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Stanley v. Quinn

July 12, 2010

ARTHUR STANLEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PAT QUINN ET AL., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: G. Patrick Murphy United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

MURPHY, District Judge

Pro se Plaintiff, Arthur Stanley (Stanley), has filed an action against numerous parties including three Governors, three State Attorneys General, three state Departments of Health and Human Services, two Judges, six individual Defendants and one unknown party. Stanley's lengthy Amended Complaint (Doc. 4) is extremely difficult to follow. However, as best as this Court can discern, Stanley's action primarily concerns alleged violations of his due process rights (both procedural and substantive) under the United States and Illinois Constitutions. Specifically, Stanley is contesting an Illinois State Court's paternity determination, an Illinois Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP), and what Plaintiff alleges to be fraud and collusion by all of the above-named parties because of "a void default order of paternity and support" (see Doc. 4, ¶ 5). Plaintiff moves the Court for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 2) and to Vacate, what he terms, a "void judgment" (Docs. 3 and 5).

Motions to proceed in forma pauperis are governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1915. A federal court is authorized under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1) to permit an indigent party to proceed in a civil action without prepaying the filing fee if two conditions are met: (1) the petitioner is indigent and (2) the action is neither frivolous nor malicious. See, e.g., Smith-Bey v. Hospital Adm'r, 841 F.2d 751, 757-58 (7th Cir. 1981); Free v. United States, 879 F.2d 1535 (7th Cir. 1989). Section 1915(e)(2) provides:

Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that-

(A) the allegation of poverty is untrue; or

(B) the action or appeal-

(i) is frivolous or malicious;

(ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or

(iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.

28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (emphasis added). This provision, which currently is part of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), applies to cases brought by prisoners and to cases brought by all indigent litigants. Hutchinson v. Spink, 126 F.3d 895, 899 (7th Cir. 1997); see also Gladney v. Pendleton Corr. Facility, 302 F.3d 773, 775 (7th Cir. 2002).

Here, the Court need not decide whether Stanley is indigent because it cannot find that his action is neither frivolous nor malicious. See Jones v. Morris, 777 F.2d 1277, 1279-80 (7th Cir. 1985) (holding that a complaint is deemed frivolous when a petitioner can make no rational argument in law or facts to support his claim for relief). "[A] complaint, containing as it does both factual allegations and legal conclusions, is frivolous where it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). As used in the in forma pauperis statute, the "term 'frivolous,' when applied to a complaint, embraces not only the inarguable legal conclusion, but also the fanciful factual allegation." Id. Stanley's complaint is frivolous because there is no rational argument in law to support this Court's jurisdiction over a state-court judgment involving issues of paternity.

"It is the responsibility of a court to make an independent evaluation of whether subject matter jurisdiction exists in every case." Foster v. Hill, 497 F.3d 695, 696-97 (7th Cir. 2007); accord Johnson v. Wattenbarger, 361 F.3d 991, 992 (7th Cir. 2004) (a court's "first duty in every suit" is "to determine the existence of subject-matter jurisdiction"). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(1) requires that a complaint contain "a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction .." A pleading that fails to contain a basis for subject matter jurisdiction fails to state a claim for relief under Rule 8 and, consequently, cannot proceed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). Stanley incorrectly assumes that this Court has jurisdiction over his claims of injury resulting from the allegedly "void" state-court paternity and child support orders.

This Court lacks jurisdiction over Stanley's claims for at least two reasons. First, it is very likely that "the Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars these claims because the injuries [Stanley] alleges stem directly from state-court judgments." Lawrency v. Interstate Brands, 278 Fed.Appx. 681, 684 (7th Cir. 2008) (citing D.C. Ct. App. v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 486 (1983); Rooker v. Fid. Trust. Co., 263 U.S. 413, 416 (1923); Beth-El All Nations Church v. City of Chicago, 486 F.3d 286, 292 (7th Cir. 2007)). Under this doctrine, lower federal courts lack subject-matter jurisdiction over federal plaintiffs who, after state proceedings have ended, allege that they were injured by the state-court judgment itself. Beth-El All Nations Church v. City of Chicago, 486 F.3d 286, 292 (7th Cir. 2007). Here, as far as this Court can discern from his Amended Complaint, Stanley alleges that he has been injured by an order of the St. Clair County Court (Doc. 4, ΒΆ 18); and specifically, a default ...


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