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Fisher v. Eastampton Board of Education

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

November 2, 2018

DANIEL D. FISHER, SR., Plaintiff,
v.
EASTAMPTON BOARD OF EDUCATION, Defendant.

          DANIEL D. FISHER, SR. Appearing pro se

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.

         WHEREAS, Plaintiff, Daniel D. Fisher, Sr., filed a complaint, titled a “Writ of Error, ” relating to a state court action Plaintiff instituted against Defendant Eastampton Board of Education because Plaintiff claims that Defendant has channeled storm waters onto his property for many years; and

         WHEREAS, Plaintiff has filed an application to proceed without prepayment of fees (“in forma pauperis” or “IFP” application), and pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1), a court may allow a litigant to proceed without prepayment of fees if he submits a proper IFP application;[1] and

         WHEREAS, although § 1915 refers to “prisoners, ” federal courts apply § 1915 to non-prisoner IFP applications, Hickson v. Mauro, 2011 WL 6001088, *1 (D.N.J.2011) (citing Lister v. Dept. of Treasury, 408 F.3d 1309, 1312 (10th Cir. 2005) (“Section 1915(a) applies to all persons applying for IFP status, and not just to prisoners.”) (other citations omitted); and

         WHEREAS, the screening provisions of the IFP statute require a federal court to dismiss an action sua sponte if, among other things, the action is frivolous or malicious, or if it fails to comply with the proper pleading standards, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii); Ball v. Famiglio, 726 F.3d 448, 452 (3d Cir. 2013); Martin v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2017 WL 3783702, at *1 (D.N.J. August 30, 2017) (“Federal law requires this Court to screen Plaintiff's Complaint for sua sponte dismissal prior to service, and to dismiss any claim if that claim fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and/or to dismiss any defendant who is immune from suit.”); and

         WHEREAS, pro se complaints must be construed liberally, and all reasonable latitude must be afforded the pro se litigant, Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 107 (1976), but pro se litigants “must still plead the essential elements of [their] claim and [are] not excused from conforming to the standard rules of civil procedure, ” McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993) (“[W]e have never suggested that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel.”); Sykes v. Blockbuster Video, 205 Fed.Appx. 961, 963 (3d Cir. 2006) (finding that pro se plaintiffs are expected to comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure); and

         WHEREAS, Plaintiff alleges a “writ of error” by the New Jersey state court in several ways that has violated his various federal and state constitutional rights, and Plaintiff has brought his claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, [2] 1985, and 1986, [3] which the Court construes to invoke subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331;[4] however, WHEREAS, Plaintiff's claims appear to be dismissible under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, [5] which is derived from the two Supreme Court cases District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983) and Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923), and provides that lower federal courts lack subject matter jurisdiction to engage in appellate review of state court determinations or to evaluate constitutional claims that are inextricably intertwined with the state court's decision in a judicial proceeding, Port Authority Police Benev. Ass'n, Inc. v. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Dept., 973 F.2d 169, 177 (3d Cir. 1992); In re Knapper, 407 F.3d 573, 580 (3d Cir. 2005) (“The Rooker-Feldman doctrine prevents ‘inferior' federal courts from sitting as appellate courts for state court judgments.”); and

         WHEREAS, “there are four requirements that must be met for the Rooker-Feldman doctrine to apply: (1) the federal plaintiff lost in state court; (2) the plaintiff complain[s] of injuries caused by [the] state-court judgments; (3) those judgments were rendered before the federal suit was filed; and (4) the plaintiff is inviting the district court to review and reject the state judgments, ” Great Western Mining & Mineral Co. v. Fox Rothschild LLP, 615 F.3d 159, 166 (3d Cir. 2010) (quotations omitted) (discussing Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005)); and

         WHEREAS, if these requirements are met, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine prohibits the district court from exercising jurisdiction; and

         WHEREAS, Plaintiff's complaint here asks this Court to review and reconsider the decisions of his prior state court case, which did not terminate in Plaintiff's favor, by resolving the issue raised by Defendant regarding Plaintiff's lack of ownership of the subject property, and reversing the state court's determination that his claims were barred by the applicable statute of limitations (see Docket No. 1 at 3; Docket No. 1-1 at 5; Fisher v. Eastampton Board of Education, 2017 WL 444306, at *3 ( N.J.Super.Ct.App.Div. 2017) (affirming the trial court)); and

         WHEREAS, Plaintiff's request that this Court reexamine the same claims the state court resolved, and separately assess the propriety of the state court's decisions, would plainly violate the Rooker-Feldman abstention doctrine;[6]

         THEREFORE, IT IS on this 1st day of November, 2018

         ORDERED that the Clerk of the Court shall make a separate docket entry re-opening the action; and it is further ORDERED that Plaintiff's IFP application (Docket No. 6) be, and the same hereby is, GRANTED, and the ...


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