whether it states a
plausible claim such that service should be directed.
Plaintiff's complaint is brought against Monica Taible,
an attorney, and Andrew Decker, a state court judge. ECF No.
1. At issue is Plaintiff's challenge to actions taken by
Monica Taibl in representing her client, Zachary Daniel, who
appears to be Plaintiff's estranged spouse. Plaintiff
also challenges orders entered by Judge Decker and the lack
of a ruling on a motion filed on January 27, 2017. ECF No. 1
heart of Plaintiff's complaint is a dispute concerning a
pending petition for dissolution of marriage and interrelated
issues about visitation with a minor child and
“violence protection orders” apparently issued
from a state court judge in Kentucky. Id. As relief,
Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and an injunction requiring
Judge Decker “to uphold Federal Law” and give
full faith and credit to “Violence Protection Orders .
. . .” Id. at 10.
courts traditionally refrain “from exercising authority
over matters broadly described as ‘domestic
relations.'” U.S. v. Kegel, 916 F.Supp.
1233, 1235 (M.D. Fla., 1996) (citing Barber v.
Barber,  62 U.S. (21 How.) 582, 584, 16 L.Ed. 226
(1858); Simms v. Simms, 175 U.S. 162, 20 S.Ct. 58,
44 L.Ed. 115 (1898)). It has been well established for over
150 years that federal courts lack jurisdiction to hear cases
concerning divorce, alimony, or child custody cases.
Ankenbrandt v. Richards, 504 U.S. 689, 703, 112
S.Ct. 2206, 2215, 119 L.Ed.2d 468 (1992) (concluding
“that the domestic relations exception, as articulated
by this Court since Barber, divests the federal
courts of power to issue divorce, alimony, and child custody
decrees.”); see also Barber v. Barber, 62 U.S.
582, 584, 16 L.Ed. 226 (1858) (stating “[w]e disclaim
altogether any jurisdiction in the courts of the United
States upon the subject of divorce, or for the allowance of
alimony”). In In re Burrus, 136 U.S. 586, 594,
10 S.Ct. 850, 853, 34 L.Ed. 500 (1890), the issue was a
child-custody dispute in which the father sought to have the
child removed from her grandparents care and given to him.
When the grandfather refused to give up the child, he was
arrested and taken to jail. The grandfather sought habeas
relief and claimed he was illegally imprisoned because the
father was wrongfully given custody. The Supreme Court held
that “[t]he whole subject of the domestic relations of
husband and wife, parent and child, belongs to the laws of
the States and not to the laws of the United States.”
Burrus, 136 U.S. at 593-594.
claims center around state court proceedings on an apparently
still pending petition for dissolution of marriage. Those are
matters to be determined in state court. “As a matter
of judicial economy, state courts are more eminently suited
to work of this type than are federal courts, which lack the
close association with state and local government
organizations dedicated to handling issues that arise out of
conflicts over divorce, alimony, and child custody
decrees.” Ankenbrandt, 504 U.S. at 704, 112
S.Ct. at 2215.
this Court lacks authority to modify, vacate, or overrule
orders entered by a state court judge. This Court does not
sit as an appellate court. The proper method to challenge an
order from state court is to file an appeal with the
appropriate Florida District Court of Appeal. This Court,
however, does not have jurisdiction to review such orders.
even if this Court had jurisdiction over Plaintiff's
claims, the abstention doctrine would require this Court to
“withhold equitable relief to avoid interference with
state proceedings.” 31 Foster Children v.
Bush, 329 F.3d 1255, 1274 (11th Cir. 2003) (citing
New Orleans Pub. Serv., Inc. v. Council of New
Orleans, 491 U.S. 350, 359, 109 S.Ct. 2506, 2513, 105
L.Ed.2d 298 (1989)). Where state judicial proceedings are
ongoing and implicate important state interests and a
litigant has “an adequate opportunity in the state
proceedings to raise constitutional challenges, ”
federal courts should abstain from interfering in pending
state judicial proceedings. Middlesex Cty. Ethics Comm.
v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 432, 102
S.Ct. 2515, 2521, 73 L.Ed.2d 116 (1982). Plaintiff seeks
relief in this Court which would interfere with the pending
state court case and place “decisions that are now in
the hands of the state courts under the direction of the
federal district court.” 31 Foster Children, 329 F.3d
at 1278. This Court lacks authority to review or control the
decisions which are entrusted to state court judges presiding
over family law matters. Plaintiff's complaint, ECF No.
1, should be dismissed.
it is ORDERED that Plaintiff's motion requesting leave to
proceed in forma pauperis, ECF No. 2, is GRANTED.
respectfully RECOMMENDED for all the reasons explained above
that Plaintiff's complaint, ECF No. 1, be DISMISSED.
CHAMBERS at Tallahassee, Florida, on March 17, 2017.
TO THE PARTIES
fourteen (14) days after being served with a copy of this
Report and Recommendation, a party may serve and file
specific written objections to these proposed findings and
recommendations. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2). A copy of the
objections shall be served upon all other parties. A party
may respond to another party's objections within fourteen
(14) days after being served with a copy thereof.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2). Any different deadline that may appear
on the electronic docket is for the Court's internal use
only and does not control. If a party fails to object to the
Magistrate Judge's findings or recommendations as to any
particular claim or issue contained in this Report and