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Richter v. Richter

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

March 11, 2019

Gerald D. Richter, Petitioner,
v.
Lawrence A. Richter, et al., Respondents.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Honorable Leo I. Brisbois, United States Magistrate Judge.

         This matter came before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to an Order of referral from the Honorable Eric C. Tostrud, [Docket No. 22], made in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), upon Respondent's Motion to Dismiss, [Docket No. 19], and upon Petitioner's Motion for Issuance of Writ of Mandamus with Declaratory Judgment Declaring All Judgments of Waldemar Senyk and Judgments Based Upon Senyk's Judgments Void Ab Initio Pursuant F.R.C.P. Rule 60(b)(1-6) & (d)(3). [Docket No. 29].

         On January 7, 2019, the Court established a briefing schedule for Respondent's Motion to Dismiss, as well as, for Petitioner's Motion for Issuance of Writ of Mandamus with Declaratory Judgment Declaring All Judgments of Waldemar Senyk and Judgments Based Upon Senyk's Judgments Void Ab Initio. (Order [Docket No. 34]). The Court held a Motions Hearing on February 13, 2019, and took Repondent's Motion to Dismiss, [Docket No. 19], and Petitioner's Motion for Issuance of Writ of Mandamus with Declaratory Judgment Declaring All Judgments of Waldemar Senyk and Judgments Based Upon Senyk's Judgments Void Ab Initio, [Docket No. 29], under advisement. (Minute Entry [Docket No. 45]).

         For the reasons discussed herein, the Court recommends that Respondent's Motion to Dismiss, [Docket No. 19], be GRANTED, and Petitioner's Motion for Issuance of Writ of Mandamus with Declaratory Judgment Declaring All Judgments of Waldemar Senyk and Judgments Based Upon Senyk's Judgments Void Ab Initio Pursuant F.R.C.P. Rule 60(b)(1-6) & (d)(3), [Docket No. 29], be DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND AND STATEMENT OF FACTS[1]

         The full factual background for this case is more fully summarized in In re Estate of Richter, No. A17-0916, 2018 WL 1145727 (Minn.Ct.App. Mar. 5, 2018), review denied (May 15, 2018). The pertinent facts for purposes of the present motion are as follows:

In January 2014, Gerald Donald Richter (hereinafter “Decedent”) died. In re Estate of Richter, 2018 WL 1145727, at *2 (Minn.Ct.App. Mar. 5, 2018). Larry Richter became trustee of a living trust created by Decedent and informed his siblings that Decedent wished to divide the Richter Farm equally between them. Id. at *3.

         In September 2014, Petitioner filed a probate action and a separate action in the State of Minnesota, District Court, Otter Tail County, (hereinafter “Minnesota State District Court”) claiming express contract, implied contract, constructive trust, and unjust enrichment. Id. Petitioner later withdrew his claims for express and implied contract, and the Estate of Gerald Richter filed a counterclaim for money damages. Id. Petitioner's probate and contract actions were consolidated for trial. Id. Following a bench trial, the Minnesota State District Court made extensive findings of fact and conclusions of law and determined that the Estate of Gerald Richter was not unjustly enriched and that Petitioner was not entitled to a constructive trust conveying him the entire Richter Farm. Id. The Minnesota State District Court awarded the Estate of Gerald Richter $28, 135.41 from Petitioner for expenses related to the Richter Farm between 2014 and 2016. Id. at *2.

         Petitioner subsequently appealed the Minnesota State District Court's judgment to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. On March 5, 2018, the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the Minnesota State District Court's judgment. Petitioner then appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which denied further review on May 15, 2018.

         II. RESPONDENT'S MOTION TO DISMISS. [DOCKET NO. 19].

         Respondent moves the Court for an Order dismissing the Petition, [Docket No. 1], with prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), and alternatively, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Resp.'s Mot. to Dismiss [Docket No. 19]).

         A. Standard of Review

         Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         Pro se complaints and pleadings are to be construed liberally. Solomon v. Petray, 795 F.3d 777, 787 (8th Cir. 2015). “[I]f the essence of an allegation is discernible . . . then the district court should construe the complaint in a way that permits the layperson's claim to be considered within the proper legal framework.” Id. (citing Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004) (internal citations omitted)). However, “[p]ro se litigants are not excused from complying with court orders or substantive and procedural law.” Farnsworth v. City of Kansas City, Mo., 863 F.2d 33, 34 (8th Cir. 1988) (citing Burgs v. Sissel, 745 F.2d 526, 528 (8th Cir. 1984)).[2]

         “If the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h). Here, Respondent argues that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine deprives the Court of subject matter jurisdiction over the suit. (Resp.'s Mem. [Docket No. 20]).

         “The basis for the Rooker/Feldman doctrine is that, other than in the context of habeas claims, federal district courts are courts of original jurisdiction, and by statute they are precluded from serving as appellate courts to review state court judgments, as that appellate function is reserved to the Supreme Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1257.” Dornheim v. Sholes, 430 F.3d 919, 923 (8th Cir. 2005), cert. denied, 547 U.S. 1135 (2006). Rooker-Feldman bars “cases brought by state-court losers complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before the [federal] district court proceedings commenced and inviting district court review and rejection of those judgments.” Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Industries Corporation, 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005), See also, Robins v. Ritchie, 631 F.3d 919, 925 (8th Cir. 2011) (“‘[t]he basic theory of the Rooker- Feldman doctrine is that only the United States Supreme Court has been given jurisdiction to review a state-court decision, so federal district courts generally lack subject-matter jurisdiction over attempted appeals from a state-court judgment'”) (quoting Dodson v. Univ. of Ark. for Med. Scis., 601 F.3d 750, 754 (8th Cir. 2010)).

         B. ...


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