The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hayden, District Judge.
In his objections, Fornaro cites to the United States Constitution,
multiple sections of the United States Code, the Code of Federal
Regulations, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "Federal Contracts,"
and Supreme Court and state court precedents.
It is clear that Judge Hedges's "take" on the removal is accurate:
defendants want this Court to undo actions of the state courts based on
principles that simply do not confer requisite jurisdiction.
The Court adopts Judge Hedges's findings that this Court does not have
diversity jurisdiction, federal question jurisdiction or subject matter
jurisdiction over these consolidated matters, and accordingly accepts
Judge Hedges's recommendation that Civil Action No. 02-2019 be remanded
to the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Morris County, and
Civil Action No. 02-2020 be remanded to the Superior Court of New
Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Morris County. Both Civil
Action Nos. 02-2019 and 02-2020 are dismissed.
This Court having entered an Order dated August 16, 2002, that in part
dismissed the Complaints bearing Civil Action No. 02-2019 and Civil
Action No. 02-2020; said dismissal having been entered in error; and good
cause appearing, it is on this 26th day of August, 2002 hereby
ORDERED that said complaints are not dismissed and are, as ordered
previously, remanded to the Superior Court of New Jersey.
These two civil actions were removed from the Superior Court of New
Jersey on April 29, 2002. On May 1, 2002, I issued a Letter-Order and
Order to Show Cause. I consolidated both civil actions for all purposes.
I also directed the removing parties to show cause why both civil actions
should not be remanded to the Superior Court of New Jersey.
I entertained oral argument on May 28, 2002. I have also considered the
letter brief of defendant Carmine Fornaro, Jr. ("Fornaro"), submitted on
May 7, 2002, and his "Outline for Hearing Presentation" submitted on May
28, 2002 ("Outline").*fn1
Civil Action No. 02-2019
There may be some confusion in the captions of these civil actions. My
intent here is to clarify the identity of the parties.
In Civil Action No. 02-2019, a Verified Complaint was filed with the
Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Morris County, on October
15, 2001, by plaintiff State Farm Indemnity Company ("State Farm"). The
only named defendant is Fornaro. Appendix B, Petition for Removal.
On March 11, 2002, a Final Judgment on Order to Show Cause was filed
with Judge Christine L. Miniman (attached). At the time of the filing of
this judgment, the only parties were State Farm and Fornaro.
On April 15, 2002, Fornaro filed a Notice of Motion with the Morris
County Clerk. Exhibit B, May 7th Letter Brief. Among other things,
Fornaro sought to add the United States Office of Personnel Management
("OPM") and Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Jersey ("Horizon")
as third-party defendants. The motion was never ruled on by the Superior
Plaintiffs April 15th motion also bears the caption of a proceeding
before the American Arbitration Association which Fornaro commenced and
which was the subject of the Verified Complaint filed by State Farm. The
March 11th judgment of Judge Miniman permanently enjoined Fornaro "from
participating in or requesting arbitration of any PIP claims. * * *."
Thus, as of the date of the removal of Civil Action No. 02-2019, the only
parties were State Farm and Fornaro.
Civil Action No. 02-2020
Civil Action No. 02-2020 stands in a different procedural posture. The
plaintiff, Monmouth Ocean Collection Service, Inc. ("Monmouth"), brought
suit against Fornaro and his wife, Maria Fornaro, in the Superior Court
of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Morris County. I cannot
ascertain the date of filing of the Complaint from the removal papers.
However, Fornaro and his wife allege that they were served with a summons
and a copy of the Complaint on or about February 22, 2002. Paragraph 2,
Petition for Removal.
The Complaint contains four counts and seeks collection of a sum
allegedly due from Fornaro and his wife to Monmouth as the assignee of
Vincent Vicci, Jr., D.O. The removal papers do not include the Answer
presumably filed by Fornaro and his wife. However, the pleadings indicate
that Fornaro and his wife filed a Third-Party Complaint. The third-party
defendants identified in the papers are State Farm, OPM and Horizon.
Proceedings in Special Civil Part are governed by New Jersey Civil
Practice Rule ("R.") 6:1-1 et seq. R. 6:3-1 makes applicable in Special
Civil Part the Superior Court rules governing, among other things,
pleadings. See Comment 1 to R. 6:3-1, Pressler, Current N.J. Court Rules
at 2071 (2002). R. 4:8 governs third-party practice. R. 4:8-1(a) provides
I will assume for the purpose of this Report and Recommendation that
Fornaro and his wife timely filed and served the Third-Party Complaint
against State Farm, OPM and Horizon. This would be consistent with a
motion made by Horizon on or about April 11, 2002, to dismiss the
Third-Party Complaint as against it. The Third-Party Complaint is not
included in the removal papers.
