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Irvan v. Cooper

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

February 2, 2017

Gwendolyn P. Irvan, Plaintiff,
Steven Cooper, Kevin Busch, Tait lundgren, stacey whittman, scott Miller, Marios Kararrayinnis, The Foster & Buick Law Group, Llc, and WeedCutting, Inc., Defendants.


          Manish S. Shah United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Gwendolyn Irvan filed a pro se complaint against defendants based on the handling of her state-court divorce case and the disposition of certain property. Defendants Steven Cooper, Kevin Busch, Tait Lundgren, Marios Karayannis, and the Foster and Buick Law Group, LLC have filed motions to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated below, these motions are granted. This case is dismissed in its entirety against all Defendants.

         I. Background

         The following facts are drawn from Irvan's complaint as well as several state-court orders. Courts can take judicial notice of documents that are contained in the public record. Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin v. Thompson, 161 F.3d 449, 456 (7th Cir. 1998).

         On November 1, 1992, Irvan and defendant Scott Miller were married. On November 22, 2013, a judgment was entered in Illinois state court dissolving that marriage. As part of that order, the court ordered the sale of the marital residence and a farm located in Waterman, Illinois. The proceeds of this sale were to be added to the marital estate.

         On January 20, 2016, the state-court judge appointed defendant Tait Lundgren as Receiver to sell these properties, and Lundgren received permission to retain defendant Foster & Buick Law Group, LLC as counsel in his role as Receiver. The judge granted Lundgren broad discretion in his role, saying that Lundgren was permitted “to utilize whatever means he feels appropriate to effectuate the sale.”

         Irvan submitted a motion in state court to purchase the Waterman farm. On March 29, 2016, the court denied Irvan's motion and ordered that the property be sold to a third party, who made a $340, 000 cash offer. Irvan moved to reconsider that order. The court denied the motion for reconsideration on May 2, 2016, and also denied Irvan's motion to stay the sale.

         That same day, Irvan filed a pro se complaint with this court, naming seven parties as defendants, all of whom had some involvement in her divorce case. She has sued her ex-husband, the state-court judge who presided over the case, the court-appointed receiver and his law firm, and her own attorneys. She alleges that she was deprived of the opportunity to purchase the Waterman property because of her sex, marital status, and disability status. Among the many allegations in her complaint, she claims that the state-court judge harassed her, the court-appointed receiver defrauded her, and various defendants violated state and federal housing statutes that prohibit discrimination.

         II. Legal Standard

         A Rule 12(b)(1) motion challenges jurisdiction in federal court, and the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing the elements necessary for jurisdiction. Scanlan v. Eisenberg, 669 F.3d 838, 841-42 (7th Cir. 2012). A court may look outside of the complaint's allegations and consider whatever evidence has been submitted on the issue of jurisdiction. Ezekiel v. Michel, 66 F.3d 894, 897 (7th Cir. 1995). For purposes of a motion under Rule 12(b)(1) or Rule 12(b)(6), the court accepts all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and construes all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Scanlan, 669 F.3d at 841.

         III. Discussion

         A. Jurisdiction and the Rooker-Feldman Doctrine

         The “first thing a federal judge should do when a complaint is filed is check to see that federal jurisdiction is properly alleged.” Wisconsin Knife Works v. Nat'l Metal Crafters, 781 F.2d 1280, 1282 (7th Cir. 1986). The Rooker-Feldman doctrine precludes federal district courts from “exercising jurisdiction over cases brought by state court losers challenging state court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings commenced.” Sykes v. Cook Cty. Circuit Court Prob. Div., 837 F.3d 736, 741 (7th Cir. 2016). No matter how erroneous or unconstitutional a state-court judgment may be, the only federal court with jurisdiction to review such a judgment is the Supreme Court of the United States. Brown v. Bowman, 668 F.3d 437, 442 (7th Cir. 2012). While the courts of appeals disagree about whether the doctrine is limited to final state-court decisions or whether interlocutory decisions are also precluded from review, the Seventh Circuit has suggested that the federal district courts lack jurisdiction over any state-court judgment. See Harold v. Steel, 773 F.3d 884, 886 (7th Cir. 2014) (“Nothing in the Supreme Court's decisions suggests that state-court decisions too provisional to deserve review within the state's own system can be reviewed by federal district and appellate courts. . . . A truly interlocutory decision should not be subject to review in any court.”).

         The Rooker-Feldman doctrine applies in two instances. First, it applies when a plaintiff asks a federal district court to overturn an adverse state judgment. Brown, 668 F.3d at 442. Second, the doctrine applies when a plaintiff's claim is “inextricably intertwined” with a state-court judgment. Id. A ...

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