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Nella Manko v. Marsha L. Steinhardt

January 24, 2012

NELLA MANKO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MARSHA L. STEINHARDT, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS JUDGE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF KINGS COUNTY; FITZSIMMONS, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS CLERK OF THE SUPREME COURT OF KINGS COUNTY; WARREN GLASER, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A LAW SECRETARY OF THE SUPREME COURT OF KINGS COUNTY; EILEEN MCLOUGHLIN, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS COURT REPORTER OF THE SUPREME COURT OF KINGS COUNTY; KINGS COUNTY SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK; ADMINISTRATIVE JUDGE, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER/HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ADMINISTRATIVE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF KINGS COUNTY; AND KINGS COUNTY CLERK'S OFFICE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matsumoto, United States District Judge:

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Pro se plaintiff Nella Manko brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that defendants violated her constitutional rights during the course of her state court medical malpractice action, Kings County Supreme Court Index Number 30972/2004 (the "State Court Action"). Plaintiff seeks an injunction ordering Judge Steinhardt's recusal in the State Court Action; reversal, annulment and vacatur of the state court's orders in the State Court Action; and compensatory and punitive damages. (See ECF No. 1, Complaint ("Compl.") ¶¶ 49-53.)

By Memorandum and Order dated November 17, 2011, this court denied plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis because plaintiff's financial declaration did not support a showing of indigency. (See ECF No. 3, Memorandum and Order dated 11/17/2011, at 2-3.) The court directed plaintiff to pay the statutory filing fee if she wished to proceed with this action and further informed plaintiff that, even if she paid the fee, the action would be dismissed. (See id. at 3-6.) On December 1, 2011, plaintiff paid the required filing fee to commence this action. On December 23, 2011, plaintiff moved for an order directing the United States Marshals Service to serve the summons and complaint upon defendants (see ECF No. 6), and on January 23, 2012, plaintiff moved for an "emergency order to show cause for the United States Marshals Service to effect service of process."

For the reasons stated in the court's November 17, 2011 Memorandum and Order, which are also set forth below, the action is dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and plaintiff's motions for orders directing the United States Marshals Service to effect service are denied as moot.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

In reviewing plaintiff's complaint, the court is mindful that the submissions of a pro se litigant must be construed liberally and interpreted "to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest." Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006).

Plaintiff must, however, establish that the court has subject-matter jurisdiction over the action. See, e.g., Rene v. Citibank NA, 32 F. Supp. 2d 539, 541-42 (E.D.N.Y. 1999) (dismissing pro se complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction). "[S]ubject-matter jurisdiction . . . can never be forfeited or waived" because it involves the court's power to hear a case. United States v. Cotton, 535 U.S. 625, 630 (2002). Notably, courts "have an independent obligation to determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists, even in the absence of a challenge from any party." Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 514 (2006) (citing Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 583 (1999)). Consequently, "[w]here jurisdiction is lacking . . . dismissal is mandatory." Manway Constr. Co. Inc. v. Housing Auth. of City of Hartford, 711 F.2d 501, 503 (2d Cir. 1983); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3) ("If the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.").

DISCUSSION

As discussed in the court's Memorandum and Order dated November 17, 2011, the claims in plaintiff's complaint are barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine and by judicial, quasi-judicial and Eleventh Amendment immunity.

A. Rooker-Feldman Doctrine

This action is barred by the doctrine of Rooker-Feldman. Under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, cases "brought by

[a] state-court loser[ ] 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," are barred in federal courts, which lack subject-matter jurisdiction over such actions. Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005).

In Hoblock v. Albany Cnty. Bd. of Elections, the Second Circuit set forth four factors to determine whether the Rooker-Feldman doctrine applies: (1) plaintiff lost in state court; (2) plaintiff complains of the injury caused by the state court order; (3) plaintiff wants this court to review the state court's process and rejection of the determinations, and (4) the state court determinations in question were rendered before this action was commenced. 422 F.3d 77, 83 (2d Cir. 2005). Each of the Hoblock requirements are met in the instant case which, in essence, asks for relief from a state court order against the plaintiff. Therefore, ...


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