United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division
J. Shelby Chief District Judge
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
M. WARNER, CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Judge Robert J. Shelby referred this case to Chief Magistrate
Judge Paul M. Warner pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(B). On December 1, 2017, the court granted
Francois Coeur's (“Plaintiff”) application
for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and waived
the prepayment of filing fees pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915 (“IFP Statute”). Accordingly, the court will
screen Plaintiff's action as required under the IFP
Statute. See, e.g., Lister v. Dep't of the
Treasury, 408 F.3d 1309, 1312 (10th Cir. 2005). In
addition, because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se in this
case, the court will construe his pleadings liberally.
See, e.g., Ledbetter v. City of Topeka, 318
F.3d 1183, 1187 (10th Cir. 2003).
Plaintiff's complaint is very difficult to decipher, the
court has deduced the following allegations against Fred Buck
(“Defendant”), a Justice of the Peace in Tom
Green County, Texas. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant
assessed $3150.00 against Plaintiff in an action related to
his commercial driver's license. Plaintiff contends that
Defendant called Plaintiff from San Angelo, Texas, in order
to obtain Plaintiff's plea over the phone and that
Defendant would not allow him to file an answer in writing.
Plaintiff asserts state law claims for negligence and
harassment against Defendant and asks this court “that
the amount of 3150 be dropped and counterclaim [sic]
including attorney fees and court costs in the amount of 500,
000 dollars and weekly payments of 2, 000
dollars.” Elsewhere in the complaint, Plaintiff
seeks “fees and court costs in the amount of 1, 000,
000, 000 dollars . . . and weekly payments of 10, 000
noted above, Plaintiff is proceeding pro se under the IFP
Statute, which requires sua sponte dismissal of the case if
the court determines that the action (1) is frivolous or
malicious, (2) fails to state a claim upon which relief may
be granted, or (3) seeks relief from a defendant who is
immune from suit. See 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B). A district court may also dismiss a case sua
sponte under the IFP Statute for lack of personal
jurisdiction or venue “when the defense is obvious from
the face of the complaint and no further factual record is
required to be developed.” Trujillo v.
Williams, 465 F.3d 1210, 1217 (10th Cir. 2006)
(quotations and citation omitted).
also well settled that the lack of subject matter
jurisdiction may be raised sua sponte by the court at any
point in the proceedings. McAlester v. United Air
Lines, 851 F.2d 1249, 1252 (l0th Cir. 1988). “A
court lacking jurisdiction cannot render judgment but must
dismiss the cause at any stage of the proceedings in which it
becomes apparent that jurisdiction is lacking.”
Basso v. Utah Power & Light Co., 495 F.2d 906,
909 (10th Cir. 1974). Because federal district courts have
limited jurisdiction, a presumption against federal
jurisdiction exists, “and the party invoking federal
jurisdiction bears the burden of proof.” Penteco
Corp. Ltd. P'ship-1985A v. Union Gas Sys., Inc., 929
F.2d 1519, 1521 (10th Cir. 1991) (citation omitted).
matter jurisdiction may be demonstrated in one of two ways.
First, in cases arising under federal question jurisdiction,
federal district courts have authority over “civil
actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of
the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331. “The
presence or absence of federal question jurisdiction is
governed by the ‘well-pleaded complaint rule,'
which provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a
federal question is presented on the face of the
plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint.”
Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392
(1987). Thus, a case meets the “arising under”
standard of § 1331 if it is apparent from the face of
the complaint that federal law creates the plaintiff's
cause of action. See Franchise Tax Bd. of State of Cal.
v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Tr. for S. Cal., 463 U.S.
1, 27-28 (1983). Second, federal district courts may exercise
diversity jurisdiction over “all civil actions where
the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,
000 . . . and is between . . . citizens of different
States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332. “A case falls
within the federal district court's original diversity
jurisdiction only if diversity of citizenship among the
parties is complete, i.e., only if there is no plaintiff and
no defendant who are citizens of the same State.”
Wis. Dep't of Corr. v. Schacht, 524 U.S. 381,
388 (1998) (quotations and citations omitted).
these standards in mind, the court will now address the
sufficiency of Plaintiff's complaint as required under
the IFP Statute.
complaint, Plaintiff is essentially asking this court to
overturn a state-court judgment rendered in Texas. However,
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.” Lance v. Dennis, 546 U.S. 459, 460
(2006) (per curiam) (quotations and citations omitted).
“[T]he Rooker-Feldman doctrine divests federal
district courts of subject matter jurisdiction over claims
that seek, in substance, appellate review of final
state-court judgments.” Bear v. Patton, 451
F.3d 639, 641 n.2 (10th Cir. 2006). Because the substance of
Plaintiff's complaint is a request that this court
overturn a state court judgment, i.e., the assessment of
$3150 related to Plaintiff's commercial driver's
license, this court is without subject matter jurisdiction
even assuming that Rooker-Feldman did not divest
this court of subject matter jurisdiction, it is apparent on
the face of Plaintiff's complaint that the District of
Utah is not the proper venue for this case. Under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1391(b), a complaint may only be brought in
(1) a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if
all defendants are residents of the State in which ...