United States District Court, D. Nebraska
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Richard G. Kopf Senior United States District Judge.
filed his Complaint on January 5, 2017. (Filing No.
1.) He has been granted leave to proceed in forma
pauperis. (Filing No. 5.) The court now conducts an
initial review of Plaintiff's Complaint to determine
whether summary dismissal is appropriate under 28 U.S.C.
SUMMARY OF COMPLAINT
alleges that Defendant Lohaus, a county court judge,
threatened him with jail in Douglas County Court Case No.
CR14-24620. (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF p. 2.) He
alleges that she told him that she would have Defendant
Flynn, a deputy sheriff, arrest him if he did not pay $149 in
fines/costs or sign up for the Offender Work Program.
(Id.) He states that he explained his medical
history of coronary heart disease to her, and Lohaus insisted
that he is not a “pauper.” (Id.)
Plaintiff signed up for the Offender Work Program, as
evidenced by the form that he attached to his Complaint.
(Id. at CM/ECF p. 7.) Plaintiff agreed to work one
day per week until the entire amount of his fines/costs is
satisfied or paid. (Id.) Each day worked equates to
$90.00 of fine cost. (Id.) Plaintiff can pay the
amount owed at any time to avoid the work requirement.
(Id.) Plaintiffs failure to comply will result in
jail time. (Id.)
alleges that he filed an appeal of Lohaus' order, but
Defendant Graves, a deputy clerk, would not process his
appeal without an order granting him leave to proceed in
forma pauperis. (Id. at CM/ECF p. 3.) Plaintiff seeks
one million dollars in damages. (Id. at CM/ECF p.
4.) He also wants this court to direct Graves to transmit his
appeal and to enjoin the State from attempting to jail him
for not paying his fines/costs when he is poor.
(Id.) He claims that he is being subjected to an
illegal “debtor's prison, ” in violation of
Tate v. Short, 401 U.S. 395 (1971). (Id. at
CM/ECF p. 5.)
APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS ON INITIAL REVIEW
court is required to review in forma pauperis complaints to
determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). The court must dismiss
a complaint or any portion of it that states a frivolous or
malicious claim, that fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §
plaintiffs must set forth enough factual allegations to
“nudge their claims across the line from conceivable
to plausible, ” or “their complaint must be
dismissed.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 569-70 (2007); see also Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“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.”).
essential function of a complaint under the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure is to give the opposing party ‘fair
notice of the nature and basis or grounds for a claim, and a
general indication of the type of litigation
involved.'” Topchian v. JPMorgan Chase Bank,
N.A., 760 F.3d 843, 848 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting
Hopkins v. Saunders, 199 F.3d 968, 973 (8th Cir.
1999)). However, “[a] pro se complaint must be
liberally construed, and pro se litigants are held to a
lesser pleading standard than other parties.”
Topchian, 760 F.3d at 849 (internal quotation marks
and citations omitted).
extent Plaintiff's Complaint can be construed to
challenge a judgment of the Douglas County Court, this court
lacks jurisdiction. Only the Supreme Court has the authority
to entertain a proceeding to reverse or modify a state court
judgment. Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S.
413, 416 (1923); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1257(a)
(granting the United States Supreme Court the power to review
final judgments rendered by high courts of a state). In
addition, federal courts do not have jurisdiction to review
final state court judgments in judicial proceedings.
District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman,
460 U.S. 462, 482-86 (1983). Together, these two principles
have merged to become the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.
Rooker-Feldman doctrine stands for the proposition
that federal district courts lack subject matter jurisdiction
to review final state judgments or to review claims that are
inextricably intertwined with state court decisions. See
Riehm v. Engelking, 538 F.3d 952, 964 (8th Cir. 2008)
(explaining limited scope of the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine); see e.g., Ballinger v. Culotta, 322 F.3d
546, 548-49 (8th Cir. 2003) (concluding
Rooker-Feldman doctrine barred the district court
from considering plaintiff's claim that the state court
unconstitutionally infringed on his parental rights);
Amerson v. Iowa, 94 F.3d 510, 513 (8th Cir. 1996)
(stating that it is “inappropriate for a federal court
to address a claim that necessitates invalidating a state
court judgment on a matter committed to the states in order
to grant the relief sought”). It is not possible for
the court to grant the requested relief without disrupting
the judicial process of the Douglas County Court.