United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Southern Division
EARL BRITT, SENIOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the court on defendants' motion to
dismiss for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), (DE # 6), and plaintiff's
motions to join a necessary party and amend his complaint,
(DE ## 18, 20). Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to
defendants' motion to dismiss, (DE # 19), to which
defendants filed a reply, (DE # 21). Defendants also filed a
brief in opposition to plaintiff's motions, (DE # 22),
and plaintiff filed a reply, (DE # 25).
August 2017, plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed the
instant complaint against defendants alleging defendants
conspired to deprive, and did deprive, him of his procedural
due process rights in contravention of the Fourteenth
Amendment to the United States Constitution, 42 U.S.C. §
1983, 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), and Article 1, Section 19 of
the North Carolina Constitution. (DE # 1.) Plaintiff's
claims stem from North Carolina state court proceedings in
which plaintiff and defendant Columbus County Department of
Social Services (“CCDSS”) were participants. All
individually named defendants are employees or attorneys of
CCDSS. On 7 December 2015, plaintiff, proceeding pro
se, filed in state court a motion seeking to modify his
child support obligations in Columbus County, North Carolina.
(Id. at 6.) He subsequently amended his motion on 7
January 2016. (Id.) The matter came for hearing on
13 January 2016. (DE # 1-2.) During the hearing, “the
Court had cause to question [plaintiff's]
competency” and postponed the hearing until 23 February
2016 to allow further inquiry into plaintiff's competency
and the need to appoint him a guardian ad litem.
23 February 2016 hearing, plaintiff, his former wife, and an
employee of CCDSS testified regarding plaintiff's
competency to represent himself. (Id.) After
considering the testimony and multiple exhibits, the court
determined plaintiff had sufficient capacity to represent
himself and denied the appointment of a guardian ad litem.
(Id.) Ultimately, plaintiff's motion for
modification of child support was also denied. (DE # 1, at
appealed the court's orders. (Id.) On 18 July
2017, plaintiff's appeal was dismissed due to his failure
to provide a complete record on appeal. Columbus Cty.
Dep't of Soc. Servs. ex rel. Moore v. Norton, No.
COA16-735, 2017 WL 3027482, at *1 ( N.C. Ct. App. July 18,
2017). Plaintiff petitioned the North Carolina Supreme Court
for discretionary review. Columbus Cty. Dep't of Soc.
Servs. ex rel. Moore v. Norton, 804 S.E.2d 524 ( N.C.
2017) (mem.). Plaintiff's petition was denied on 28
September 2017. Id.
his petition was pending, plaintiff filed the instant action
in this court, contending defendants failed to provide him
with proper notice of the hearing on his competency, misled
or coerced the state court during the competency hearing, and
deprived him of the opportunity to have an attorney defend
him during the proceeding. (DE # 1, at 10-22.) Defendants
contend plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed based
on the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, among other grounds.
(DE # 7, at 11-12.) Because this doctrine implicates the
court's subject matter jurisdiction, see Shooting
Point, L.L.C. v. Cumming, 368 F.3d 379, 383 (4th Cir.
2004), the court considers it at the outset. In assessing
defendants' facial challenge to subject matter
jurisdiction, the court treats the facts alleged by plaintiff
as true and must deny the challenge “if the complaint
alleges sufficient facts to invoke subject matter
jurisdiction.” Kerns v. United States, 585
F.3d 187, 192 (4th Cir. 2009).
Rooker-Feldman doctrine prevents the lower federal
courts from exercising jurisdiction over cases brought by
‘state-court losers' challenging ‘state-court
judgments rendered before the district court proceedings
commenced.'” Lance v. Dennis, 546 U.S.
459, 460 (4th Cir. 2006) (quoting Exxon Mobil Corp. v.
Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005)). The
doctrine is narrow. Id. at 464. It applies where a
state court loser seeks redress in federal court for an
injury caused by the state court order itself. Davani v.
Virginia Dep't of Transp., 434 F.3d 712,
718-19 (4th Cir. 2006). Notably,
the [ ] doctrine applies . . . even if the state-court loser
did not argue to the state court the basis of recovery that
he asserts in the federal district court. 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.
to defendants, plaintiff's claims are an attempt to
appeal or collaterally attack the state court judgment in
violation of the doctrine. The court agrees. Plaintiff's
present claims are premised upon alleged violations of his
due process rights in the course of the state court hearing.
Plaintiff's injuries stem from the state court's
orders regarding plaintiff's competency and child support
obligation. Indeed, on appeal, plaintiff “argue[d] the
trial court erred by not following the proper procedure for
determining his competency and abused its discretion in
ruling there was no substantial change in [his] circumstances
since the entry of the last child support order.”
Norton, 2017 WL 3027482, at *1.
plaintiff to recover, this court would have to determine
whether plaintiffs due process rights were in fact violated
during the North Carolina district court proceeding. As such,
plaintiff is challenging a state court decision, and the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine prohibits a review by this
court. Dennis, 546 U.S. at 460; Davani, 434
F.3d at 719.
plaintiffs motions to amend and join Columbus County as a
necessary party are futile and must be denied because the
proposed amendments do not cure the jurisdictional defect in
the complaint. See United States ex rel. Ahumada v.
NISH, 756 F.3d 268, 282 (4th Cir. 3014) (holding the
district court did not err in concluding the plaintiffs
attempt to amend his complaint would be futile where the
proposed amended complaint did not plead a claim over which
the court had subject matter jurisdiction).
motions for leave to amend his complaint and to join a
necessary party are DENIED. Defendants' motion to dismiss
is GRANTED. The Clerk is ...