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Beeks v. HMC Assets, LLC

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

September 5, 2019

HMC ASSETS, LLC, et al., Defendants.



         THIS CAUSE is before the Court on pro se Plaintiff's Application to Proceed in District Court Without Prepaying Fees or Costs (“Application”) (Doc. 2). For the reasons stated herein, the undersigned recommends that the Application be DENIED and the case be DISMISSED without prejudice.

         A court receiving an application to proceed in forma pauperis must dismiss the case sua sponte if the action “(i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). An action fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted if it fails to include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Harper v. Lawrence Cnty., Ala., 592 F.3d 1227 (11th Cir. 2010) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), 12(b)(6)). To show entitlement to relief, Plaintiff must include a short and plain statement of facts in support of his claims. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). This statement of facts must show the plausibility of Plaintiff's claims. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). “[L]abels and conclusions” are not enough to satisfy the “plausibility” standard. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

         In addition, the court must dismiss the action sua sponte if it “determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3); see also Blankenship v. Gulf Power Co., 551 Fed.Appx. 468, 470 (11th Cir. 2013) (per curiam) (same); Walker v. Sun Trust Bank of Thomasville, GA, 363 Fed.Appx. 11, 15 (11th Cir. 2010) (per curiam) (“[A] district court may sua sponte consider whether it has subject matter jurisdiction over a plaintiff's claims.”).

Subject matter jurisdiction in a federal court may be based upon federal question jurisdiction or diversity jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332. Diversity jurisdiction exists where the plaintiffs and defendants are citizens of different states, and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. . . . Absent diversity of citizenship, a plaintiff must present a substantial federal question in order to invoke the district court's jurisdiction.

Walker, 363 Fed.Appx. at 15 (internal quotation marks omitted). “[E]ven a claim that arises under federal law may be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction if (1) the claim clearly appears to be immaterial and made solely for the purpose of obtaining jurisdiction, or (2) the claim is wholly insubstantial and frivolous.” Blankenship, 551 Fed.Appx. at 470 (internal quotation marks omitted). A claim is wholly insubstantial and frivolous if it “has no plausible foundation, or if the court concludes that a prior Supreme Court decision clearly forecloses the claim.” Id. at 470-71 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Pro se Plaintiff, Dominique L. Beeks, initiated this action on June 26, 2019 by filing a Complaint for the Conversion of Property with this Court (“Complaint”) (Doc. 1), along with the Application (Doc. 2). On July 16, 2019, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint for the Conversion of Property (“Amended Complaint”). (Doc. 4.) In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that beginning on May 8, 2017, she initiated attempts to perfect title to real property located in Jacksonville, Florida, which she claims was abandoned, through adverse possession. (See Id. at 6.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendants wrongfully obtained a certificate of title to said property after foreclosure proceedings in State court and wrongfully evicted Plaintiff after obtaining a writ of possession purportedly in violation of, inter alia, Fla. Stat. § 95.18(8) and the Fourteenth Amendment.[2] (Id. at 6-8, 10.)

         Through this federal action, Plaintiff contests the validity of the foreclosure sale and requests, inter alia, that the foreclosure sale and judgment be set aside, and that this Court “make null and void” a trial court order in the underlying foreclosure proceedings titled “Order Granting Plaintiff's Motion to Vacate the Foreclosure Sale Held on July 14, 2016, Vacate the Certificate of Title, Vacate the Final Judgment of Mortgage Foreclosure and Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint.” (Id. at 7, 27.) Plaintiff also seeks restitution, punitive damages, and sanctions against Defendants. (Id. at 10.)

         Construing Plaintiff's Amended Complaint liberally, it appears that Plaintiff seeks to appeal a final judgment entered in favor of Defendant in State court. However, this Court does not have jurisdiction to hear appeals of state court decisions. The only federal court that can hear an appeal of a state court final judgment is the United States Supreme Court. Seltz v. Medina, No. 2:13-cv-394-FtM-38DNF, 2013 WL 2920415, *2 (M.D. Fla. June 13, 2013) (citing Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 416 (1923) and District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 482-83 (1983)). Under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, a federal district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to directly or indirectly review an unfavorable state judgment. Feldman, 460 U.S. at 476; Rooker, 263 U.S. at 416. “The doctrine applies both to federal claims raised in the state court and to those inextricably intertwined with the state court's judgment.” Casale v. Tillman, 558 F.3d 1258, 1260 (11th Cir. 2009) (quotations and citation omitted). “A claim is inextricably intertwined if it would effectively nullify the state court judgment, or it succeeds only to the extent that the state court wrongly decided the issues.” Id. (quotations and citations omitted). “The Rooker-Feldman doctrine makes clear that federal district courts cannot review state court final judgments because that task is reserved for state appellate courts or, as a last resort, the United States Supreme Court.” Casale, 558 F.3d at 1260 (citation omitted); see also Pompey v. Broward Cnty., 95 F.3d 1543, 1550 (11th Cir. 1996) (“Neither federal district courts nor federal courts of appeals may usurp the authority and function of the Supreme Court and state appellate courts to review state court proceedings.”).

         Here, as Plaintiff alleges injuries caused by an adverse State court judgment, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine is implicated. Exxon Mobil. Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005). Moreover, Plaintiff's claims are inextricably intertwined with the state court action as the relief sought would effectively nullify the state court judgment. See Kohler v. Garlets, 578 Fed.Appx. 862, 864 (11th Cir. 2014) (“To the extent Mr. Kohler claims that he was injured by the state court's foreclosure order and seeks ‘a determination as to the title and rights and interests' of the foreclosed-upon property . . . the district court properly ruled that his claims were barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, as these claims are inextricably intertwined with the state court's foreclosure judgment.”); Springer v. Perryman, 401 Fed.Appx. 457, 458 (11th Cir. 2010) (affirming the Rooker-Feldman doctrine precluded review of the plaintiff's Section 1983 claims alleging constitutional violations during state court proceedings, including violations of the Seventh Amendment, and finding the claims were inextricably intertwined with the state court's judgment). Therefore, to the extent Plaintiff's State court actions were completed at the time Plaintiff initiated this case, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine precludes this Court from exercising subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims.[3] For these reasons, the Court can, sua sponte, dismiss this action. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii); Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3).

         Thus, Plaintiff's Complaint should be dismissed without prejudice under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Although a pro se plaintiff is usually given at least one opportunity to amend her complaint, it would be futile to do so here in light of the relief requested in this case.

         Accordingly, it is respectfully RECOMMENDED that:

         1. The Application (Doc. 2) be DENIED.

         2. The case be DISMISSED ...

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