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King v. Burr

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

August 24, 2017

Daniel KING, Plaintiff,
v.
Judge Charles B. BURR, II et al., Defendants,

          MEMORANDUM RE: MOTION TO DISMISS

          Baylson, J.

         In this case, Plaintiff Daniel King ("King") alleges that his Fourteenth Amendment constitutional rights to due process and equal protection were violated by Defendants Judge Charles B. Burr ("Burr") and Riverwatch Condominium Owner's Association ("Riverwatch"), collectively "Defendants, " when Judge Burr entered orders in an ongoing property damage litigation between King and Riverwatch. Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for lack of subject of matter jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.[1]

         For the reasons discussed below, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine deprives the Court of subject-matter jurisdiction over King's claims. Accordingly, Defendants' motion will be granted.

         I. Factual and Procedural History

         The litigation on which the present case is based originated in 2008 as a result of an action in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County before the Honorable Charles B. Burr initiated by King against Riverwatch. On June 21, 2010, Judge Burr entered judgment in the matter in favor of Riverwatch on all of King's claims. (ECF No. 9, Am. Compl. ¶¶ 20; 22). On July 12, 2010, King appealed from the June 21, 2010 judgment based on his allegation that the judgment had been entered when Judge Burr did not have power of authority to exercise jurisdiction over the matter; the validity of Judge Burr's ruling was affirmed on appeal to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. (Am. Compl. ¶ 24; ECF No. 10, Def Mot. I. ¶ 4). Two weeks later, on July 28, 2010, Judge Burr entered a dispositive order granting Riverwatch's preliminary objections and dismissing all post-verdict motions ("2010 order"). (Am. Compl. ¶ 27). King again appealed to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, and his appeal was denied once more. (ECF No. 11, Def. Mot. II ¶ 16).

         Four years later, on February 21, 2014, Judge Burr conducted a bench trial that resulted in an assessment of $30, 179.54 of attorney's fees due by King to Riverwatch. (Am. Compl. ¶ 41). King filed an appeal from the order granting Riverwatch's request for attorney's fees on March 20, 2014, arguing that the judgment was void because it was entered before post-trial motions were due. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 42; 45). Judge Burr's determination was again affirmed on appeal. (Def. Mot. II ¶ 16). Thereafter, on April 1, 2014, Judge Burr entered a dispositive order dismissing King's post-trial motions ("2014 order"). (Am. Compl. ¶ 46). King appealed this disposition to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, which stayed his motion pending a ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. (Def. Mot. II ¶ 16).

         King has filed approximately forty-eight appeals related to this litigation. (Def. Mot. II ¶ 15). The substance of his contentions in these appeals is that Judge Burr had been divested of jurisdiction, per Pennsylvania's jurisdictional statutes, at the time he entered the 2010 and 2014 orders, and therefore they must be declared null and void. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 23-30; 42-49). In these appeals, as in the instant matter, King asserts that the enforcement of the 2010 and 2014 orders has deprived him of "liberty and property rights in violation of due process and equal protection." (Am. Compl. ¶ 29; 43).

         King commenced his federal suit on May 22, 2017, seeking declaration of the invalidity of the 2010 and 2014 orders; injunctive relief prohibiting the enforcement of the 2010 and 2014 orders; and reasonable damages. (ECF 1). On June 12, 2017, Judge Burr filed a Motion to Dismiss based principally on the Court's lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, and also asserting alternative theories in support of dismissal. (ECF 7). King filed an Amended Complaint on June 20, 2017. (ECF 9). On June 26, 2017, Judge Burr moved to dismiss King's Amended Complaint on the same grounds. (ECF 10). On the same day, Riverwatch moved to dismiss King's Amended Complaint in a separate motion, echoing the lack of subject-matter jurisdiction based on the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. (ECF 11). On July 14, 2017, King filed a Response in Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. (ECF 12). Three days later, on July 17, 2017, King filed a Motion to Dismiss the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, asserting that dismissal of Defendants' motion was proper under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. (ECF 13). Thereafter, on July 31, 2017, Defendants filed a Reply in further support of their Motion to Dismiss, emphasizing the impropriety of retaining jurisdiction over the matter when the Rooker-Feldman doctrine mandated dismissal. (ECF No. 14). Finally, King filed a Reply to Defendants' Answer to his Motion to Dismiss on August 17, 2017. (ECF 14).

         II. Legal Standard

         In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court "must grant" the motion if it "lacks subject-matter jurisdiction to hear [the] claim." In re Schering Plough Corp. Intron/Temodar Consumer Class Action, 678 F.3d 235, 243 (3d Cir. 2012). A Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction may present either a facial or a factual attack. CNA v. United States, 535 F.3d 132, 139 (3d Cir. 2008). A facial attack concerns "an alleged pleading deficiency, " whereas a factual attack concerns "the actual failure of [a plaintiffs] claims to comport [factually] with the jurisdictional prerequisites." Id. (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Defendants' challenge here is factual, not facial, because the Motion challenges whether the district court has actual jurisdiction to hear the case. Id. The fact that the Rule 12(b)(1) motion makes a factual attack has three important procedural consequences for this Court: (1) "no presumption of truthfulness attaches to the allegations of the plaintiff; (2) the plaintiff has the burden of proving subject matter jurisdiction; and (3) the court has the authority to review evidence outside the pleadings and make factual findings that are decisive to determining jurisdiction. Id. at 139, 145.

         III. Parties' Contentions

         King seeks relief for alleged violations of his right to due process and equal protection, as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. In particular, King asserts that the 2010 and 2014 orders that Judge Burr entered are null and void because Judge Burr lacked jurisdiction over these matters, and therefore requests that this Court invalidate them.

         Defendants move to dismiss under four independent theories: (1) that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine deprives the Court of subject-matter jurisdiction and therefore bars the suit; (2) that the relief King seeks is improper, because declaratory relief is not a remedy for past misconduct, and King has not satisfied the Article III requirements for standing to obtain injunctive relief; (3) that King's claims are barred by the two-year statute of limitations for personal injury actions, which is exceeded as to both of the orders for which King is seeking redress; and (4) that Judge Burr, individually, enjoys absolute ...


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