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Johnson v. Howe

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

December 6, 2019

David G. Johnson, II, Plaintiff
v.
Judge Joseph Howe, et al., Defendants

          ORDER

          JAMES G. CARR SR. U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This case is about a judgment entered in July 2019 in a case filed in Toledo Municipal Court concerning a land contract, Case No. 18-19416 (“State Court Case”). Plaintiff sues Judge Joseph Howe, who presided over the State Court Case, Attorney Thomas Yoder, who represented the plaintiffs in the State Court Case, and the City of Toledo. (Doc. 1).

         Plaintiff filed a motion to proceed with this case in forma pauperis (Doc. 2), and I grant that motion. But for the reasons that follow, I dismiss this action.

         I. Background

         Douglas Davis and Ireen Ali-Davis (collectively, “Davis”) entered into a land installment contract (“Contract”) with David Johnson (the Plaintiff in this action) concerning property located at 16 E. Sylvania Ave, Toledo, Ohio (the “Property”). Represented by Thomas Yoder, Davis filed the State Court Case alleging that David Johnson failed to make the payments required by the Contract. Although David Johnson is named in the body of the complaint in the State Court Case, and in the Contract attached thereto, the name of the defendant appearing in the caption of the State Court Case is “Douglas Johnson, ” not David Johnson. Plaintiff attaches the complaint and docket in the State Court Case to the Complaint in this action.[1] (Doc. 1-10 and 1-11).

         In this action, Plaintiff alleges that he was never served, nor was a party, in the State Court Case. But Plaintiff also alleges here that he was served with the judgment entered against him in the State Court Case. (Doc. 1 at 4). That judgment (Doc. 1-12) identifies David Johnson as the defendant in the State Court Case caption and states in the body of the entry that David Johnson breached the Contract for the Property. Also attached to the Complaint in this action is an emergency motion (Doc. 1-1) filed by David Johnson in the State Court Case to vacate the judgment entered against him. In that motion, David Johnson argued that Davis' lawyer, Thomas Yoder, perpetrated a fraud in the State Court Case by naming “Douglas Johnson, ” rather than David Johnson, as the defendant and, as a result, Judge Howe lacked jurisdiction over the State Court Case.[2]

         In October 2019, Judge Howe adopted the original judgment entered in July 2019 and granted Davis immediate possession of the Property. In the October judgment, Judge Howe noted that David Johnson's objection to mediation was denied yet he failed to appear at the mediation or respond to documents filed by Davis.

         In the instant action, Plaintiff alleges that defendant Yoder conspired with or tricked Judge Howe into acting without jurisdiction over Plaintiff and the Property. (Doc. 1 at 4). For relief, Plaintiff asks that I vacate the judgment entered in the State Court Case, restore the Property to his name, award compensatory damages in the amount of $75, 000.00 and punitive damages in the amount of $350, 000.00. (Id. at 5).

         II. Standard of Review

         Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleges that Defendants deprived him of the Property without due process of law in violation of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Although pro se pleadings are liberally construed, Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982) (per curiam); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), the Court is required to dismiss an in forma pauperis action under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or if it lacks an arguable basis in law or fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319 (1989); Lawler v. Marshall, 898 F.2d 1196 (6th Cir. 1990); Sistrunk v. City of Strongsville, 99 F.3d 194, 197 (6th Cir. 1996). An action has no arguable basis in law when a defendant is immune from suit or when a Plaintiff claims a violation of a legal interest which clearly does not exist. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327.

         III. Analysis

         A. The Rooker -Feldman Doctrine

         Federal courts “have a duty to consider their subject matter jurisdiction in regard to every case and may raise the issue sua sponte.” Answers in Genesis, Inc. v. Creation Ministries Int'l, Ltd., 556 F.3d 459, 465 (6th Cir. 2009) (citations 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).

         The Rooker-Feldman doctrine holds that “a federal district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to review a state court decision.” Pittman v. Cuyahoga Cty. Dep't of Children & Family Servs., 241 Fed.Appx. 285, 287 (6th Cir. 2007). The doctrine “is confined to cases of the kind from which the doctrine acquired its name: cases brought by state-court losers complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings commenced and inviting district court review and rejection of those judgments.” Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005). Whether the doctrine applies depends on “the source of the injury the plaintiff alleges in the federal complaint.” McCormick v. Braverman, 451 F.3d 382, 393 (6th Cir. 2006). “If the source of the injury is the state court decision, then the Rooker-Feldman ...


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