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Rosberg v. State

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

April 26, 2017

PAUL A. ROSBERG, Plaintiff,


          Richard G. Kopf Senior United States District Judge

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint on March 14, 2017. (Filing No. 1.) He has been given 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. § 1915(e)(2).


         Plaintiff sues the State of Nebraska and Paul Vaughn, a district court judge in Knox County, Nebraska, in his official and individual capacities. (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF p. 2.) Plaintiff believes that Vaughn “is unlawfully ruling” without subject matter jurisdiction. (Id.) Vaughn currently presides over Plaintiff's divorce case. (Id. at CM/ECF p. 3.) Plaintiff alleges that he transferred his divorce case to the “common law jurisdictional side, ” so that he is entitled to a trial by jury under the Seventh Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. (Id.) Plaintiff claims that Vaughn, a chancery judge, prevented him from exercising his right to a jury trial under the common law. (Id. at CM/ECF pp. 3-4.) Plaintiff seeks an order that compels Defendants to allow him to exercise his right to a jury trial “in each and every case that he has filed” and in his current divorce case. (Id. at CM/ECF p. 5.)

         Plaintiff also requests an order that compels Vaughn to recuse himself from Plaintiff's cases. (Id. at CM/ECF p. 8.) He claims that he filed three motions in state district court for Vaughn to recuse himself from his cases and four different lawsuits against Vaughn that are still being litigated. (Id. at CM/ECF pp. 5-6.) Plaintiff believes that Vaughn has consistently shown bias and impartiality against him by dismissing his civil cases, sentencing him to jail without a trial in his divorce case, ruling against most of his motions in his divorce case, and because Plaintiff filed a “Lis Pendens” on Vaughan's real estate. (Id. at CM/ECF pp. 5-6.)

         In addition to the orders to compel, Plaintiff seeks punitive damages and costs and fees. (Id. at CM/ECF p. 9.)


         The 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. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         Pro se 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.”).

         “The 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).


         A. Rooker-Feldman Doctrine

         To the extent Plaintiffs Complaint can be construed to challenge judgments of the state district court[1], 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. It appears to the court that Plaintiff litigated his complaints against Vaughn in the state district court, before a different presiding judge, and failed. Under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the court has no jurisdiction to reverse or modify those state court judgments.

         B. Young ...

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