United States District Court, D. Colorado
SARA M. HARTMANN, Plaintiff,
DOUGLAS COUNTY DISTRICT COURT, TOWN OF CASTLE ROCK, DOUGLAS COUNTY, CO., CASTLE ROCK POLICE DEPT., DOUGLAS COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFC., LITTLE POLICE DEPARTMENT, ARAPAHOE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFC., and DOUGLAS COUNTY SCHOOL SYSTEM, Defendants.
ORDER OF DISMISSAL ON REMAND
LEWIS T. BABCOCK, SENIOR JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
This matter is before the Court on the remand entered by the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit (Tenth Circuit) in the instant action on December 30, 2015. The Tenth Circuit reversed this Court's dismissal and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Court will address the Complaint as follows.
Plaintiff Sara M. Hartmann has submitted a Complaint that is over 100 pages long, including attachments, and names thirty-eight defendants. Plaintiff challenges a divorce decree entered on April 22, 2014, in State of Colorado Case No. 12DR455. Compl., ECF No. 1, at 2.
Previously, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court, Hartmann v. Douglas County, Colo., et al., 12-cv-03309-LTB(D. Colo. Feb. 7, 2013), that also challenged the same divorce proceeding Plaintiff challenges in this action. In Case No. 12-cv-03309-LTB, the court found that Plaintiff had a pending divorce proceeding in state court, which subjected her claims to dismissal pursuant to Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). See ECF No. 6 at 4. The court also found that federal courts do not have diversity jurisdiction over divorce and alimony decrees and child custody orders and that Plaintiff did not allege “specific facts to show that the Douglas County Court proceedings do not offer her an adequate opportunity to litigate any federal constitutional issues." Id. The court dismissed Case No. 12-cv-03309-LTB for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3), the Court must dismiss an action if the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. The issue of subject matter jurisdiction may be raised sua sponte by the Court at any time during the course of the proceedings. See McAlester v. United Air Lines, Inc., 851 F.2d 1249, 1252 (10th Cir. 1988). “The party seeking to invoke the jurisdiction of a federal court must demonstrate that the case is within the court's jurisdiction." United States v. Bustillos, 31 F.3d 931, 933 (10th Cir. 1994). When a case is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, the dismissal must be without prejudice. See Brereton v. Bountiful City Corp., 434 F.3d 1213, 1216 (10th Cir. 2006.)
In this case, under the jurisdiction section of the complaint form, Plaintiff states that she is asserting jurisdiction pursuant to the following statutory authorities:
(1) 28 U.S.C. § 1441 (See Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37(1991); Winnebago Tribe of Neb. v. Stovall, 341 F.3d 1202, 1204 (10th Cir. 2003))-based on CO state ct finality on 4/22/15 via filed “Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Permanent Orders;" (2) 28 U.S.C. 1331-federal A?" jurisdiction-b/c U.S. Constit'al matters exist; (3) standing based on Bennet v. Spear, 117 S.Ct. 1154, 1161 (1997).
ECF No. 1 at 2. Plaintiff may assert jurisdiction in this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441 and to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The Court will discuss each of these statutory authorities below.
First, if Plaintiff intends to remove Case No. 12DR455 to this Court, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441, a notice of removal must contain “a short and plain statement of the grounds for removal, together with a copy of all process, pleadings, and orders served upon such defendant or defendants in such action." 28 U.S.C. § 1446(a). A[T]here is a presumption against removal jurisdiction." Laughlin v. Kmart Corp., 50 F.3d 871, 873 (10th Cir. 1995). “Under 28 U.S.C. § 1441 a defendant in state court may remove the case to federal court when a federal court would have had jurisdiction if the case had been filed there originally." Topeka Housing Authority v. Johnson, 404 F.3d 1245, 1247 (10th Cir. 2005). “The removing party has the burden to demonstrate the appropriateness of removal from state to federal court." Baby C v. Price, 138 F.App'x 81, 83 (10th Cir. 2005).
Defendant fails to provide a short and plain statement of the grounds that would support a removal to this Court or to attach all process, pleadings, and orders served upon her in the state action. Plaintiff has submitted a few court documents, but she has not submitted all process, pleadings, and orders served upon her in the state action. See ECF No.1 at 27-38 (Plaintiff attached the final finding of facts, conclusions of law, and permanent orders entered in the Douglas County District Court that identifies a total of at least fifty pleadings and orders which were entered in Plaintiff's divorce proceedings, not all of the orders and pleadings referred to in the court's order are provided by Plaintiff).
Furthermore, Plaintiff's contentions do not demonstrate that the Court would have had subject matter jurisdiction over this action if it had been filed originally in federal court. The Supreme Court has stated that “ '[t]he whole subject of the domestic relations of husband and wife, parent and child, belongs to the laws of the States and not to the laws of the United States.' " Ankenbrandt v. Richards, 504 U.S. 689, 703 (1992) (quoting Ex Parte Burrus, 136 U.S. 586, 593-94 (1890)). Consequently, federal courts do not have diversity jurisdiction over divorce and alimony decrees and child custody orders, Ankenbrandt, 504 U.S. at 703; and, as discussed below, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine precludes a federal claim that is inextricably intertwined with a state court judgment.
Also, “a case may not be removed to federal court solely because of a defense or counterclaim arising under federal law." See Johnson, 404 F.3d at 1247. Finally, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) defendants may remove a state court proceeding to this Court. Plaintiff is not a defendant, or respondent, in her state divorce proceeding. For these reasons, the Court finds that a basis for removal is deficient. As a result, the instant action would be subject to a summary remand to the state court if this Court construed the action as a notice of removal. See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).
Second, Plaintiff's federal question claims filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 are best construed as alleged violations of Plaintiff's constitutional rights. Upon review of the Complaint, the Court finds that Plaintiff asserts her First, Fourth, ...