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Davis v. Carter

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division

June 6, 2019


          Black, J.



         On May 31, 2019, Plaintiff Theodore K. Davis, Jr. filed a motion seeking leave to file a complaint in this Court in forma pauperis, or without payment of fees. (Doc. 1). Attached to Plaintiff's motion/application is a copy of the proposed complaint. (Doc. 1-1). The sole Defendant is identified as Barbra Schneider-Carter. The undersigned takes judicial notice of the fact that the Defendant is an Ohio state court judge in the Domestic Relations Division of the Butler County Court.[1]

         I. General Screening Authority

         By separate Order issued this date, Plaintiff has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Therefore, the complaint is now before the Court for a sua sponte review to determine whether the complaint, or any portion of it, should be dismissed because it is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         Congress has authorized federal courts to dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint if satisfied that the action is frivolous or malicious. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i). A complaint may be dismissed as frivolous when the plaintiff cannot make any claim with a rational or arguable basis in fact or law. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 328-29 (1989); see also Lawler v. Marshall, 898 F.2d 1196, 1198 (6th Cir. 1990). An action has no arguable legal basis when the defendant is immune from suit or when plaintiff claims a violation of a legal interest which clearly does not exist. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. An action has no arguable factual basis when the allegations are delusional or rise to the level of the irrational or “wholly incredible.” Denton, 504 U.S. at 32; Lawler, 898 F.2d at 1199. The Court need not accept as true factual allegations that are “fantastic or delusional" in reviewing a complaint for frivolousness. Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 471 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 328).

         Congress has also authorized the sua sponte dismissal of complaints which fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (e)(2)(B)(ii). Although a plaintiff's pro se complaint must be “liberally construed” and “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, ” the complaint must “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citation and quotation omitted)). The complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570); see also Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010)(“dismissal standard articulated in Iqbal and Twombly governs dismissals for failure to state a claim” under §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and 1915A(b)(1)).

         “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The Court must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true, but need not “accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). Although a complaint need not contain “detailed factual allegations, ” it must provide “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). A pleading that offers “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders “naked assertion[s]” devoid of “further factual enhancement.” Id. at 557.

         II. Allegations Of Complaint

         Plaintiff's complaint was filed as a single document spanning 206 pages. However, on closer review, the body of the complaint is contained within the first 12 pages, and is followed by 194 pages of exhibits. The gist of Plaintiff's complaint against Judge Schneider Carter is that she has issued decisions against Plaintiff that exhibit bias against him and that are in excess of what Plaintiff believes was limited authority to alter a previously mediated Agreement between Davis and his ex-wife. (See Doc. 1-1 at 3-5). Davis complains specifically about multiple rulings from Judge Schneider Carter that he alleges reflect bias and discrimination, and preferential treatment toward opposing counsel and/or his ex-wife, in violation of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, due process, 38 U.S.C. § 5301, 42 U.S.C. § 659, various state court laws, and the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct. (See Doc. 1-1 at 3, 5-11). He alleges, among other things, that Judge Schneider Carter improperly interpreted the law concerning Plaintiff's veteran and social security disability income. (See Doc. 1-1 at 4). Plaintiff complains that various rulings have left him “in bankrupt status.” (Doc. 1-1 at 11).

         Plaintiff seeks relief from the state court judgment entered by Judge Schneider Carter, recusal of the Defendant in “any cases where I am involved, ” an immediate “stay of all payments to CSEA” and other alterations of prior years' payments to CSEA, [2] relief from a “Mediated Agreement” between Davis and his ex-wife, a declaratory judgment that the Mediated Agreement was satisfied in 2015, the removal of any “negative records” arising out of state court proceedings relating to a motion to compel and/or contempt charges, and punitive damages in excess of $250, 000.00. To the extent that any new trial is ordered in state court, Plaintiff also requests that this Court order change of venue from Butler County to Hamilton County. (Doc. 1-1 at 12).

         III. Analysis of Claims

         Under relevant screening standards and federal law, Plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed in its entirety. The complaint lacks factual content or context from which the Court may reasonably infer the basis for federal jurisdiction over any claim that Plaintiff may have against the Defendant.

         Although Plaintiff's cover sheet invokes federal question jurisdiction, no such jurisdiction exists. (Doc. 1-2). For this Court to have federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, a plaintiff must allege facts showing the cause of action involves an issue of federal law. See Metro. Life Ins. Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 63 (1987). Here, Plaintiff is challenging the outcome of a family law dispute that arose in state court. More than a century ago, the United States Supreme Court proclaimed that “[t]he whole subject of the domestic relations of husband and wife, parent and child, belongs to the laws of the states and not to the laws of the United States.” In re Burrus,136 U.S. 586 (1890). Thus, under the Burrus abstention doctrine, federal courts have universally declined to exercise jurisdiction in domestic relations cases in which a complaint contains only conclusory assertions that a plaintiff is ...

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