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Justin Ringgold-Lockhart v. Myer Sankary

January 4, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Manuel L. Real United States District Judge


On December 6, 2011, this Court declared that Nina Ringgold and Justin Ringgold-Lockhart were vexatious litigants, thereby requiring them to obtain "permission from this Court prior to filing any action that relates to the Aubry Revocable Family Trust or the administration of state courts or probate courts." Justin Ringgold-Lockhart, et. al. v. County of Los Angeles, et. al.,

Subsequently, Ms. Ringgold filed two notices of removal relating to an appeal in state court concerning the Aubry Trust matter. In the first removal, she obtained an attorney to represent her and her son, Mr. Ringgold-Lockhart. See Nina Ringgold, et. al. v. Sankary, Case No. CV 12-8905-R. The Court granted the Respondent's Motion to Remand on December 17, 2012.

In the second removal, which is the instant action, Ms. Ringgold is purportedly acting as an attorney for her former-attorney, Greta Curtis, Esq., who represented her in the underlying probate proceedings. However, she is also obviously asserting the interests of her son, Mr. Ringgold-Lockhart. This Court held a hearing on December 17, 2012, for an Order to Show Cause why this action should not be remanded as improperly removed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and violation of the aforementioned vexatious litigant Order. As discussed below, the Court finds that this action must be remanded for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and Ms. Ringgold should be sanctioned for willfully violating this Court's vexatious litigant Order.

I.This Action Must Be Remanded for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, having subject matter jurisdiction only over matters authorized by the Constitution and Congress. See, e.g., Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). A suit filed in state court may be removed to federal court if the federal court would have had original jurisdiction over the suit. Title 28 U.S.C. §1441(a). A removed action must be remanded to state court if the federal court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Title 28 U.S.C. §1447(c). "The burden of establishing federal jurisdiction is on the party seeking removal, and the removal statute is strictly construed against removal jurisdiction." Prize Frize, Inc. v. Matrix (U.S.) Inc., 167 F.3d 1261, 1265 (9th Cir. 1999). "Federal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance." Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir.1992). "The defendant also has the burden of showing that it has complied with the procedural requirements for removal." Riggs v. Plaid Pantries, Inc., 233 F. Supp. 2d 1260, 1264 (D. Or. 2001).

Ms. Ringgold attempted to remove this action pursuant to the federal civil-rights removal statute, Title 28 U.S.C. §1443, which states:

Any of the following civil actions or criminal prosecutions, commenced in a State court may be removed by the defendant to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place wherein it is pending:

(1) Against any person who is denied or cannot enforce in the courts of such State a right under any law providing for the equal civil rights of citizens of the United States, or of all persons within the jurisdiction thereof;

(2) For any act under color of authority derived from any law providing for equal rights, or for refusing to do any act on the ground that it would be inconsistent with such law.

Ms. Ringgold has failed to establish that removal is permissible under Title 28 U.S.C. §1443 for several reasons. First, neither of her clients are defendants in the underlying civil action. Second, this matter falls within the probate exception to federal subject matter jurisdiction. Third, this Court should abstain from exercising jurisdiction under the Younger abstention doctrine. Fourth, Ms. Ringgold failed to identify any inability to enforce equal protection rights in the State court, as required by subsection one of Title 28 U.S.C. §1442. Fifth, Ms. Ringgold failed to identify a colorable conflict between state law and federal racial equality laws.

A.Mr. Ringgold-Lockhart and Ms. Curtis Are Not Defendants

Title 28 U.S.C. §1443 permits a "defendant" to remove certain criminal or civil actions. Title 28 U.S.C. §1443. But neither Mr. Ringgold-Lockhart nor Ms. Curtis, as parties objecting to a state probate proceeding and continuations thereof, are "defendants" within the meaning of Title 28 U.S.C. §1443. See, e.g., Ankele v. Johnson, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47221 (N.D. Cal. June 20, 2005) ("The Court granted Defendants' Request for Remand. for several reasons, including improper removal by a party who was not a 'defendant' in the original state action."); Szanto v. Szanto Revocable Trust of 1991, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 75403 (N.D. Cal. June 28, 2010) ("That Order explained that removal is a defendant's option; [the ...

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