United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division
WENDY D. YOHN, Plaintiff,
JACKSON COUNTY, MISSOURI, 16th CIRCUIT COURT, and TURNKEY PROPERTIES, Defendants.
ORDER DENYING APPLICATION FOR LEAVE TO FILE ACTION
WITHOUT PAYMENT OF FEES, COSTS, OR SECURITY, AND DISMISSING
KAYS, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
before the Court is pro se Plaintiff Wendy
Yohn's Application for Leave to File Action Without
Payment of Fees, Costs, or Security With Affidavit of
Financial Status in Support (Docs. 1-2). Because the Court
lacks jurisdiction to hear the case, the application is
DENIED and this case is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
process for determining whether a plaintiff should be granted
leave to proceed without payment of fees, costs, or security,
consists of two steps. Martin-Trigona v. Stewart,
691 F.2d 856, 857 (8th Cir. 1982). First, the court must
decide whether the plaintiff “qualifies by economic
status” pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1).
Id. If the plaintiff qualifies by economic status,
then the court must decide whether the action should
nonetheless be dismissed because it lacks a basis in law or
fact, or it seeks monetary relief against a party immune from
such damages. 28 U.S.C.A. § 1915(e)(2)(B);
Martin-Trigona v. Stewart, 691 F.2d at 857.
for the sake of argument that Ms. Yohn qualifies by economic
status, the Court must determine whether this action should
be dismissed because it is legally frivolous, malicious, or
demands money damages of an immune defendant. Cf.
Martin-Trigona, 691 F.2d at 857. A complaint is
frivolous under § 1915(e)(2)(B) if it “lacks an
arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke
v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). In reviewing a
pro se complaint at this stage, the Court gives the
complaint the benefit of every doubt, no matter how unlikely.
Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992).
Yohn's Complaint (Doc. 1-1) alleges that the Jackson
County Circuit Court erred by refusing to hear certain
testimony during her eviction proceeding which led to her
being homeless. Because this lawsuit is an attempt to appeal
an adverse state court decision to federal court, the Court
lacks jurisdiction to hear this case. Federal courts are
courts of limited jurisdiction and as such may only hear
cases they have been authorized to hear by the Constitution
or by statute. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of
Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). If a federal court lacks
subject matter jurisdiction over a lawsuit, it must dismiss
the lawsuit. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3). Federal jurisdiction to
review state court judgments is vested exclusively in the
United States Supreme Court. Lemonds v. St. Louis
Cnty, 222 F.3d 488, 492 (8th Cir. 2000). The
Rooker-Feldman doctrine provides that federal district
courts, such as this one, may not review state court
decisions, “even if those challenges allege that the
state court's action was unconstitutional.”
Ballinger v. Culotta, 322 F.3d 546, 548 (8th Cir.
2003) (holding the Rooker-Feldman doctrine prohibits a
lawsuit brought in federal district court alleging a state
court wrongly decided custody issues and unconstitutionally
infringed on the plaintiff's parental rights). This
doctrine forecloses both straightforward appeals from state
court decisions and “also more indirect attempts by
federal plaintiffs to undermine state court decisions.”
Lance v. Dennis, 546 U.S. 459, 463 (2006). It also
prohibits lower federal courts from exercising jurisdiction
over all “general constitutional claims that are
inextricably intertwined with claims already adjudicated in
state court.” Id. at 492-93. A general federal
claim is inextricably intertwined with a state judgment
“if the federal claim succeeds only to the extent that
the state court wrongly decided the issues before it.”
Pennzoil Co. v. Texaco, Inc., 481 U.S. 1, 25 (1987).
That is, the doctrine bars claims where the requested federal
relief would void the state court's judgment or
essentially reverse the state court's holding. Ace
Constr. v. City of St. Louis, 263 F.3d 831, 833 (8th
Yohn alleges that the Jackson County Circuit Court erred
during her eviction proceeding. Because her lawsuit can only
succeed if the Jackson County Circuit Court wrongly decided
these issues, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars this Court
from considering her claims. Since the Court lacks
jurisdiction to hear her claims, it cannot grant her
application to proceed in forma pauperis. It must
also dismiss her case.
the application to proceed without payment of fees, costs, or
security is DENIED. This case is also DISMISSED WITHOUT
PREJUDICE for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.