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Leslie v. Superior Court of Massachusetts

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

December 22, 2017

PAULINE LESLIE, Plaintiff,
v.
SUPERIOR COURT OF MASSACHUSETTS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          INDIRA TALWANI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         For the reasons stated below, the court grants the plaintiffs motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and dismisses the action for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

         I. Background

         On December 5, 2017, pro se litigant Pauline Leslie filed a complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Superior Court of Massachusetts. See Complaint ("Compl."), Docket No. 1. Plaintiffs complaint recounts events surrounding plaintiffs injuries from a 2010 motor vehicle accident and the subsequent state court litigation in Suffolk Superior Court. With the complaint, Leslie filed an Application to Proceed in District Court without Prepaying Fees or Costs. See Application, Docket No. 3.

         II. Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

         Upon review of the plaintiffs motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court concludes that she has shown that she is without assets to pay the filing fee. Accordingly, the Court ALLOWS the motion.

         III. Screening of the Complaint

         Because the plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the complaint is subject to screening under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). This statute authorizes federal courts to dismiss an action in which a plaintiff seeks to proceed without prepayment of fees if the action is malicious, frivolous, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). In conducting this review, the court liberally construes the plaintiffs complaint because she is proceeding pro se. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972).

         Additionally, where "it is crystal clear that the plaintiff cannot prevail and that amending the complaint would be futile, " a dismissal sua sponte is appropriate. Garayalde-Rijos v. Municipality of Carolina, 147 F.3d 15, 23 (1st Cir. 2014) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). "If the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3). Given the nature of the identified jurisdictional deficiencies below, amendment would be futile.

         IV. Discussion

         A. Rooker-Feldman Doctrine

         This Court is without subject matter jurisdiction to entertain the functional equivalent of an appeal from a state judgment. Under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, a federal district court lacks jurisdiction over a final judgment of a state court. See Geiger v. Foley Hoag LLP Retirement Plan, 521 F.3d 60, 65 (1st Cir. 2008). In other words, the doctrine "bars parties who lost in state court from 'seeking review and rejection of that judgment' in federal court.'" Puerto Ricansfor Puerto Rico Party v. Dalmau, 544 F.3d 58, 68 (1st Cir. 2008) (quoting Exxon Mobile Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 291 (2005)); see also D.C. Ct. of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983); Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923). Here, Leslie is seeking review and rejection of a state court judgment on federal and state constitutional grounds. Such a challenge must be pursued in the first instance in the state courts. Where the judgment of the highest state court depends on a question of federal law, the United States Supreme Court, and not the District Court, has jurisdiction to review the judgment. See 28 U.S.C. § 1257.

         B. Failure to State a Claim under Section 1983

         Even if the Court were able to exercise jurisdiction over this matter, the complaint would be subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim. Leslie seeks to vindicate her federal constitutional rights by bringing this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] This statute, which provides that any "person, " acting under the color of state law, who "subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured." 42 U.S.C. § 1983. However, "neither a State nor its officials acting in their official capacities are 'persons' under § 1983, " whether the claim is pursued in state or federal court. Will v. Michigan Dep 't of State Police,491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). Similarly, because the Superior Court is an ...


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