OPM was a party in Civil Action No. 02-2020 as of the time of removal,
as was Horizon. Neither OPM nor Horizon were parties in Civil Action No.
02-2019 at that time. When Fornaro appeared before me on May 28th he
suggested that OPM and Horizon should be joined in Civil Action No.
02-2019 pursuant to Rule 14(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
which provides, in pertinent part, as follows:
Rule 14(a) is of no assistance to Fornaro. Fornaro moved for leave to
join OPM and Horizon while Civil Action No. 02-2019 was pending in the
Superior Court. I need not engage in extensive discussion of the
procedural aspects of Rule 14(a). Suffice it to say that Fornaro has not
shown any basis whatsoever which would permit him to file a Third-Party
Complaint in this Court as a matter of right and he has not secured leave
of this Court to do so.
Plaintiff then sought review before the United States Supreme Court. On
June 19, 2000, Fornaro was advised by the Office of the Clerk of the
Supreme Court that Justice Souter had granted Fornaro's application for
an extension of time within which to file a petition for a writ of
certiorari. On October 30, 2000, the Supreme Court denied Fornaro's
motion to direct the Clerk to file the petition out of time. Fornaro v.
State Farm Insurance Co., 531 U.S. 955, 121 S.Ct. 376, 148 L.Ed.2d 290
As noted above, the Verified Complaint in Civil Action No. 02-2019 was
filed with the Superior Court of New Jersey on October 15, 2001. It
appears from the Verified Complaint that, in January of 1996, Fornaro
filed a demand for arbitration with the American Arbitration Association
("AAA"). Paragraph 23, Verified Complaint. It also appears from the
Verified Complaint that, on more than one occasion, Fornaro sought to
proceed before the AAA on the question of his entitlement to PIP
benefits, which benefits State Farm had been relieved from paying
pursuant to the February 3, 1995, order.
The Role of OPM and Horizon.
OPM and Horizon figure prominently in these consolidated civil actions
(at least according to Fornaro). As noted above, I do not have the
Third-Party Complaint in Civil Action No. 02-2020. However, attached
hereto is what I assume to be the proposed Third-Party Complaint in Civil
Action No. 02-2019. It appears from this proposed pleading that Fornaro
has no demand for relief against OPM or Horizon. Instead, Fornaro
contends that he is a beneficiary of a contract entered into between
Horizon and OPM and that these entities should be joined as parties.*fn3
In Civil Action No. 02-2019, while Fornaro's second appeal was pending
before the Appellate Division, Horizon moved for leave to appear as an
amicus curiae. In its motion, Horizon recited the following:
6. * * *.
State Farm's motion for leave to appear as amicus curiae was denied by
the Appellate Division on August 24, 1998.
The relationship between OPM, Horizon and Fornaro was also discussed in
Horizon's motion to dismiss the Third-Party Complaint in Civil Action
No. 02-2020. Among other things, the attorney certification submitted in
support of the motion alleged the following:
Included among Fornaro's submissions is a letter to him from an attorney
dated March 30, 1999. This letter, which is attached, states Horizon's
might be in excess of $100,000 and proposed a contingent fee agreement
for any attorney who Fornaro might retain to recover monies from
(presumably) State Farm.
Fornaro's Bases For Removal.
Fornaro, in the Petition for Removal in Civil Action No. 02-2019,
states that "jurisdiction * * * is not based on 28 U.S.C. § 1332."
Paragraph 7, Petition for Removal.*fn4 Paragraph 9 of the petition
recites that, "[t]he petitioner * * * was denied Due Process and Equal
Protection under the laws; inasmuch as this matter has original
jurisdiction provided three (3) United States Codes and the parties are
all active participants required in the same Forum under the Doctrine of
Entire Controversy." The removal petition in civil action No. 02-2020 is
essentially identical in alleging the existence of a federal question.
Paragraphs 11 and 12, Petition for Removal.
Plaintiffs letter brief of May 7th argues that subject matter
jurisdiction arises from 28 U.S.C. § 1331, 1442 and 1448. Plaintiff
also relies on 5 C.F.R. § 890.107 (b)-(d). Paragraph 17(d), May 7th
The Blackletter Law of Removal.
