The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anita B. Brody, District Judge.
Now before me is defendants', "Justices of the Court of Common
Pleas First Judicial District Family Court Division," the
Honorable Paul P. Panepinto, and "Justices of Supreme Court of
Pennsylvania,"*fn1 motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6).*fn2 For the following
reasons, I will grant the defendants' motion to dismiss.
As required in ruling on this motion, the following facts are
taken from the plaintiff's amended complaint and presented in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff.
Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, claims that he and his wife,
Madeline Daily, entered into a Final Protective Order by consent
without admission on January 6, 1997, pursuant to the
Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse Act ("PFA" act), 23 Pa.C.S.A.
§ 6101, et seq. Plaintiff agreed to move out of the house he
had previously shared with his wife and children (the "marital
home") for a period of one year. The final protection order also
provided for child support and visitation. Plaintiff thereafter
filed for custody of his two children. The final protection order
was expected to expire on January 7, 1998. Prior to January 7,
1998, plaintiff informed his wife, the Philadelphia Police
Department and the District Attorney, among others, that he
planned to move back into the marital home after January 7, 1998.
Before January 7, 1998, plaintiff's wife filed for divorce, for
exclusive possession of the marital
home and for a second protection order. Plaintiff asserts that
the divorce action is still unresolved.*fn3 Plaintiff's wife's
second abuse petition was granted on January 13, 1998. Plaintiff
claims that his wife was granted temporary exclusive possession
of the marital home. Plaintiff's appeal from this final
protection order was denied on January 13, 1998 and the Supreme
Court of Pennsylvania denied plaintiff's petition for allowance
of an appeal.
Plaintiff brings seven counts. First, plaintiff contends that
"[t]he series of two Temporary Ex Parte Protection orders and two
Final Protection Orders and an Exclusive Possession order in the
divorce action violates [plaintiff's] right to raise his children
by usurping the power of the custody court." Pl. Am. Comp. at 2.
In count two plaintiff claims that "[r]estraining Orders . . .
are clearly supposed to be temporary as envisioned by the State
Legislators but evicted persons rarely get back into their houses
because of additional orders for exclusive possession . . .
[t]his is an abuse of due process." Id. In count three
plaintiff asserts that "[a]n act which evicts people from their
homes and children on the basis of accusation alone and on an
ex-parte basis, even with a hearing ten days later, is contrary
to the due process provisions of the U.S. Constitution (5th and
14th Amendment) and corresponding sections of the Pennsylvania
Constitution." Id. Count four states in part that "it is an
unconstitutional abridgement of due process and other rights to
redefine a traditionally criminal offense as a civil matter
because it thus deprives the accused of the rights afforded
criminal defendants." Id. In count five plaintiff brings a
claim pursuant to the equal protection clause of the
Constitution, alleging that "[t]he Protection from Abuse Act
violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the
U.S. Constitution and corresponding section of the Pennsylvania
Constitution." Id. Count six asserts that "assessment of fees
of $1950 without a jury trial violates the seventh amendment to
the U.S. Constitution and corresponding sections of the
Pennsylvania Constitution." Id. Finally, in the last count,
plaintiff contends that "[e]victing a person from his home on
behalf of a complainant is an illegal seizure by the government
prohibited by the fourth amendment to the U.S. Constitution and
corresponding sections of the Pennsylvania Constitution." Id.
Plaintiff requests a declaratory judgement that: (1) eviction
from a marital home pursuant to the PFA act cannot result in
permanent exclusion from the marital home; (2) all protection
orders pursuant to the PFA act must be proceeded by notice and a
hearing; (3) all PFA hearings must be open to the public; (4)
when a person is separated from his children as a result of a PFA
order, the court will act diligently to see that such person has
a continuing relationship with his children and opportunity to
raise his children; (5) a person assessed fees or fines in excess
of $50.00 pursuant to the PFA act must be granted a jury trial;
(6) the PFA act must be administered in such a way so as to not
result in the eviction of men in 90% or more of the cases; (7)
defendants in PFA act cases must be afforded all the rights
afforded criminal defendants; and (8) any other relief the Court
A complaint must be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(1) when the court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction. Dismissal is proper under Rule 12(b)(1) only when
the claim "clearly appears to be immaterial and made solely for
the purpose of obtaining jurisdiction or . . . is wholly
insubstantial and frivolous." Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor,
466 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3rd Cir. 1991) (internal quotations omitted). A
Rule 12(b)(1) challenge may be either a factual or facial
challenge to the complaint. See Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. &
Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3rd Cir. 1977). In the case of a
factual challenge, the court is free to consider and weigh
evidence outside the pleadings to resolve factual issues bearing
on jurisdiction and to satisfy itself as to the existence of its
power to hear the case. See id. Therefore, "no presumptive
truthfulness attaches to plaintiff's allegations, and the
existence of disputed material facts will not preclude the trial
court from evaluating for itself the merits of jurisdictional
claims." See id. The plaintiff has the burden of proving that
jurisdiction exists. See id.
