United States District Court, E.D. California
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS; ORDER
GREGORY G. HOLLOWS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
William and Stacey Ramirez appear pro se in this civil rights
action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. sections 1983, 1985(3),
1986, and supplementary claims under California Civil Code
sections 52 and 52.1 and Article 1 of the California
Constitution. ECF No. 1.
also seek to permission to proceed in forma pauperis. This
court has reviewed their affidavits and finds that each of
them lacks sufficient funds to pay the fees and costs of
pursuing this action. Each of their applications will,
therefore, be granted. The inquiry does not, however, stop
with the in forma pauperis determination. Under 28 U.S.C.
section 1915(d)(2)(B) the court may dismiss such an action if
at any time it determines that it is (i) frivolous or
malicious; or (ii) it fails to state a claim.
undersigned recommends dismissal of the complaint without
leave to amend with respect to defendant Hoffman. The
“Injunctive Relief” claim naming only defendant
Hoffman is barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine,
and in any event, defendant Hoffman is absolutely immune from
suit. The complaint will otherwise be served as to the
complaint in this case names several public entities: County
of El Dorado, El Dorado County Sheriff's Department, El
Dorado County Animal Services, and the El Dorado Superior
Court and a Superior Court Commissioner, Douglas R. Hoffman.
In addition it names several County officials in both their
individual and their official capacities. All defendants are
sued pursuant to 42 U.S.C. sections 1983, 1985 and 1986 for
violation of plaintiff's rights under the Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
Jurisdiction is predicated on federal question, 28 U.S.C.
section 1331 and the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C.
sections 2201(a) and 2202. State claims are also raised under
the court's supplemental jurisdiction . 28 U.S.C. §
the complaint alleges that plaintiffs were illegally evicted
from their home in South Lake Tahoe, California, after a
state court trial granted their landlord, Ms. Mangiaracina a
judgment in unlawful detainer. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 10,
11. The El Dorado Sheriff's Department and its officers
then executed writs of execution of a money judgment and
dispossession of the real property. Id. at ¶
10a. Plaintiffs attempted to vacate the judgment, but after
corrections were made by the Superior Court, new writs were
issued, id. at ¶ 10c, and Sheriff's
Department personnel forced them to vacate the property,
leaving their animals behind. Id. at ¶ 10g.
Defendant Animal Services defendants then took control of the
animals. Id. A second effort to invalidate the writs
involved was rejected by Commissioner Hoffman. Id.
at 10m. In addition, plaintiffs were required to pay to
recover their animals from the County and their personal
possessions from their landlord who assessed storage
fees. All of the actions by County and County
officials are alleged to have violated plaintiffs' rights
under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the federal
Constitution. Id. at ¶ 12.
THE ROOKER-FELDMAN DOCTRINE
Rooker Feldman doctrine applies to “cases brought by
state-court losers complaining of injuries caused by
state-court judgments rendered before the district court
proceedings commenced and inviting district court review and
rejection of those judgments.” Exxon Mobil Corp. v.
Saudi Basic Industries Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005).
In Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 44
S.Ct. 149, 68 L.Ed. 362, the parties defeated in state court
turned to a Federal District Court for relief. Alleging that
the federal court to declare it “null and void.”
Id., at 414-415, 44 S.Ct. 149. This Court noted
preliminarily that the state court had acted within its
jurisdiction. Id., at 415, 44 S.Ct. 149. If the
state-court decision was wrong, the Court explained,
“that did not make the judgment void, but merely left
it open to reversal or modification in an appropriate and
timely appellate proceeding.” Ibid. Federal
district courts, the Rooker Court recognized, lacked
the requisite appellate authority, for their jurisdiction was
“strictly original.” Id., at 416, 44
S.Ct. 149. Among federal courts, the Rooker Court
clarified, Congress had empowered only this Court to exercise
appellate authority “to reverse or modify” a
state-court judgment. Ibid. Accordingly, the Court affirmed a
decree dismissing the suit for lack of jurisdiction.
Id., at 415, 417, 44 S.Ct. 149.
Id. at 287.
Rooker, plaintiffs here, with respect to the
Injunctive Relief claim against Commissioner Hoffman, seek to
have this district court, in essence, overrule the rulings
and judgment of the El Dorado Superior Court and to award
them damages for the injury the purported improper judgment
inflicted upon them. This the court cannot do. As the Ninth
Circuit Court of Appeals has held, “A party
disappointed by a decision of the highest state court in
which a decision may be had may seek reversal of that
decision by appealing to the United States Supreme Court. In
neither case may the disappointed party appeal to a federal
district court, even if a federal question is present or if
there is diversity of citizenship between the parties.
Rooker-Feldman becomes difficult--and, in practical
reality, only comes into play as a contested issue--when a
disappointed party seeks to take not a formal direct appeal,
but rather its de facto equivalent, to a federal district
court.” Noel v. Hall, 341 F.3d 1148, 1155