Removal statutes should be strictly construed and any doubts should be
resolved in favor of remand. Weinstein v. Paul Revere Ins. Co.,
15 F. Supp.2d 552, 555 (D.N.J. 1998). Only those actions that could have
originally been brought in federal court may be removed.
28 U.S.C. § 1441; see Franchise Tax Rd. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation
Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 27-28, 103 S.Ct. 2841, 77 L.Ed.2d 420 (1983). If it
appears at any time before final judgment that the action was not properly
removed, the district court must remand it to the State court from which
it was removed. 28 U.S.C. § 1447 (c). The burden of establishing the
existence of subject matter jurisdiction falls on the removing party.
Boyer v. Snap-On Tools Corp., 913 F.2d 108, 111 (3d Cir. 1990), cert.
denied, 498 U.S. 1085, 111 S.Ct. 959, 112 L.Ed.2d 1046 (1991).
There are various sources of original jurisdiction in federal courts,
including federal question jurisdiction arising under the Constitution,
laws, or treaties of the United States, 28 U.S.C. § 1331, diversity
jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1332, and jurisdiction under specific
jurisdictional statutes. Borough of West Muffin v. Lancaster, 45 F.3d 780,
784 (3d Cir. 1995). Examination of the two State Complaints before the
Court reveals that there is no diversity jurisdiction. Therefore, removal
must be based on a federal question. 28 U.S.C. § 1331, 1441(b).
Removal on the basis of federal question jurisdiction "generally
requires that a federal question be presented on the face of the
plaintiffs properly pleaded complaint." Trans Penn Wax Corp. v.
McCandless, 50 F.3d 217, 228 (3d Cir. 1995); see Oklahoma Tax Comm'n v.
Graham, 489 U.S. 838, 840, 109 S.Ct. 1519, 103 L.Ed.2d 924 (1989). The
"well-pleaded complaint rule" allows a plaintiff to avoid federal
jurisdiction by relying exclusively on State law when asserting claims.
Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386,
392, 107 S.Ct. 2425, 96 L.Ed.2d 318 (1987). Based on this rule, removal
may not occur on the basis of a federal defense, including the defense of
preemption, despite the fact that plaintiff anticipated the defense and
although the defense may be the only question truly at issue in the
case. Franchise Tax Bd., 463 U.S. at 14, 103 S.Ct. 2841; see In re U.S.
Healthcare, Inc., 193 F.3d 151, 160 (3d Cir. 1999), cert. denied,
530 U.S. 1242, 120 S.Ct. 2687, 147 L.Ed.2d 960 (2000).
An exception to the well-pleaded complaint rule is the "complete
preemption doctrine." This provides that, "Congress may so completely
preempt a particular area that any civil complaint raising this select
group of claims is necessarily federal in character." Metropolitan Life
Ins. Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 63-64, 107 S.Ct. 1542, 95 L.Ed.2d 55
(1987); see Goepel v. National Postal Mail Handlers Union, 36 F.3d 306,
310-11 (3d Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 514 U.S. 1063, 115 S.Ct. 1691, 131
L.Ed.2d 555 (1995). This preemptive force is so powerful that it entirely
displaces any State law cause of action that would provide a proper cause
of action in the absence of the federal statute. Franchise Tax Bd., 463
U.S. at 23, 103 S.Ct. 2841.
Fornaro alleges in the removal petitions that he was denied due process
and equal protection. Plainly, these are federal defenses based on the
Constitution. However, as the above discussion makes clear, a State case
does not become removable merely because a federal defense has been
asserted. Fornaro must have another basis for removal.
The Federal Employee Health Benefits Act.
Fornaro is a retired federal employee. He is afforded health benefits
through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program ("FEHBP"), which is
governed by the Federal Employees Health Benefits Act ("the Act"),
5 U.S.C. § 8901 et. seq. Under the Act, OPM is authorized to contract
with insurers to provide benefits to FEHBP participants.
5 U.S.C. § 8902 (a). Insurers which seek to participate in the FEHBP
must be approved by OPM and enter into contracts with it.
