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Prosperous v. Todd

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

May 21, 2018



          Charlene Edwards Honeywell United States District Judge.

         This cause comes before the Court upon Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. 22). Plaintiff did not file a response. The Court, having considered the motion and being fully advised in the premises, will grant Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff Alexandra Love Prosperous (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, filed a form Complaint in this Court (Doc. 1) on June 12, 2017 against Defendants Kimberly Todd, Sherwood Coleman, James Pierce, and Jack Helinger, [2] individually and in their official capacities as Judges in the Sixth Judicial Circuit in and for Pinellas County, Florida (“Defendants”). The Complaint cites 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as the basis for the Court's jurisdiction, alleging violations of Plaintiff's Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution. Doc. 1, p. 3.

         Plaintiff's allegations against Defendants stem from various Pinellas County Court (the “state court”) proceedings involving Plaintiff's minor child's welfare and disputes between Plaintiff and the minor child's father regarding paternity, parental responsibility, and a domestic violence injunction. See id., pp. 7-10; Doc. 22, pp. 3-6; Doc. 22-1; Doc. 23.[3]

         In support of her claims here, [4] Plaintiff cites to certain judicial actions taken by each of the Defendants. Doc. 1, pp. 7-10. Plaintiff alleges that at certain proceedings, Judge Todd “continually refused to allow me to submit evidence or produce witnesses to counter the accusations made against me” and “continually allowed falsified reports and information to be admitted as part of the record and refused to allow me to address these issues.” Id., p. 7. Plaintiff also takes issue with Judge Coleman's alteration of a domestic violence injunction at a court proceeding on October 5, 2016. Id., p. 8. Plaintiff alleges Judge Coleman refused to hear certain of Plaintiff's arguments and that the statements of a doctor should not have been considered. Id. Plaintiff's allegations against Judge Pierce stem from a March 15, 2017 hearing on an emergency motion. Id., p. 9. Plaintiff alleges she provided Judge Pierce with graphic evidence of her son's abuse but that Judge Pierce “issued no ruling on my emergency motion.” Id. Plaintiff's allegations concerning Judge Helinger stem from court appearances between August 2015 and September 2016. Id., p. 10. Plaintiff alleges Judge Helinger told Plaintiff that if she did not cooperate, she “would be arrested for failure to submit to his court's jurisdiction.” Id. Plaintiff further alleges Judge Helinger “refused evidence that would establish the necessity for a permanent order of protection to be in place” and “refused to hear testimony or [accept] evidence as part of a hearing.” Id. Plaintiff also alleges Judge Helinger conducted a hearing “in contradiction to well-established procedures for this type of hearing within this jurisdiction.” Id. As for relief, Plaintiff seeks “$50, 000, 000.00 Punitive Damages” and that the “Court recommend Criminal Charges.” Id., p. 5.


         Pleadings from pro se litigants are held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys. Tannenbaum v. U.S., 148 F.3d 1262, 1263 (11th Cir. 1998). However, they still must meet minimal pleading standards. Pugh v. Farmers Home Admin., 846 F.Supp. 60, 61 (M.D. Fla. 1994).

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a pleading must include 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) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). Labels, conclusions and formulaic recitations of the elements of a cause of action are not sufficient. Id. (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Furthermore, mere naked assertions are not sufficient. Id. A complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, which, if accepted as true, would “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citation omitted). The court, however, is not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion stated as a “factual allegation” in the complaint. Id.

         A defendant may attack subject matter jurisdiction in two manners: facially and factually. McMaster v. U.S., 177 F.3d 936, 940 (11th Cir. 1999). A facial attack requires the court to assess, assuming the allegations of the complaint to be true, if the complaint sufficiently alleges a basis for subject matter jurisdiction. McElmurray v. Consol. Gov't of Augusta-Richmond Cnty., 501 F.3d 1244, 1251 (11th Cir. 2007); Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). In contrast, a factual attack challenges the “existence of subject matter jurisdiction in fact, irrespective of the pleadings, and matters outside the pleadings, such as testimony and affidavits, are considered.” Id. (citing Lawrence v. Dunbar, 919 F.2d 1525, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990)). If a court finds at any point in the litigation that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction over an action, it must dismiss the complaint. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3); Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 506 (2006).


         Defendants argue Plaintiff's Complaint should be dismissed because (1) the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine; (2) Plaintiff fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted; (3) Defendants are immune from suit pursuant to Eleventh Amendment Immunity; (4) Defendants are immune from suit under judicial immunity; and (5) Defendants are immune from suit under the defense of qualified immunity. Doc. 22, p. 3. Because district courts are obligated to review subject matter jurisdiction whenever it may be lacking, Cadet v. Bulger, 377 F.3d 1173, 1179 (11th Cir. 2004), the Court must first address Defendants' claim that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman Doctrine. Doc. 22, pp. 6-8. As explained in greater detail below, to the extent Plaintiff's claims are not barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, they are due to be dismissed for failure to state a claim.

         A. Rooker-Feldman Doctrine

         The Rooker-Feldman doctrine[5] prevents lower federal courts “from exercising appellate jurisdiction over final state-court judgments.” Nicholson v. Shafe,558 F.3d 1266, 1268 (11th Cir. 2009). In Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280 (2005), the Supreme Court clarified the narrow scope of the doctrine, explaining that it “is confined to cases of the kind from which the doctrine acquired its name: cases brought by state-court losers complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings ...

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