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Campbell v. Inzer

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

September 9, 2019

JIM CAMPBELL, Plaintiff,
JAMES INZER, Defendant.



         The case is before the court on Defendant James Inzer's (“Defendant”) Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. # 20). The Motion is fully briefed (Docs. # 20 and 24) and is ripe for review. For the reasons explained below, Defendant's motion is due to be granted.

         I. Background

         This action arises out of an order entered in a previous state court case in the Circuit Court of Etowah County, Alabama. In that earlier state court litigation, Plaintiff Jim Campbell (“Plaintiff”) sued his brother, Joseph R. Campbell. His brother was represented by Defendant James Inzer (“Defendant”). (Doc. # 1 at 1). In the prior state court case, Defendant Inzer, on behalf of his client (Plaintiff's brother), moved to dismiss, arguing that Plaintiff's claims were barred by the doctrine of res judicata in connection with an even-earlier 2006 case (also between the brothers). (Doc. # 20 at 3). The state trial court granted the motion to dismiss. Plaintiff appealed.[1](Doc. # 20 at 3).

         On January 25, 2017, Plaintiff moved the state trial court to send the record of a 2006 case to the appellate court to allow the appellate court to review both cases and evaluate whether the defendant's res judicata defense was proper. (Doc. # 19 at ¶ 4; Doc., # 1 at 4). On January 27, 2017, the trial court judge, the Honorable William Ogletree, denied Plaintiff's motion. (Doc. # 19 at 1, ¶ 4). On May 26, 2017, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the trial court's dismissal of Plaintiff's state court case without opinion. (Doc. # 1 at 6).

         In this case, Plaintiff claims that Defendant Inzer conspired with Judge Ogletree to deny Plaintiff a “fair and impartial hearing.” (Doc. # 19 at 2, ¶ 8). In particular, Plaintiff claims that his rights were violated when Judge Ogletree (purportedly based upon a conspiracy with Defendant Inzer) denied Plaintiff's motion and refused to send the 2006 case record to the appeals court. (Doc. # 1 at 2). Plaintiff filed his original complaint on May 28, 2019, alleging violations of his due process rights under the 5th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.[2] (Doc. #1 at 1). In response to this court's Order, on July 18, 2019, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. (Docs. # 19). Defendant's current Motion to Dismiss argues that Plaintiff's suit is barred by the Rooker-Feldman Doctrine, or in the alternative, that Plaintiff's conspiracy claim fails to state a claim as a matter of law. (Doc. # 20 at 9, 14).

         II. Standard of Review

         A. The Rule 12(b)(1) Standard

         Under Rule 12(b)(1), an attack on subject matter jurisdiction is either facial or factual. Lawrence v. Dunbar, 919 F.2d 1525, 1528-29 (11th Cir. 1990). Facial attacks “require[ ] the court merely to look and see if [the] plaintiff has sufficiently alleged a basis of subject matter jurisdiction, and the allegations in his complaint are taken as true for the purposes of the motion.” Id. at 1259; Ex Parte Safeway Ins. Co. of Ala., Inc., 990 So.2d 344, 349 (Ala. 2008) (“If a defendant mounts a ‘facial' challenge to the legal sufficiency of the plaintiff's jurisdictional allegations, the court must accept as true the allegations in the complaint and consider the factual allegations of the complaint in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” (citation omitted)).

         Factual attacks, on the other hand, challenge “the existence of subject matter jurisdiction in fact, irrespective of the pleadings.” Id. at 1529. When the challenge is a factual attack, “no presumptive truthfulness attaches to plaintiff's allegations, and the existence of disputed material facts will not preclude the trial court from evaluating for itself the merits of jurisdictional claims.” Id. (quoting Williamson v. Tucker, 645 F.2d 404, 412 (5th Cir. 1981)); Ex Parte Safeway, 990 So.2d at 350 (“[A] court deciding a Rule 12(b)(1) motion asserting a factual challenge ‘must go beyond the pleadings and resolve any disputed issues of fact the resolution of which is necessary to a ruling upon the motion to dismiss.'” (quotation omitted)).

         Here, Defendant advances a factual attack on the court's subject matter jurisdiction. (Doc. # 20 at 7). Accordingly, the court may consider and rely on extrinsic evidence to determine whether subject matter jurisdiction does in fact exist. Ex Parte Safeway, 990 So.2d at 350.

         B. The Rule 12(b)(6) Standard

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). However, the complaint must include enough facts “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Pleadings that contain nothing more than “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” do not meet Rule 8 standards, nor do pleadings suffice that are based merely upon “labels and conclusions” or “naked assertion[s]” without supporting factual allegations. Id. at 555, 557. In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, courts view the allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Watts v. Fla. Int'l Univ., 495 F.3d 1289, 1295 (11th Cir. 2007).

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although “[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, '” the complaint must demonstrate “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. A plausible ...

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