5 U.S.C. § 8902. The Act requires that, to participate in the FEHBP,
insurers "must agree to be bound by OPM's interpretation of their
contracts in disputes over individual claims." Kennedy v. Empire Blue
Cross and Blue Shield, 989 F.2d 588, 590 (2d Cir. 1993) (reviewing
5 U.S.C. § 8902 (j)).
5 U.S.C. § 8913 (a) provides that OPM "may prescribe regulations
necessary to carry out this chapter." Pursuant to this statutory
authority, OPM has issued regulations which, among other things, address
disputed claims. 5 C.F.R. § 890.105 addresses "[f]iling claims for
payment or service." 5 C.F.R. § 890.105 (a) states:
(a) General. (1) Each health benefits carrier
resolves claims filed under the plan. All health
benefits claims must be submitted initially to the
carrier of the covered individual's health benefits
plan. If the carrier denies a claim (or a portion of a
claim), the covered individual may ask the carrier to
reconsider its denial. If the carrier affirms its
denial or fails to respond as required by paragraph
(c) of this section, the covered individual may ask
OPM to review the claim. A covered individual must
exhaust both the carrier and OPM review processes
specified in this section before seeking judicial
review of the denied claim. [emphasis added].
Review of a disputed claim by OPM is governed by 5 C.F.R. § 890.105(e).
5 U.S.C. § 8912 provides that, "(t)he district courts of the United
States have original jurisdiction, concurrent with the
United States Court of Federal Claims, of a civil action or claim against
the United States founded on this chapter." OPM has interpreted the Act
as to require a participant to exhaust "the carrier and OPM review
processes" before judicial review can be obtained. 5 C.F.R. § 890.105
(a); see 5 C.F.R. § 890.107 (d). OPM has also interpreted the Act to
limit judicial review of an insurer's claims decision:
A covered individual may seek judicial review of OPM's
final action on the denial of a health benefits
claim. A legal action to review final action by OPM
involving such denial of health benefits must be
brought against OPM and not against the carrier or
carrier's subcontractors. The recovery in such a suit
shall be limited to a court order directing OPM to
require the carrier to pay the amount of benefits in
dispute. [5 C.F.R. § 890.107 (c) (emphasis
Fornaro relies on the Act.
Neither of the State complaints in these consolidated civil actions
make reference to or rely on the Act. Moreover, I do not have either of
Fornaro's (presumably) State-filed answers included in any of his
voluminous submissions. Liberally construing his pleadings and
submissions, Fornaro makes two arguments with regard to the Act: First,
the Act creates a federal question based on the complete preemption
doctrine and thus justifies removal. Second, naming OPM (and,
presumably, Horizon) as third-party defendants allows removal. Both
arguments are without merit.
I have discussed the complete preemption doctrine above. I need not
undertake a detailed analysis of the Act in the context of the doctrine
as the Court of Appeals has already done so in Goepel v. National Postal
Mail Handlers Unions supra.
The plaintiffs in Goepel were enrolled in a health benefits plan under
the Act. They brought suit in the Superior Court of New Jersey after the
plan denied coverage for certain treatment. 36 F.3d at 307-08. The plan
removed the case to this Court. A motion to remand was then denied by
this Court, which held that "the case was removable * * * because the
matter was one `arising under' the laws of the United States." 36 F.3d at
309 (quoting district court opinion). The case went to trial and, after
judgment was entered against the plan, an appeal came before the Court of
The Court of Appeals held that there was no subject matter jurisdiction
and remanded the case to the District Court with instructions to remand
to State court. Noting that the State complaint did not raise a federal
question on its face, the Court of Appeals considered whether the Act
gave rise to complete preemption. Reviewing the Act, the Court of Appeals
concluded that the Act "does not create a cause of action vindicating a
beneficiary's interest in securing his or her benefits under a plan." 36
F.3d at 312, and that, accordingly, the plaintiffs' State cause of action
to recover plan benefits could not be "recharacterized" as federal
claims. 36 F.3d at 312-13.
Goepel is controlling. There is no complete preemption. There is no
federal question presented by either State complaint.*fn6
Fornaro also relies on the presence of OPM as a third-party defendant
to establish subject matter jurisdiction. of course, as noted above, OPM
is only a party in Civil Action No. 02-2020. It is not a party to Civil
Action No. 02-2019. Accordingly, Fornaro's reliance on the presence of
OPM cannot be considered in the latter.
Assuming that the presence of OPM in Civil Action No. 02-2020 gives
rise to a removable federal question (and it does not), can a third-party
case (and, with it, an entire case) be removed? The short answer is
"no", for the reasons which I set forth in Monmouth-Ocean Collection
Service, Inc. v. Klor, 46 F. Supp.2d 385 (D.N.J. 1999).
