United States District Court, D. Arizona
honorable Susan M. Brnovich United States District Judge
motions are at issue in this order: (1) Plaintiff's
Motion for a Preliminary Injunction (Doc. 9); (2) Defendant
Robbins's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction
(Doc. 17); (3) Defendant Robbins's Motion for Judicial
Notice Re: Exhibits 2-11 attached to her motion to dismiss
(Doc. 18); (4) Defendants Cummings, Decker, and France's
Motion to Dismiss for lack of Jurisdiction (Doc. 31); and (5)
Defendants Cummings, Decker, and France's Motion for
Judicial Notice Re: Exhibits 2-4 of their motion to dismiss
(Doc. 32). Plaintiff responded to both motions to dismiss
(Doc. 41), to which the remaining defendants jointly replied
(Doc. 49). All defendants other than Cummings, Decker,
France, and Robbins have been terminated. (Docs. 12, 27, and
preliminary matter, the Court will grant Defendants'
motions for judicial notice (Docs. 18 and 32). Plaintiff has
not filed an objection to either motion and attaches many of
the same documents to his pleadings. Additionally, the Court
can take judicial notice of court documents. Harris v.
Cnty. Of Orange, 682 F.3d 1126, 1132 (9th Cir. 2012)
(“We may take judicial notice of undisputed matters of
public record, including documents on file in federal or
state courts.”) (internal citation omitted). This
constitutes Exhibits 1-6 of the Robbins Declaration (Exhibit
2 of Doc. 17) and Exhibits 3-11 of Defendant Robbins's
Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 17). The Court can also consider the
declarations attached to the motions. McCarthy v.
U.S., 850 F.2d 558, 560 (9th Cir. 1988) (“[W]hen
considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) the
district court is not restricted to the face of the
pleadings, but may review any evidence such as affidavits and
testimony, to resolve factual disputes concerning the
existence of jurisdiction.”). The declarations of
Defendants are found in Exhibit 2 of Doc. 17 (the
“Robbins Declaration”) and Exhibits 2-4 of Doc.
is in guardianship proceedings in the Probate Court of the
Maricopa County Superior Court. (Doc. 5, First Amended
Complaint “FAC” ¶ 1). On May 17, 2016,
Plaintiff's daughter filed a motion for an emergency
appointment as his temporary guardian pursuant to Title 14 of
the Arizona Revised Statutes. (Doc. 17, Exhibit 3). The
Superior Court granted it on the same day. (Doc. 17, Exhibit
4). At a May 27, 2016, hearing, where Plaintiff was
represented by court-appointed counsel, the Superior Court
extended the temporary guardianship through August 29, 2016.
(Doc. 17, Exhibit 5). On July 13, 2016, Plaintiff's
daughter filed for a permanent appointment as his guardian.
(Doc. 17, Exhibit 6). In granting the petition, the Superior
Court found the “Petitioner has given Notice of Hearing
as required by law.” (Doc. 17, Exhibit 8).
10, 2017, Plaintiff's daughter filed a petition to
terminate the guardianship. (Doc. 17, Exhibit 9). On July 20,
2017, Plaintiff filed a “Notice of Lack of Jurisdiction
and Denial of Procedural Process” in the guardianship
proceedings (FAC, Exhibit F). On August 7, 2017, the Superior
Court appointed counsel for Plaintiff as well as a guardian
ad litem to “investigate the guardianship and file an
appropriate petition or report.” (FAC, Exhibit G). On
August 29, 2017, the guardian ad litem filed a petition for a
permanent guardian for Plaintiff. (Doc. 17, Exhibit 10). The
Superior Court held a hearing and ordered the guardian ad
litem's petition to be deemed a petition for appointment
of successor guardian and continued the hearing until October
12, 2017. (FAC, Exhibit H). The Superior Court also found
Plaintiff's allegations about lack of due process and
jurisdiction to be “not sufficiently developed for the
Court's consideration.” (FAC, Exhibit H). At the
October 12 hearing, Plaintiff's daughter was discharged
as guardian, and the Maricopa County Public Fiduciary was
named as the successor guardian. (Robbins Declaration,
Exhibit 2). In appointing the successor guardian, the
Superior Court again found, “Notice has been given as
required by law.” Defendant Robbins, in her capacity as
Maricopa County Public Fiduciary, has served as
Plaintiff's guardian since the October 12, 2017, hearing.
(Robbins Declaration ¶ 10). Plaintiff alleges Decker,
Cummings, and France are attorneys employed by Maricopa
County violated his rights in the guardianship proceedings.
