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Abazari v. Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science

United States District Court, S.D. California

June 23, 2016




         On June 2, 2016, Plaintiff Armin Abazar ("Plaintiff"), proceeding pro se, filed a complaint against Defendant Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, located in North Chicago, Illinois. (Dkt. No. 1.) Plaintiff concurrently filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP"). (Dkt. No. 2.) Based on the reasoning below, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion to proceed IFP and sua sponte DISMISSES Plaintiff's complaint.


         A. Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

         All parties instituting any civil action, suit, or proceeding in a district court of the United States, except an application for writ of habeas corpus, must pay a filing fee of $400. See 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a).[1] An action may proceed despite a plaintiff's failure to prepay the entire fee only if he is granted leave to proceed IFP pursuant to § 1915(a). See Andrews v. Cervantes, 493 F.3d 1047, 1051 (9th Cir. 2007); Rodriguez v. Cook, 169 F.3d 1176, 1177 (9th Cir. 1999). The plaintiff must submit an affidavit demonstrating his inability to pay the filing fee, and the affidavit must include a complete statement of the plaintiff's assets. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1).

         Here, Plaintiff submitted an affidavit reporting that he has not received any income from employment during the past twelve months. (Dkt. No. 2 at 1-2.) Plaintiff reports no real property, savings, or checking account and has $0 in cash. (Id. at 2-3.) He owns a 2003 GMC Yukon that he guesses to be valued around $3000. (Id. at 3.) He has expenses of around $40, and credit card debt in the amount of $170. (Id. at 4.) Based on the affidavit, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed IFP.

         B. Sua Sponte Dismissal for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         It is well-established that a federal court cannot reach the merits of any dispute until it confirms that it retains subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the issues presented. See Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Environ., 523 U.S. 83, 94-95 (1998). Accordingly, federal courts are under a continuing duty to confirm their jurisdictional power and are "obliged to inquire sua sponte whenever a doubt arises as to [its] existence . . . ." Mt. Healthy City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 278 (1977) (citations omitted).

         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Unlike state courts, they have no ‘inherent' or ‘general' subject matter jurisdiction. They can adjudicate only those cases which the Constitution and Congress authorize them to adjudicate, i.e. those involving diversity of citizenship, a federal question, or to which the United States is a party. See Finley v. United States, 490 U.S. 545 (1989). Federal courts are presumptively without jurisdiction over civil actions and the burden of establishing the contrary rests upon the party asserting jurisdiction. See Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994).

         Plaintiff's complaint is essentially styled a "motion to vacate state orders." (Dkt. No. 1 at 1, 5[2].) Specifically, he seeks relief from the "State Appellate Order on June 29, 2015 (Ex. O), State Circuit Order August 27, 2014 (Ex. P) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(4), 60(b)(3) and 60(b)(6)." (Id. at 5.) These orders were filed in the Illinois state courts. He alleges that Defendant is selling "illegal and substandard educations to drive students into large debts that these institutional know students can't repay." (Id. at 7.) After graduating from Dr. William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine ("College"), Plaintiff was unable to be placed in a residency program. Relying on statements in the College's catalog that he could be successful with a degree in podiatric medicine, he applied and did not realize the shortage of available residency placements. Plaintiff claims the College was improperly admitting more students than the number of available residency placements. Therefore, he filed suit in Illinois Circuit Court against the College. After the Circuit Court granted the defendant's motion to dismiss with prejudice, (Dkt. No. 1-2 at 29), Plaintiff appealed to the Appellate Court of Illinois. (Dkt. No. 1-2 at 16.) The Appellate Court of Illinois affirmed the dismissal with prejudice as to all counts with a modification that the dismissal of count II as to the fraudulent concealment of the fact that residencies in podiatric medicine would not be available for all the graduates of the College podiatric program be modified to be a dismissal without prejudice. (Id. at 23.) The case was remanded for further proceedings on that claim only. (Id.) On May 24, 2016, it appears that on remand, the Circuit Court, on motion, dismissed the case without prejudice, and Plaintiff was granted until June 22, 2016 to file an amended complaint with a status hearing set for June 29, 2016. (Dkt. No. 1-2 at 64.) Plaintiff seeks relief in this Court because he alleges that the courts in Illinois have consistently shown him direct animus. (Dkt. No. 1 at 59.)

         Under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, a federal district court is prohibited from exercising subject matter jurisdiction over a case that is "a de facto appeal from a state court judgment." Kougasian v. TMSL, Inc., 359 F.3d 1136, 1139 (9th Cir. 2004). A de facto appeal is when a federal plaintiff asserts "asserts as a legal wrong an allegedly erroneous decision by a state court, and seeks relief from a state court judgment based on that decision" and is barred by Rooker-Feldman. Id. at 1140. 28 U.S.C. § 1257 grants jurisdiction to review a state court judgment in the United States Supreme Court. See In re Gruntz, 202 F.3d 1074, 1078 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) ("Direct federal appellate review of state court decisions must occur, if at all, in the Supreme Court."); Maldando v. Harris, 370 F.3d 945, 949 (9th Cir. 2004) ("[F]ederal district court does not have subject matter jurisdiction to hear a direct appeal from the final judgment of a state court.").

         First, it does not appear that a final judgment has been issued in the state court as it appears the case is on remand and pending with the Circuit Court. (Dkt. No. 1-32 at 64.) Therefore, any relief Plaintiff seeks must be raised with the Illinois state court. See generally Illinois Supreme Court Rules 306, 307.

         Moreover, even if there was a final judgment, this Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over the case because Plaintiff is challenging the rulings of the Illinois state trial and appellate courts by asking the Court to vacate both orders. He argues that the two state court judges acted without authority, are not "authorized independent judges", and therefore their orders are void. Because Plaintiff is challenging allegedly ...

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