United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Tallahassee Division
BARBARA U. UBEROI, Plaintiff,
JORGE LABARGA, in his capacity as Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court, Defendant.
ORDER OF DISMISSAL
L. HINKLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
plaintiff challenges on due-process grounds the Florida
Supreme Court's rejection of her application for
admission to the Florida Bar. The defendant has moved to
dismiss. This order grants the motion, partly based on the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine, and partly for lack of
standing under City of Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461
U.S. 95 (1983).
plaintiff Barbara U. Uberoi applied for admission to the
Florida Bar. The Florida Board of Bar Examiners alleged that
she had engaged in prior misconduct that rendered her unfit.
After an evidentiary hearing, Ms. Uberoi and the Board
entered an agreement calling for her conditional admission on
specific terms. The agreement was expressly subject to
approval by the Florida Supreme Court, which has plenary
authority over admission decisions.
Florida Supreme Court did not approve the agreement. Instead,
the court denied Ms. Uberoi's application. The court said
she could apply again in three years. And the court said that
on any new application, Ms. Uberoi would be required to
demonstrate sufficient rehabilitation.
Uberoi filed an action against the Florida Supreme Court in
the Middle District of Florida. The court dismissed the
action. Ms. Uberoi appealed. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed
based on the Eleventh Amendment. This was hardly surprising.
See Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44
(1996) (holding that a state sued in its own name has
Eleventh Amendment immunity, regardless of the relief sought,
unless the immunity has been waived or validly abrogated by
Uberoi next filed this action, again in the Middle District,
naming as a defendant only the Chief Justice of the Florida
Supreme Court in his official capacity. Ms. Uberoi asserts
that the Florida Supreme Court rejected her agreement with
the Board of Bar Examiners without affording her notice and
an opportunity to be heard on the issue of whether the
agreement should be approved. Ms. Uberoi demands two forms of
relief: first, notice and an opportunity to be heard on the
issue already decided by the Florida Supreme Court; and
second, invalidation of rules that she says allowed the
denial of due process.
Middle District transferred the action to this court. The
Chief Justice has moved to dismiss. The motion is before the
court on the magistrate judge's report and
recommendation, ECF No. 39, and the objections, ECF No. 40. I
have reviewed de novo the issues raised by the objections.
recommendation is for dismissal of the complaint. This order
accepts the recommendation but gets there through somewhat
Uberoi correctly notes, a claim for prospective relief
against a state official with a role in a constitutional
violation is not barred by the Eleventh Amendment. This is
the holding of Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908).
Ms. Uberoi's demand for notice and an opportunity to be
heard is a demand for prospective relief-she seeks an
injunction requiring the Florida Supreme Court to provide
notice and an opportunity to be heard, not a payment of
damages or other compensation for a past denial. The same is
true of the demand to invalidate the allegedly offending
sure, Ms. Uberoi's claim arises from a past violation-she
says she was denied notice and an opportunity to be heard in
the past-but that is neither unusual nor a basis for
disallowing an Ex parte Young claim. Many, probably
most, claims for prospective relief are based on past
violations. Thus a plaintiff seeking admission to a school on
the ground of racial discrimination-a prototypical Ex
parte Young claim-has usually been denied admission in
the past, but the case may go forward because the plaintiff
seeks admission in the future. See, e.g., Gratz v.
Bollinger, 539 U.S. 244 (2003). The same is true here:
Ms. Uberoi seeks notice and an opportunity to be heard in the
future, albeit on an application that was denied in the past.
Uberoi has named as a defendant only the Chief Justice, not
the other members of the court. In Florida, the Supreme Court
makes admission decisions and adopts the rules that govern
the consideration of ...