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Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Ind. Decisions - Interesting 7th Circuit nonprecedential disposition today

In Deborah Walton v. Claybridge Homeowners Assoc. (SD Ind., Pratt), a 3-page order, Judge Hamilton writes:

Walton’s present complaint boils down to a contention that she suffered constitutional injury when she lost the easement dispute in state court. Walton says that the state judge, one of the defendants, gave rights in her land “to an All White Group of People” and, worse still, ordered her “into Slavery” by resolving the property dispute in the association’s favor. As for the numerous other defendants, including the association, the complaint simply asserts, without explanation, that they collectively “interfered” with Walton’s property and contract rights. Walton demanded that the state judge be compelled to reverse his adverse decision and that damages be assessed against the other defendants. The district court addressed the merits of the complaint, dismissed it with prejudice, and then awarded attorneys’ fees to the association and several related defendants for prevailing against Walton’s “baseless” suit. See 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b).

On appeal, Walton devotes most of her brief to criticizing the district court’s reliance on judicial immunity as the basis for dismissing her suit as against the state judge. We need not address her concerns, however, because the complaint ought to have been dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, a point we must raise sua sponte even though it has been overlooked by the defendants. * * * The Rooker-Feldman doctrine stripped the district court of jurisdiction to involve itself in Walton’s blatant attempt at an appeal, notwithstanding her allegations that the state court’s judgment runs afoul of the United States Constitution. [citations omitted] Accordingly we modify the judgment to reflect that Walton’s suit is dismissed for want of subject-matter jurisdiction. * * *

The issue is now definitively resolved, and Walton’s refusal to accept defeat has become vexatious. Not only that, but her allegation that the state-court judgment runs afoul of the Thirteenth Amendment is preposterous. * * *

And we warn Walton that, in addition to attorneys’ fees, she may subject herself to monetary sanctions and restrictions on future suits if she continues to abuse the judicial process.

AFFIRMED as MODIFIED.

ILB: This appears to be the NFP Indiana COA opinion referenced.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 3, 2011 07:35 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions