United States District Court, D. Maine
RECOMMENDED DECISION AFTER REVIEW OF PLAINTIFF'S
C. Nivison U.S. Magistrate Judge.
action, Plaintiff evidently alleges her due process rights
were violated during state court proceedings related to
certain property. The property-related dispute apparently
involves at least two of Plaintiff's siblings.
filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis, which
application the Court granted. (ECF No. 13.) In accordance
with the in forma pauperis statute, a preliminary review of
Plaintiff's complaint is appropriate. 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2). After review of Plaintiff's complaint, I
recommend the Court dismiss the matter.
federal in forma pauperis statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1915, is
designed to ensure meaningful access to the federal courts
for those persons unable to pay the costs of bringing an
action. When a party is proceeding in forma pauperis,
however, “the court shall dismiss the case at any time
if the court determines, ” inter alia, that the action
is “frivolous or malicious” or “fails to
state a claim on which relief may be granted” or
“seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is
immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B). “Dismissals [under § 1915] are
often made sua sponte prior to the issuance of process, so as
to spare prospective defendants the inconvenience and expense
of answering such complaints.” Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989).
considering whether a complaint states a claim for which
relief may be granted, courts must assume the truth of all
well-plead facts and give the plaintiff the benefit of all
reasonable inferences therefrom. Ocasio-Hernandez v.
Fortuno-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2011). A
complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted if it does not plead “enough facts to state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
a pro se plaintiff's complaint is subject to “less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers,
” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972),
this is “not to say that pro se plaintiffs are not
required to plead basic facts sufficient to state a claim,
Ferranti v. Moran, 618 F.2d 888, 890 (1st Cir.
1980). To allege a civil action in federal court, it is not
enough for a plaintiff merely to allege that a defendant
acted unlawfully; a plaintiff must affirmatively allege facts
that identify the manner by which the defendant subjected the
plaintiff to a harm for which the law affords a remedy.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
review of Plaintiff's submissions reveals that Plaintiff
is involved in a dispute with family members over property
that at one time was owned by her parents. Plaintiff's
submissions also reflect that the dispute has been litigated
in state court. In this action, which Plaintiff at various
times in her filings refers to as an “appeal, ”
Plaintiff essentially challenges the state court process and
to the extent Plaintiff asserts a claim for damages against
the State of Maine under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the State of
Maine is not a person subject to federal court jurisdiction
under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and the
Eleventh Amendment bars the case from proceeding against the
State in federal court. Will v. Mich. Dep't of State
Police, 491 U.S. 58, 64 (1989); Poirier v. Mass.
Dep't of Corr., 558 F.3d 92, 97 n. 6 (1st Cir.
2009); Nieves-Marquez v. Puerto Rico, 353 F.3d 108,
124 (1st Cir. 2003).
addition, as explained in the recent recommended decision on
Plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction:
Federal district courts do not have jurisdiction to act as an
appellate court to review the rulings of state courts. The
only federal court with such authority is the United States
Supreme Court. Silva v. Massachusetts, 351 Fed.Appx.
450, 454 (1st Cir. 2009) (“28 U.S.C. § 1257 vests
the United States Supreme Court with exclusive
‘jurisdiction over appeals from final state-court
judgments'”) (quoting Lance v. Dennis, 546
U.S. 459, 463 (2006) (per curiam)); see also Lance,
546 U.S. at 460 (“The 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'”)
(quoting Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus.
Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284, (2005)).
In McKenna v. Curtin, 869 F.3d 44 (1st Cir. 2017),
the First Circuit reiterated the scope and significance of
the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, and its reasoning is
instructive in this case. The First Circuit, relying on the
Rooker- Feldman doctrine, affirmed the
dismissal of the plaintiff's claim that the proceedings
that resulted in a state court order suspending him from the
practice of law violated his rights under the First, Seventh,
and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
The First Circuit reasoned that because the plaintiff
complained of harm arising from a state court order, and
asked the federal district court “to countermand that
order, ” his claim was “precisely the
‘functional equivalent of an appeal' that the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine forbids.” Id.
at 48 (quoting Badillo-Santiago, 378 F.3d at 6). The
First Circuit also concluded that the plaintiff's claims
did not constitute a challenge on behalf of the public for
declaratory relief regarding the constitutionality of state
court proceedings, because “all of the
allegations in his complaint concern the constitutionality of
the rules as applied to him.” Id.
(emphasis in original).
claim similarly is the “functional equivalent of an