Neither State complaint demonstrates the existence of diversity of
citizenship within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1332 (a)(1): "The
district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions
where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000,
exclusive of interest and costs, and is between — citizens of
different States." Under Section 1332 and 28 U.S.C. § 1441, "a
corporation shall be deemed to be a citizen of any State by which it has
been incorporated and of the State where it has its principal place of
business." 28 U.S.C. § 1332 (c)(1).
State Farm's Verified Complaint in Civil Action No. 02-2019 recites
that it has offices in one county, is "principally located" in another,
and is licensed to do business in New Jersey. Paragraph 1, First Count,
Verified Complaint. There is no reference to State Farm's state of
incorporation. However, if the reference to State Farm being "principally
located" in New Jersey is construed to be to its principal place of
business, then there cannot be diversity of citizenship as Fornaro is a
citizen or domiciliary of New Jersey. See, e.g., Caterpillar Inc. v.
Lewis, 519 U.S. 61, 68, 117 S.Ct. 467, 136 L.Ed.2d 437 (1996). Perhaps in
recognition of this Fornaro did not rely on diversity as a basis for
removal in Civil Action No. 02-2019 (Paragraph 7, Petition for Removal).
Likewise, Civil Action No. 02-2020 was not removable under Section
1332(a)(1). Monmouth identified itself in the Complaint as "residing" in
New Jersey. Thus, whether or not Monmouth is a corporation, there cannot
be diversity of citizenship between it and Fornaro. Moreover, the
Complaint seeks far less ($2,834.60 in principal) than the $75,000
minimum amount in controversy requirement. Again, perhaps in recognition
of these jurisdictional facts, Fornaro and his wife did not remove Civil
Action No. 02-2020 on diversity grounds. Paragraph 12, Petition for
In his Outline, Fornaro raised for the first time the purported
existence of diversity of citizenship between State Farm and himself:
There is diversity of citizenship between the
parties, as I am a resident of the State of New Jersey
and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company,
New Jersey Auto Division, d/b/a State Farm Indemnity
Company, my Primary Auto Insurance Carrier is an
Illinois based Corporation. [Outline at 2].
I need not address this argument, however, as it is "too little, too
A notice of removal may be amended freely by a defendant before the
expiration of the thirty-day period for removal. 14C C. Wright, A. Miller
& E. Cooper, Federal
Practice and Procedure § 3733 at 357 (3d ed. 1998) (footnote
omitted). "Completely new grounds for removal jurisdiction may not be
added and missing allegations may not be furnished, however." Federal
Practice and Procedure, § 3733 at 358-61 (footnote omitted); see,
e.g., Fuller v. Exxon Corp., 131 F. Supp.2d 1323, 1327-28 (S.D.Ala.
The Petition for Removal in Civil Action No. 02-2019 (in which State
Farm and Fornaro are the only parties) was filed on April 29, 2002. I
cannot ascertain from any papers when the thirty-day period for removal
prescribed by 28 U.S.C. § 1446 (b) began. However, even as of the
filing of this Report and Recommendation, Fornaro never attempted to
amend the petition. Instead, Fornaro asserted a new ground for removal
and attempted to add missing allegations only in response to my Order to
Show Cause. He cannot do so. See, e.g., Schepis v. Local Union No. 17,
989 F. Supp. 511, 516 (S.D.N.Y. 1998).
Diversity of citizenship cannot be relied on as a basis for removal in
either of these consolidated civil actions.
Other Grounds For Removal.
Fornaro also relies on the "Entire Controversy Doctrine" for the
existence of subject matter jurisdiction. "A federal court hearing a
federal cause of action is bound by New Jersey's Entire Controversy
Doctrine, an aspect of the substantive law of New Jersey, by virtue of
the Full Faith and Credit Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1738 (1994)." Rycoline
Products, Inc. v. C & W Unlimited, 109 F.3d 883, 887 (3d Cir. 1997).
The doctrine "seeks to assure that all aspects of a legal dispute occur
in a single lawsuit." Fornarotto v. American Waterworks Co., 144 F.3d 276,
278 (3d Cir. 1998) (quoting Olds v. Donnelly, 150 N.J. 424, 431,
696 A.2d 633 (1997)). Plainly, the Entire Controversy Doctrine is a rule
of joinder. I am unaware of any case law, however, which even suggests
that it can serve as a vehicle to establish subject matter jurisdiction.