(FAC ¶¶ 45 and 48).
2018, Plaintiff filed the FAC, alleging the Superior Court
proceedings constituted violations of procedural and
substantive due process. He seeks monetary damages, and
declaratory orders preventing the Superior Court's orders
from being enforced. Defendants filed motions to dismiss
arguing that this Court does not have subject matter
jurisdiction because it is a de facto appeal of a state court
judgment, which is forbidden under the
Rooker-Feldman abstention doctrine.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), a party may move to
dismiss a claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
“Federal courts are courts of limited
jurisdiction” and may only hear cases as authorized by
the Constitution or Congress. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life
Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). Because our
jurisdiction is limited, it is to be presumed that a cause
lies outside of it, and the burden of establishing
jurisdiction is on the party asserting it. Kokkonen,
511 U.S. at 377.
Rule 12(b)(1) jurisdictional attack may be facial or
factual.” Safe Air for Everyone v. Meyer, 373
F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 2004). A facial attack
“asserts that the allegations contained in a complaint
are insufficient on their face to invoke federal
jurisdiction.” Id. In a facial attack, the
court “accept[s] the plaintiff's allegations as
true” and “determines whether the allegations are
sufficient as a legal matter to invoke the court's
jurisdiction, ” “drawing all reasonable
inferences in the plaintiff's favor.” Leite v.
Crane Co., 749 F.3d 1117, 1121 (9th Cir. 2014). “A
‘factual' attack, by contrast, contests the truth
of the plaintiff's factual allegations, usually by
introducing evidence outside the pleadings.”
Id. In a facial attack, our inquiry is confined to
the allegations in the complaint, while a factual attack
permits the court to look beyond the complaint. Savage v.
Glendale Union High Sch., 343 F.3d 1036, 1039 n.2 (9th
party asserting jurisdiction bears the burden of proof.
Indus. Tectonics, Inc. v. Aero Alloy, 912 F.2d 1090,
1092 (9th Cir. 1990). When the plaintiff does not meet the
burden of showing the court has subject matter jurisdiction,
the court must dismiss the action. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3).
“Because subject-matter jurisdiction involves a
court's power to hear a case, it can never be forfeited
or waived.” United States v. Cotton, 535 U.S.
625, 630 (2002).
motions to dismiss are persuasive. “Under
Rooker-Feldman, a federal district court does not
have subject matter jurisdiction to hear a direct appeal from
the final judgment of a state court.” Noel v.
Hall, 341 F.3d 1148, 1154 (9th Cir. 2003).
“Rooker held that when a losing plaintiff in
state court brings a suit in federal district court asserting
as legal wrongs the allegedly erroneous legal rulings of the
state court and seeks to vacate or set aside the judgment of
that court, the federal suit is a forbidden de facto
appeal.” Id. at 1156.
“Rooker-Feldman is a powerful doctrine that
prevents federal courts from second-guessing state court
decisions by barring the lower federal courts from hearing de
facto appeals from state-court judgements” when they
are “‘inextricably intertwined' with the
state court's decision.” Bianchi v.
Rylaarsdam, 334 F.3d 895, 898 (9th Cir. 2003) (quoting
D.C. Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 483
(1983)). A proceeding is inextricably intertwined when
“the adjudication of the federal claims would undercut
the state ruling or require the district court to interpret
the application of state laws or procedural rules.”
Id. Though the doctrine is not constitutional in
nature, it draws support from the principles of federalism
and comity by respecting the finality of state court
judgments. Id. at 902; see also In re
Gruntz, 202 F.3d 1074, 1078, 1086 n. 12 (9th Cir. 2000).
Plaintiff is bringing a suit in federal district court
alleging the state court's rulings are erroneous. He
seeks the Court's review of the Superior Court's
guardianship rulings, especially whether it violated his due
process rights by failing to give him notice. (See
FAC ¶¶ 18, 20, 23, 25, 26, 29, 31). He argues the
same in his Motion for a Preliminary Injunction and asks for
orders voiding the Superior Court rulings. (Doc. 9). He also
alleges that the “Notice of Lack of Jurisdiction and
Denial of Procedural Process” was considered and
understood, contrary to the Superior Court's order
calling it “not sufficiently developed.” (FAC
¶¶ 49-50; FAC, Exhibits F, H). The Superior Court
explicitly ruled that the litigants in the proceedings
complied with notice requirements and that Plaintiff's
lack of jurisdiction and denial of due process were not
developed enough for consideration. Plaintiff's claims