United States District Court, N.D. Ohio
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER (RESOLVING DOCS. 2,
R. ADAMS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Susan Lloyd has filed this pro se action against
Portage County Court of Common Pleas Judge Becky Doherty,
Magistrate Natasha Natale, and Court Reporter Kelley
Hershberger. (Doc. No. 1.) Defendants filed a motion to
dismiss all claims pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (Doc.
No. 11.) After consideration of the law and argument
presented, the motion to dismiss is GRANTED. Further,
Plaintiff filed a motion to proceed in forma
pauperis but later paid the filing fee. (Doc. No. 2.)
She then filed a motion to withdraw her request to proceed
in forma pauperis. (Doc. No. 5.) Said motion to
withdraw is hereby GRANTED.
Complaint, the Plaintiff alleges conduct taken by the
Defendants during the course of two civil actions she filed
against her neighbor, Joshua Thornsbery, in the Portage
County Court of Common Pleas. She filed a damages action for
trespass and nuisance against Mr. Thornsbery in Case 2016 CV
00230, and she filed an action seeking a civil stalking order
in Case 2017 CV 00390. The Plaintiff has filed appeals in
both of those cases, which are pending in the state court of
underlying Complaint, the Plaintiff alleges Judge Doherty and
Magistrate Natale “made decisions in back rooms”
and were biased and prejudiced against her in the Portage
County cases. (Doc. No. 1 at ¶ 35.) Plaintiff alleges
that Judge Doherty and Magistrate Natale required her to
“redo” her complaint (after she initially filed a
pleading that exceeded 200 pages), refused to allow Facebook
posts to be used during trial, refused to rule on her motions
or recuse themselves, scheduled hearings that were
subsequently cancelled, ordered her to take down security
cameras facing Mr. Thornsbery's yard, and refused to
credit evidence allegedly favorable to her. Additionally, she
complains Judge Doherty “verbally assaulted” her
while she was in the courthouse waiting to pay for a
transcript and wrongfully speculated that she may be mentally
ill. She alleges that Defendant Hershberger altered a
transcript to exclude a statement made by Judge Doherty,
where she alleged that Plaintiff was abusing the court
system. (Id. at ¶¶ 14, 15.)
asserts four claims for relief: 1) the Defendants violated
her constitutional rights under the First and Fourteenth
Amendments because Plaintiff posted comments on the court
Facebook page alleging that state proceedings were being
deleted and she was then blocked from the page; 2) the
Defendants violated her rights under the Fifth, Eighth, and
Ninth Amendments by their alleged unfair and biased treatment
of her during the Portage County proceedings; 3) Judge
Doherty and Magistrate Natale violated her rights under the
Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (“Rehabilitation
Act”) because they refused to allow her to bring a
service dog into the courtroom; and 4) Judge Doherty
committed fraud because the Judge “advertises in
multiple places that she runs a ‘drug' court”
but in Plaintiff's cases, Judge Doherty allegedly ignored
“hard core evidence of illegal drug use” by Mr.
Thornsbery. (Id. at ¶ 56, Claim 4). The
Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, a
declaration that the Defendants have violated federal law, an
order that Defendants be recused from Case 2016 CV 00230 and
that the case be transferred out of Portage County, and an
order that her “freedom of speech to portage county
courthouse Facebook page” be restored and that the
Defendants be prevented from “further retaliation and
defamation” against her. (Id., Prayer for
Defendants filed a motion to dismiss all of Plaintiff's
claims pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (Doc. No. 11.) The
Plaintiff responded to the motion, and it has now been fully
briefed. For the reasons stated below, the Defendants'
motion is GRANTED, and this action is DISMISSED.
complaint is subject to dismissal under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)
if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. To survive a dismissal under the Rule, a complaint
“must present ‘enough facts to state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face'” when its
factual allegations are presumed true and all reasonable
inferences are drawn in the non-moving party's favor.
Total Benefits Planning Agency, Inc. v. Anthem Blue Cross
and Blue Shield, 552 F.3d 430, 434 (6th Cir.
2008), citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when
the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, (2009) (internal quotation
marks omitted). Although pleadings and documents filed by
pro se litigants are “liberally
construed” and held to less stringent standards than
formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, pro se
plaintiffs must still meet basic pleading requirements and
courts are not required to conjure allegations on their
behalf. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007); Erwin v. Edwards, 22 Fed.Appx. 579, 580
(6th Cir. 2001).
the all the pleadings appropriate deference, Plaintiff's
Complaint must be dismissed in its entirety. Fed.R.Civ.P.
Plaintiff's Claims 2 and 3 do state claims for which this
Court may grant relief. To the extent that the Plaintiff
alleges Defendants have violated her civil rights by their
conduct or rulings made during the proceedings, the doctrine
of abstention prohibits this Court from hearing her claims.
Under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971) and
Pennzoil Co. v. Texaco, Inc., 481 U.S. 1, 17 (1987),
federal courts must abstain from hearing challenges to
pending state proceedings where the state's interest is
so important that exercising federal jurisdiction would
disrupt the comity between federal and state courts.
Abstention is warranted where there exists: (1) an ongoing
state proceeding; (2) an important state interest; and (3) an
adequate opportunity in the state judicial proceedings to
raise constitutional challenges. Gorenc v. City of
Westland, 72 Fed.Appx. 336, 338 (6th Cir. 2003).
is warranted under these factors because Plaintiff's
underlying state court case implicates important state
interests, and there is no reasonable suggestion in her
pleadings that she lacks an adequate opportunity to raise her
constitutional concerns in the state courts through
procedures available to her. This Court will not interfere
with pending state civil matters.
addition, to the extent the Plaintiff is asking this Court to
overturn or reverse any specific ruling or order entered by
the Portage County Court of Common Pleas, including Claims 2
and 3, her claims are barred by the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine, which prohibits federal courts from sitting in
direct review of state court judgments. See Carter v.
Burns, 524 F.3d 796, 798 (6th Cir. 2008)
(“The Rooker-Feldman doctrine denies federal
jurisdiction to ‘cases brought by state-court losers
complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments
rendered before the district court proceedings commenced ...