Another argument made by Fornaro relies on 28 U.S.C. § 1442
(a)(1), which permits removal to a district court of State civil actions
or criminal prosecutions against federal officers. Fornaro appears to
argue that the presence of OPM as a third-party defendant in Civil Action
No. 02-2020 gives this Court subject matter jurisdiction. He is
incorrect. First, Section 1442(a) is a removal statute that must be
invoked by a federal defendant, not a private person like Fornaro.
Second, Section 1442(a) is itself unavailable to OPM, since the statute
does not permit federal agencies to remove. International Primate
Protection League v. Administrators of Tulane Educ. Fund, 500 U.S. 72,
79-87, 111 S.Ct. 1700, 114 L.Ed.2d 134 (1991).*fn7
The "Rooker-Feldman doctrine" is based on the statutory foundation of
28 U.S.C. § 1257 and the well-settled principle that only the United
States Supreme Court, and not the lower federal courts, has jurisdiction
to review a State court decision. In re Diet Drugs Products Liability
Litigation, 282 F.3d 220, 240 (3d Cir. 2002); Parkview Assoc. P'ship v.
City of Lebanon, 225 F.3d 321, 324 (3d Cir. 2000); E.B. v. Verniero,
119 F.3d 1077,
1090 (3d Cir. 1997). 28 U.S.C. § 1257 provides:
(a) Final judgments or decrees rendered by the
highest court of a State in which a decision could be
had, may be reviewed by the Supreme Court by writ of
certiorari where the validity of a treaty or statute
of the United States is drawn in question or where the
validity of a statute of any State is drawn in
question on the ground of its being repugnant to the
Constitution, treaties, or laws of the United States,
or where any title, right, privilege, or immunity is
specially set up or claimed under the Constitution or
the treaties or statutes of, or any commission held by
authority exercised under, the United States.
In E.B., the Court of Appeals considered whether a district court had
subject matter jurisdiction to hear a case that had been litigated in New
Jersey State court. The plaintiff in E.B. challenged the registration and
notification requirements under Megan's Law. 119 F.3d at 1087-88. A
hearing was held in the Superior Court of New Jersey, which ruled that
the classification and notification requirements were appropriate. 119
F.3d at 1088. After the plaintiffs appeals to the Appellate Division and
New Jersey Supreme Court were unsuccessful, he filed a new action in this
Court. E.B v. Poritz, 914 F. Supp. 85 (D.N.J. 1996). In the federal
action, the district court entered a preliminary injunction, enjoining
the defendants from implementing the notification requirements. Poritz,
914 F. Supp. at 91. On appeal to the Court of Appeals, defendants argued
that the district court did not have subject matter jurisdiction to enter
the preliminary injunction based on the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. E.B.,
119 F.3d at 1090. The Court of Appeals agreed:
Section 1257 of Title 28 of the United States Code
bestows upon the Supreme Court of the United States
appellate jurisdiction to review final judgments of
the highest courts of the respective states. The
so-called Rooker-Feldman doctrine teaches that, by
negative implication, the inferior federal courts lack
subject matter jurisdiction to review judgments of
those courts. We have interpreted the doctrine to
encompass final decisions of lower state courts as
well. [119 F.3d at 1090].
The Court of Appeals vacated the injunction and remanded the action to
the District Court with instructions to dismiss for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction. 119 F.3d at 1092.
Rooker-Feldman abstention is necessary to limit federal court review of
State court decisions to the avenues provided by Congress. Ernst v. Child
and Youth Services of Chester County, 108 F.3d 486, 491 (3d Cir. 1997).
"The federal court structure established by Congress intends that only
the Supreme Court shall have the opportunity to decide that a state court
has reached an erroneous conclusion on a federal constitutional claim."
E.B., 119 F.3d at 1091.
What Fornaro is attempting to do is to have this Court review the final
judgment of the New Jersey Supreme Court which denied review of the
February 3, 1995, order that relieved State Farm of its obligation to pay
PIP benefits to him. This Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction
to do so. For that reason, and regardless of any other jurisdictional
basis, these consolidated civil actions should be remanded.*fn8
For the reasons set forth above, Civil Action No. 02-2019 should be
remanded to the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Morris
County, Civil Action No. 02-2020 should be remanded to the Superior Court
of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Morris County.
Pursuant to Local Civil Rule 72.1(c)(2), the parties have ten days from
service of this Report and Recommendation to file and serve objections.
Jun. 13, 2002.