United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
OPINION AND ORDER 
POLSTER CHAPPELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Defendant Zeal Hotels Group, LLC's
Supplement to Notice of Removal to Federal Court (Doc.
21) and Plaintiffs Ed Iannarella and Kim
Iannarella's Response (Doc. 23). For the
following reasons, the Court remands this action to state
filed suit against Zeal for breach of contract in state court
on March 12, 2018. (Doc. 4). Plaintiffs first
received default judgment against Zeal in June 2018.
(Doc. 1-13). Due to service of process issues,
Plaintiffs moved to vacate the default judgment to perfect
service upon Zeal, which the court granted. (Docs.
1-17; 21-2). Plaintiffs served Zeal on January
7, 2019. Zeal again failed to respond. Plaintiffs obtained a
second default judgment in April 2019, along with costs and
attorney's fees and court-ordered garnishment. (Docs.
1-20; 1-22; 1-23; 1-26;
1-37; 1-46; 1-49; 1-54;
21-3; 21-4). On August 16, 2019, Zeal moved
to quash service of process, vacate final judgment, and
dissolve garnishment. (Doc. 1-64). That same day,
Zeal removed the case to this Court based on diversity
jurisdiction. (Doc. 1).
sua sponte review of Zeal's Notice of Removal,
the Court found removal problematic for two reasons.
(Doc. 16). First, Zeal removed this case more than
one year after Plaintiffs filed suit. (Id. at 2).
Second, Zeal removed this case even though the state court
entered final judgment and had not yet decided the motion to
vacate. (Id. at 2-3). The Court allowed Zeal to
supplement its removal. (Id. at 3). After reviewing
the record, the parties' arguments, and applicable case
law, the Court finds Zeal's removal untimely and barred
by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.
here, a case may not be removed based on diversity
jurisdiction “more than 1 year after commencement of
the action, unless the district court finds that the
plaintiff has acted in bad faith in order to prevent a
defendant from removing the action.” 28 U.S.C. §
1446(c)(1). Zeal removed this action over seventeen months
after Plaintiffs initiated this suit in state court, and it
has failed to show Plaintiffs acted in bad faith. Thus,
removal is untimely under § 1446(c)(1).
removal was timely, it runs afoul of the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine. The Rooker-Feldman
doctrine, when applicable, bars federal-court jurisdiction.
It applies to “cases brought by state-court losers
complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments
rendered before the district court proceedings commenced and
inviting district court review.” Exxon Mobile Corp.
v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005).
Under this doctrine, “[i]t is well-settled that a
federal district court lacks jurisdiction to review, reverse,
or invalidate a final state court decision.” Harper
v. Chase Manhattan Bank, 138 Fed.Appx. 130, 132 (11th
Cir. 2005) (citation omitted). The Eleventh Circuit applies
Rooker-Feldman to a claim that (1) the state court
adjudicated; or (2) is “inextricably intertwined”
with a state court judgment.” See Target
Media Partners v. Specialty Mktg. Corp., 881 F.3d 1279,
1286 (11th Cir. 2018).
removal falls squarely under the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine because it effectively asks this Court to invalidate
the state court's final judgment due to improper service
of process. The Court, however, lacks federal jurisdiction to
review a final state court judgment. Because Zeal has failed
its burden to show federal jurisdiction exists, the case is
due to be remanded to state court.
it is now ORDERED:
above-captioned case is DISMISSED for lack
of subject matter jurisdiction and REMANDED
to the Circuit Court, Twentieth Judicial Circuit in and for
Lee County, Florida.
Clerk of Court is DIRECTED to transmit a
certified copy of this Order to the Clerk of the Circuit
Court of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit in and for Lee
Clerk of Court is DIRECTED to terminate
pending motions and deadlines and close the case.