United States District Court, D. Maine
RECOMMENDED DECISION AFTER REVIEW OF PLAINTIFF'S
C. Nivison U.S. Magistrate Judge
filed a complaint in which she asserts an
“appeal” that is apparently related to a dispute
with some of her family members regarding certain real
property. (Complaint, ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff also filed a
document entitled “emergency motion to stay, ” in
which motion she asks the Court to enjoin Defendant Robert
Smith from taking possession of the real property and other
personal property. (Motion, ECF No. 2.)
her submissions, Plaintiff filed an application to proceed in
forma pauperis (ECF No. 5), which application the Court
granted. (ECF No. 6.) In accordance with the in forma
pauperis statute, a preliminary review of Plaintiff's
complaint is appropriate. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).
review of Plaintiff's filings, 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).
filings reveal that she seeks review of a state court action
involving a dispute with family members over certain
property. In fact, Plaintiff entitled this action as
an “appeal.” (Complaint at 1.) As I explained in
two recommended decisions in a related case Plaintiff filed,
the Court does not have jurisdiction over Plaintiff's
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).
Plaintiff's claim similarly is the “functional
equivalent of an appeal.”
(Smith v. State of Maine, 2:19-cv-00222-GZS,
Recommended Decision at 2-3, ECF No. 18, Recommended Decision