United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
OSTEEN, JR., District Judge
matter is before the court on a Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to
12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) filed by Defendants. (Doc. 9.)
Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed a response and brief in
opposition (Docs. 13, 14), and Defendants filed a reply (Doc.
16). This matter is ripe for resolution and, for the reasons
stated below, Defendants' motion to dismiss will be
2012, Plaintiff entered into a Lease Agreement with Option to
Purchase for certain property owned by Patricia Chambers
(“Chambers”) and located in Durham, North
Carolina. (Complaint (“Compl.”) (Doc. 1) ¶
7.) In March 2013, Plaintiff discovered a 2004 survey of the
property performed by land surveyor Jason L. Panciera with
Cawthorne, Moss & Panciera, P.C. (collectively
“Panciera”). (Id. ¶ 9.) Plaintiff
hired Panciera to do another survey of the property, which
was completed in April 2013. (Id.) In May 2013,
Plaintiff and Chambers entered into an Offer to Purchase and
Contract Agreement. (Id. ¶ 10.)
2013, Plaintiff received a letter from a Durham County Deputy
Attorney stating that the property did not comply with Durham
County zoning regulations. (Id. ¶ 11.)
Thereafter, Plaintiff terminated the purchase agreement
because Chambers could not convey the property with clear and
marketable title. (Id. ¶ 13.) Chambers refused
to refund Plaintiff's $4, 000 purchase option fee and
threatened to evict Plaintiff. (Id.) On July 16,
2013, Plaintiff brought suit in the Durham County Superior
Court, case number 13 CVS 3675, against Chambers, Panciera,
and Steve N. Mattocks and Mattocks Enterprises, Inc.
(“Mattocks”) alleging fraud, unfair and deceptive
trade practices, and civil conspiracy (the “State
Action”). (Id. ¶¶ 14-15.) In the
State Action, Mattocks hired Defendants Douglas McClanahan
and McClanahan Law Firm, PLLC (collectively
“McClanahan”), and Panciera hired Defendants R.
Keith Shackleford and Warren Shackleford Attorneys P.L.L.C.
(collectively “Shackleford”) (Defs.' Br. in
Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss (“Defs.' Br.”) (Doc.
10) at 2.) Defendants brought motions for summary judgment on
behalf of their respective clients. (Id.)
December 11, 2014, a hearing on Defendants' motions for
summary judgment in the State Action was held in the Superior
Court of Durham County. (Compl. (Doc. 1) ¶ 15.)
McClanahan presented evidence and oral argument on behalf of
their clients Mattocks and Shackleford presented evidence and
oral argument on behalf of their client Panciera.
(Id.) On December 15, 2014, Defendants' summary
judgment motions were granted and all claims brought against
Defendants' clients were dismissed. (Id. ¶
January 2015, Plaintiff appealed the Superior Court's
order granting summary judgment to the North Carolina Court
of Appeals. (Id. ¶¶ 17-18.) The North
Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's
order stating that Plaintiff “failed to forecast any
evidence showing that [the defendants] misrepresented or
concealed anything from him, that they had any intent to
deceive, or that [Plaintiff] relied on any alleged
misrepresentations to his detriment.” (Id.
¶ 19; Howard v. Chambers, No. COA15-590, 2016
WL 409697, *1 ( N.C. Ct. App. Feb. 2, 2016), appeal
dismissed, __ N.C. __, 787 S.E.2d 38 (2016).) The Court of
Appeals further found “no indication in the record that
counsel for [the defendants] misstated anything to the trial
court and certainly nothing so improper that it amounted to a
constitutional violation.” Howard, 2016 WL 409697 at
then filed this action on August 1, 2016. Plaintiff alleges
that at the summary judgment hearing, Defendants
“committed fraud upon the North Carolina Superior Court
through multiple misleading statements, misrepresentations,
and concealment of facts, ” which caused damage to
Plaintiff. (Compl. (Doc. 1) ¶ 21; Id. at 7-13.)
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants “worked together in a
prearranged scheme to mislead the court” regarding the
actions of their clients. (Id. at 13.) Plaintiff
further alleges that his constitutional rights were violated
and he was damaged because of Defendants' fraud upon the
court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Id.
