United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
KAREN H. JACKSON Plaintiff,
JOHN D. BREWER, Defendant
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
A. BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Karen H. Jackson filed her Complaint in this court seeking a
declaratory judgment to nullify a jury verdict that was
rendered against her and in favor of Defendant in the
Covington County Circuit Court on September 21, 2016, in
regard to a contract for the sale of real estate ("the
Contract"). (Doc. 1 at ¶ 13). On April 10, 2018,
this Court entered an Order to Show Cause why this case
should not be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. (Doc. 4).
Plaintiff Amended her Complaint (Doc. 7 at ¶ 14),
seeking a declaratory judgment that "the contract
between John D. Brewer and Karen Jackson (was) void ab
initio." (Doc. 7 at 21, ¶ A). Plaintiff seeks
to invoke the court's diversity jurisdiction pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1332. Id., ¶ 1. On May 1,
2018, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 9). On May
8, 2018, Defendant filed a motion for hearing on his Motion
to Dismiss. (Doc. 14).
reasons stated herein, it is RECOMMENDED
that the matter be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction and
that Defendant's motions be denied as moot.
have an independent obligation to determine whether
subject-matter jurisdiction exists, even when no party
challenges it." Hertz Corp. v. Friend, 559 U.S.
77, 94 (2010). The burden of persuasion for establishing
diversity jurisdiction remains on the party asserting it.
Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of America, 511
U.S. 375, 377 (1994). "Consistent with the limited
nature of federal jurisdiction, the party seeking a federal
venue must establish the venue's jurisdictional
requirements." Lowery v. Ala. Power Co., 483
F.3d 1184, 1207(11th Cir. 2007) (citing Lujan v.
Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992)).
to § 1332, a district court has original jurisdiction
over cases in which the parties are of diverse citizenship
and "the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value
of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs." 28U.S.C.
§ 1332(a). Plaintiff s allegations regarding the
jurisdictional amount are insufficient to meet the
jurisdiction amount. In that regard, the Amended Complaint
alleges that in the underlying judgment, the court assessed
$4, 502.83 in attorney's fees and damages in the amount
of $5, 600.00. (Doc. 7 at ¶ 14). Although Plaintiff
alleges before this Court that the Contract made the subject
of the underlying litigation was for the sale of real estate
in the amount of $78, 000.00, she further alleges that the
Contract was void and unenforceable due to illegality. (Doc.
7 at ¶¶ 9-10). "When a plaintiff seeks
injunctive or declaratory relief, the amount in controversy
is the monetary value of the object of the litigation from
the plaintiffs perspective. See Ericsson GE Mobile
Communications, Inc. v. Motorola Communications & Elecs.,
Inc., 120 F.3d 216, 218-20 (11th Cir.1997). In other
words, the value of the requested injunctive relief is the
monetary value of the benefit that would flow to the
plaintiff if the injunction were granted" Cohen v.
Office Depot, Inc., 204 F.3d 1069, 1077 (11th Cir.
2000). In this ease, Plaintiff is seeking a declaratory
judgment that the Contract was void and unenforceable, and
the benefit which would flow Plaintiff, should she be awarded
the declaratory judgment she seeks, would be a reversal of a
state court judgment in the amount of $10, 102.83. Although
Plaintiff further requested "an order awarding monetary
relief for injuries suffered by plaintiff to plaintiffs
reputation both personally and professionally in excess of
$250, 000," Plaintiff stated no claim in the Amended
Complaint upon which such a judgment could be predicated.
Accordingly, the Amended Complaint fails to plead sufficient
facts to demonstrate that the amount in controversy has been
Plaintiff specifically seeks a judgment from this Court
declaring that "the contract between John D. Brewer and
Karen Jackson void ab initio." (Doc. 7 at 21,
¶ A). Plaintiff alleges that the state court jury
verdict was entered on September 21, 2016, (Doc. 7 at ¶
14), and has previously represented to this Court that a
"Petition for a Writ of Certiorari was denied by the
Alabama Supreme Court on January 12, 2018" (Doc. 1 at
¶ 11). Plaintiff acknowledges in her Amended Complaint
that her state court "appeal has been exhausted"
(Doc. 7 at 3, n.2). Plaintiffs Complaint in this Court was
filed on April 5, 2018, and amended on April 24, 2018. The
overwhelming majority of the facts alleged in the Amended
Complaint directly reference the state court record on
appeal. (Doc. 7 at ¶¶ 14-30).
Rooker-Feldman doctrine makes clear that federal
district courts cannot review state court final judgments
because that task is reserved for state appellate courts or,
as a last resort, the United States Supreme Court. See
Feldman, 460 U.S. at 482, 103 S.Ct. at 1315"
Casale v. Tillman, 558 F.3d 1258, 1260 (11th Cir.
2009). As to her argument that the state court judgment is
void ab initio due to illegality of the Contract,
the Eleventh Circuit has stated that "[o]ther circuits
have recognized an exception to the doctrine where the state
court judgment is 'void ab initio due to the
state court's lack of jurisdiction; see, e.g., 4901
Corp. v. Town of Cicero, 220 F.3d 522, 528 (7th
Cir.2000); In re James, 940 F.2d 46, 52 (3d Cir.
1991), but our circuit has never adopted that
exception." Casale, 558 F.3d at 1261. Plaintiff
acknowledges that no authority from the Eleventh Circuit
exists for such an exception. (Doc. 17 at 16, n.6). Moreover,
allegations that the contract was void have nothing to do
with the state courts' jurisdiction to
adjudicate claims arising from the contract. Having litigated
her legal positions in the state courts, Plaintiff is simply
dissatisfied with the outcome and seeks to reverse it in this
Court. That is precisely what is barred by
on the foregoing reasons, it is respectfully recommended that
the Amended Complaint be DISMISSED for lack
of subject-matter jurisdiction, and that Defendant's
Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 9) be and motion for a hearing (Doc.
14) be DENIED as MOOT
ORDERED that the parties shall file any
objections to this Recommendation on or before June 27, 2018.
Any objections filed must specifically identify the findings
in the Magistrate Judge's Recommendation to which the
party objects. Frivolous, conclusive or general objections
will not be considered by the District Court. The parties are
advised that this Recommendation is not a final order of the
court and, therefore, it is not appealable.
to file written objections to the proposed findings and
recommendations in the Magistrate Judge's report shall
bar the party from a de novo determination by the District
Court of issues covered in the report and shall bar the party
from attacking on appeal factual findings in the report
accepted or adopted by the District Court except upon grounds
of plain error or manifest injustice. Nettles v.
Wainwright, 611 F.2d 404 (5th Cir. 1982). See Stein
v. Reynolds Sec., Inc., 667 F.2d 33 (11th Cir. 1982).