United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
Reidinger, United States District Judge
MATTER is before the Court on the Plaintiff's
Application to Proceed without Prepayment of Fees or Costs
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Plaintiff brings this action against the Cleveland County
Department of Social Services (“the Department”).
In her Complaint, the Plaintiff challenges the issuance of a
no-contact order, which she contends is depriving her of
contact with her minor child in violation of her
constitutional rights. [Doc. 1 at 6]. Specifically, the
Plaintiff alleges that the Department has violated the
Americans with Disabilities Act by issuing this no-contact
order. [Id.]. She further alleges that she has filed
a petition for return of her child, but that the petition is
not being adjudicated in a timely manner. [Id.].
relief, the Plaintiff seeks an injunction “blocking the
state court from any further action[, ] to restore [her]
parental rights[, ] and to proceed in a timely manner
....” [Doc. 1 at 4].
STANDARD OF REVIEW
district courts are courts of limited jurisdiction.
United States ex rel. Vuyyuru v. Jadhav, 555 F.3d
337, 347 (4th Cir. 2009). “Thus, when a district court
lacks subject matter jurisdiction over an action, the action
must be dismissed.” Id. The lack of subject
matter jurisdiction is an issue that may be raised at any
time. See Ellenburg v. Spartan Motors Chassis, Inc.,
519 F.3d 192, 196 (4th Cir. 2008). “If the court
determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.”
action, the Plaintiff appears to challenge orders issued in a
custodial proceeding in a North Carolina state court. Under
the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, however, this Court
does not have jurisdiction to consider the Plaintiff's
United States Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction over
appeals from state-court judgments. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1257(a); District of Columbia Court of
Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 482 (1983); Rooker
v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 416 (1923). As a
corollary to this rule, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine
prohibits “a party losing in state court . . . from
seeking what in substance would be an appellate review of the
state judgment in a United States district court, based on
the losing party's claim that the state judgment itself
violates the loser's federal rights.” Johnson
v. De Grandy, 512 U.S. 997, 1005-06 (1994). “The
Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars lower federal courts
from considering not only issues raised and decided in state
courts, but also issues that are ‘inextricably
intertwined' with the issues that are before the state
court.” Washington v. Wilmore, 407 F.3d 274,
279 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Feldman, 460 U.S. at
486). As the Fourth Circuit has explained, “if the
state-court loser seeks redress in the federal district court
for the injury caused by the state-court decision, his
federal claim is, by definition, ‘inextricably
intertwined' with the state-court decision, and is
therefore outside the jurisdiction of the federal district
court.” Davani v. Va. Dep't of Transp.,
434 F.3d 712, 719 (4th Cir. 2006).
Supreme Court has cautioned that Rooker-Feldman is a
“narrow doctrine” which “is confined to
cases of the kind from 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).
Accordingly, pursuant to Exxon, the Court must
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. If he is not challenging
the state-court decision, the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine does not apply.” Davani, 434 F.3d at
718 (footnote omitted); Moore v. Idealease of
Wilmington, 465 F.Supp.2d 484, 490 (E.D. N.C. 2006).
present case, the Plaintiff appears to challenge the orders
of a state court in a custodial proceeding. Because the
Plaintiff does not allege any injury independent of this
state-court action, the Court concludes that the
Plaintiff's Complaint must be dismissed pursuant to the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. If the Plaintiff wishes to challenge the
validity of the state court's orders, she must do so in
the North Carolina state courts.
IS, THEREFORE, ORDERED that the Plaintiff's
Application to Proceed without Prepayment of Fees and
Affidavit [Doc. 2] is hereby GRANTED.
IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiffs Complaint [Doc.
1] is DISMISSED for lack of ...