¶¶ 23-28.) Plaintiff seeks the enforcement of his
civil rights, damages, “injunctive relief from all
existing and any future damages”, and for this court to
order that the State Action decision and the North Carolina
Court of Appeals decision “be set aside and made of no
effect.” (Id. at 17.)
defendant raises a court's potential lack of subject
matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(1), a plaintiff bears the burden of proving
that the court has authority to proceed. Evans v. B.F.
Perkins Co., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999). The
court must determine whether it has subject matter
jurisdiction over an action before proceeding any further.
Constantine v. Rectors & Visitors of George Mason
Univ., 411 F.3d 474, 479-80 (4th Cir. 2005). When
assessing a challenge to subject matter jurisdiction, the
court may look beyond the face of the complaint and consider
other evidence outside the pleadings without converting the
motion into one for summary judgment. Adams v. Bain,
697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982). A court should dismiss
for lack of federal subject matter jurisdiction “only
if the material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and
the moving party is entitled to prevail as a matter of
law.” Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R.
Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991)
(citation omitted). Should the court conclude that it lacks
subject matter jurisdiction, it must dismiss the action.
argue that this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over
this action under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. (Defs.'
Br. (Doc. 10) at 6-9.) The presence of subject matter
jurisdiction is a threshold issue that this court must
determine before the merits of the case. Steel Co. v.
Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 94-95
(1998). The Rooker-Feldman doctrine is a jurisdictional
doctrine that prohibits federal district courts from
reviewing or overturning certain state-court decisions.
See Rooker v. Fidelity Tr. Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923);
Dist. of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460
U.S. 462 (1983). “Under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine,
lower federal courts generally do not have jurisdiction to
review state-court decisions; rather, jurisdiction to review
such decisions lies exclusively with superior state courts
and, ultimately, the United States Supreme Court.”
Plyler v. Moore, 129 F.3d 728, 731 (4th Cir. 1997).
More specifically, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine prevents a
federal court from passing upon the merits of a state-court
decision, determining that a state-court judgment was
erroneously entered, or taking action that would render a
state-court judgment ineffectual. Jordahl v. Democratic
Party of Va., 122 F.3d 192, 202 (4th Cir. 1997).
Supreme Court has limited the scope of the doctrine “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 commenced and inviting district
court review and rejection of those judgments.”
Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544
U.S. 280, 284 (2005); see Lance v. Dennis, 546 U.S.
459 (2006). The Exxon holding requires this court “to
examine whether the state-court loser who files suit in
federal district court seeks redress for an injury caused by
the state-court decision itself.” Davani v. Va.
Dep't of Transp., 434 F.3d 712, 718 (4th Cir. 2006).
“A claim seeking redress for an injury caused by the
state-court decision itself - even if the basis of the claim
was not asserted to the state court - asks the federal
district court to conduct an appellate review of the
state-court decision.” Id. at 719. Federal
jurisdiction to review most state court judgments is vested
exclusively in the United States Supreme Court. See Exxon,
544 U.S. at 291 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1257). Similarly, a
litigant “may not escape the jurisdictional bar of
Rooker-Feldman by merely refashioning its attack on the state
court judgments as a § 1983 claim.” Jordahl, 122
F.3d at 202-03 (citing Leonard v. Suthard, 927 F.2d
168, 169-70 (4th Cir. 1991) for the proposition that
“where plaintiffs' claims are ‘inextricably
intertwined' with the merits of a state court decision,
then the district court is being asked to review the state
court decision, a result prohibited under
Plaintiff alleges in count one that he was damaged by
Defendants' fraud upon the state court when Defendants
“misled the court into believing there were no
material, genuine issues in controversy.” (Compl. (Doc.
1) at 6-7.) Plaintiff seeks damages as a result of Defendants
intentionally concealing material facts and knowingly making
false statements that misled the state court into entering
summary judgment in the state defendants' favor.
(Id. at 13-14.) In count two, Plaintiff makes claims
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 stating that ...