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FLEMING v. UNITED STATES

March 25, 1994

JAMES N. FLEMING, plaintiff(s)
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and in declaratory relief for Constitutional Protections and Guarantees Under the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, inter alia, all Judicial Employees for the United States Western District Court of Virginia; and of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Necessary Parties, defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: STANLEY SPORKIN

 Plaintiff James N. Fleming is a citizen of Virginia. In this class action complaint, he seeks declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief from the United States arising from the alleged violation of his constitutional rights by the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The gist of Fleming's complaint is that the application of the "Rooker-Feldman" doctrine, *fn1" which holds that a United States District Court has no authority to collaterally review a final judgment of a state supreme court in a civil case, is unconstitutional when applied to a black litigant.

 This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' motion to dismiss. The motion will be granted.

 Background

 This verdict was reversed by the Supreme Court of Virginia because the trial judge had improperly instructed the jury. See Fleming v. Moore, sub nom. Gazette, Inc. v. Harris, 221 Va. 884, 275 S.E.2d 632 (Va. 1981), cert. denied 469 U.S. 966 (1984). The suit was tried a second time in 1982 and Fleming lost again, this time to the tune of $ 100,000 in compensatory damages and $ 250,000 in punitive damages. The Supreme Court of Virginia heard argument on this second verdict and reversed in part and remanded, finding that the amount of the award bore no relationship to the loss actually sustained by the plaintiff. Fleming v. Moore, sub. nom. Gazette, Inc. v. Harris, 229 Va. 1, 325 S.E.2d 713 (1985), cert. denied, 472 U.S. 1032, 87 L. Ed. 2d 643, 105 S. Ct. 3513 (1985). On remand, the trial court entered a remittitur that reduced the award by one-third. Judgment was entered against the plaintiff for $ 233,333.34. Complaint Appendix J, pp. 181-185.

 The Supreme Court of Virginia refused to consider Fleming's further appeals. Fleming followed the appropriate procedures in challenging the Virginia Supreme Court's refusal to hear his appeal by filing a petition for certiorari with the United States Supreme Court. The petition was denied. Fleming v. Moore, sub nom. Lewis v. Port Packet Corp., 473 U.S. 905, 87 L. Ed. 2d 653, 105 S. Ct. 3528 (1985).

 Mr. Fleming was unwilling to abide by the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to hear his appeal. He proceeded to file a Section 1983 complaint in the Western District of Virginia against Moore for an injunction to stop enforcement of the judgment. The Federal District Court dismissed the complaint on the basis that Fleming's "sole remedy in the federal courts is by appeal to the United States Supreme Court." Fleming v. Moore, C/A No. 84-0042-C, slip op. at 1 (W.D. Va. March 29, 1985). Fleming appealed this dismissal to the 4th Circuit. The District Judge's dismissal was upheld by the Court of Appeals which explained that the "appropriate procedure" for attacking the judgement of Virginia's Supreme Court is a petition to the Supreme Court of the United States for certiorari. Fleming v. Moore, 780 F.2d 438, 440 (4th Cir. 1985). Fleming's attempt to obtain review of this decision in the U.S. Supreme Court was denied. Fleming v. Moore, 475 U.S. 1123, 90 L. Ed. 2d 189, 106 S. Ct. 1644 (1986).

 In the meantime, Fleming had requested that the Virginia Supreme Court review the judgment against him based on intervening developments in Virginia state law. The Virginia Supreme Court declined to review the matter and Fleming again filed a petition for certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court. The petition was denied, Fleming v. Moore, 479 U.S. 890, 93 L. Ed. 2d 265, 107 S. Ct. 291 (1986), as was Fleming's petition for rehearing. Fleming v. Moore, 479 U.S. 1012, 93 L. Ed. 2d 713, 107 S. Ct. 660 (1986).

 Fleming then filed another suit in Federal Court, this time against Moore, his attorneys and the justices of the Virginia Supreme Court who had ruled against him on various appeals. The suit was brought under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985(3), 1986 and 1988, alleging a deprivation of rights under the Thirteenth Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the First Amendment. Fleming claimed that the Virginia Supreme Court was punishing him as a black person for criticizing a white man. He asked the court to permanently enjoin enforcement of the libel judgment and to award him $ 1,000,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

 The District Court rejected all of Fleming's claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. This decision was appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. In a per curiam unpublished opinion, the Fourth Circuit affirmed, citing the Rooker-Feldman doctrine:

 
In a line of cases stretching over the past 65 years, the Supreme Court has emphasized that federal district courts and federal courts of appeals have no authority to review a final judgment of a state court that has acted in its judicial capacity. See District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 482, 75 L. Ed. 2d 206, 103 S. Ct. 1303 (1983); Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 415, 416, 68 L. Ed. 362, 44 S. Ct. 149 (1923). Only the United States Supreme Court has that power. Feldman, 460 U.S. at 482; 28 U.S.C. § 1257.

 Fleming v. Moore, CA-87-6619 (Slip op. at 5) (4th Cir. 1989). Fleming petitioned the United States Supreme Court for certiorari, which was denied. Fleming v. Moore, 493 U.S. 816, 107 L. Ed. 2d 34, 110 S. Ct. 67 (1989). Fleming asked for rehearing, which was denied. Fleming ...


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