Defendants move to dismiss plaintiff's complaint for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction based on the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine.*fn4 Under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine a federal
district court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over
challenges to state court decisions. See Rooker v. Fidelity
Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 44 S.Ct. 149, 68 L.Ed. 362 (1923);
District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462,
103 S.Ct. 1303, 75 L.Ed.2d 206 (1983). A federal claim is an
impermissible challenge to a state court decision under the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine when entertaining the federal claim
would be equivalent to an appellate review of the state court
order. See FOCUS v. Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas,
75 F.3d 834, 840 (3rd Cir. 1996). The Third Circuit explained that
"federal district courts lack subject matter jurisdiction to
review final adjudications of a state's highest court or to
evaluate constitutional claims that are `inextricably intertwined
with the state court's [decision] in a judicial proceeding.'"
Blake v. Papadakos, 953 F.2d 68, 71 (3rd Cir. 1992) (quoting
Feldman, 460 U.S. at 483 n. 16, 103 S.Ct. 1303).*fn5
Additionally, the doctrine applies not only to claims that were
actually adjudicated in state court, but also to claims that
could have been raised in state court. See Valenti v. Mitchell,
962 F.2d 288, 296 (3rd Cir. 1992) (stating that "[w]e reject . .
. [plaintiff's] argument that since they never raised, and the .
. . [state court] never considered, their . . . [constitutional]
challenges, Rooker-Feldman cannot bar them from pursuing these
claims in federal court."). Consequently, any federal action in
which the requested relief would reverse or nullify the ruling of
a state court decision is barred under the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine.*fn6 See FOCUS, 75 F.3d at 840. Therefore, defendants
argue that plaintiff's claims are barred by this doctrine because
a decision by this court
would negate the state courts' determination that plaintiff's
constitutional rights were not violated.
On February 19, 1998, the Family Court Division of the Court of
Common Pleas for the County of Philadelphia ("Court of Common
Pleas") issued a final protection order in Daily v. Daily,
stating in part that "defendant, Louis G. Daily, shall refrain
from abusing, harassing, and/or threatening the plaintiff
Madeline G. Daily or placing her . . . in fear of abuse in any
place where she . . . may be found."*fn7 Ex. A. Pl. Am. Comp. at
1 (Daily v. Daily, Jan. Term 1998, No. 8351, (Phila.CCP, Feb.
19, 1998) (Robinson, J.). The Court of Common Pleas also ordered
that "defendant is enjoined and prohibited from living at,
entering, attempting to enter or visit the residence [of Madeline
G. Daily] . . . and the plaintiff [Madeline G. Daily] is granted
exclusive possession and control of the premises." Id. The
order also provided for additional relief in that defendant
(Louis Daily) was to pay counsel fees in the sum of $750.00 and
$1,200.00 in lost wages to plaintiff (Madeline Daily). The Court
of Common Pleas' February 19, 1998 order was to remain in full
force and effect through February 18, 1999.
After plaintiff appealed the Final Protection Order, Judge
Robinson issued an opinion further explaining the Final
Protection Order and requesting that the court's order of
February 19, 1998 be affirmed.*fn8 See Ex. B Pl. Am. Comp.
(Daily v. Daily, Jan. Term 1998, No. 8351 (Phila.CCP). Judge
Robinson addressed plaintiff's contention that the PFA act is
unconstitutional in that it violates the Constitution of
Pennsylvania and the Constitution of the United States. Judge
Robinson found that plaintiff "fails to specify what provision of
either Constitution violates the [PFA] Act. The provisions of the
[PFA] Act have been examined by the appellate courts on a number
of occasions and been upheld." Id. at 5-6 (citing Eichenlaub
v. Eichenlaub, 340 Pa. Super. 552, 490 A.2d 918 (1985) (lack of
jury trial for criminal contempt upheld); Commonwealth v.
Zerphy, 332 Pa. Super. 388, 481 A.2d 670 (1984) (double
jeopardy); Boyle v. Boyle, 12 Pa.D. & C.3d 767 (1979) (due
Plaintiff attaches to his motion the opinion of the Superior
Court of Pennsylvania ("Superior Court") affirming the Court of
Common Pleas' decision. The Superior Court also addressed
plaintiff's constitutional arguments. First, the Superior Court
rejected plaintiff's contention that the PFA proceedings are
criminal in nature. While the Superior Court acknowledge that
"[w]e have characterized PFA proceedings as `quasi-criminal.' . .
. Nevertheless, we have rejected attempts to invoke the panoly of
constitutional rights afforded criminal defendants." Ex. C Pl.
Am. Comp at 7 (Daily v. Daily, No. 734 Phila. 1998, at 7
(Pa.Super. 1998)). The Superior Court stated that "[w]e have
explained that the PFA act is `not, nor was meant to be, a
statute penalizing past criminal conduct. ...