The opinion of the court was delivered by: Susan Oki Mollway Chief United States District Judge
ORDER (1) DISMISSING COMPLAINT AND (2) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S APPLICATION TO PROCEED WITHOUT PREPAYMENT OF FEES
On February 21, 2012, Plaintiff Glenn K. Mizukami filed a Verified Complaint (the "Complaint") against Defendants Donna C. Edwards, Thomas D. Collins III, the State of Hawaii, Governor Neil Abercrombie (incorrectly named as "Neal Abercrombie"), Judge Paul T. Murakami, Judge R. Mark Browning, and Judge Daniel R. Foley (collectively, "Defendants"). Concurrent with the filing of his Complaint, Mizukami filed an Application to Proceed Without Prepayment of Fees, which he titled "To Proceed in Forma Pauperis" (the "Application"). As the Complaint fails to state a claim that can be brought in this court, the court DISMISSES the Complaint without prejudice and DENIES the Application as moot.
A court may deny leave to proceed in forma pauperis at the outset if it appears from the facts of the proposed complaint that the action is frivolous, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). See also Tripati v. First Nat'l Bank & Trust, 821 F.2d 1368, 1370 (9th Cir. 1987) (citing Reece v. Washington, 310 F.2d 139, 140 (9th Cir. 1962)).
As a general principle, this court may not exercise appellate jurisdiction over state court decisions. D.C. Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 482-86 (1983); Rooker v. Fid. Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 415-16 (1923). This rule, commonly known as the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, provides that: a losing party in state court is barred from seeking what in substance would be appellate review of the state judgment in a United States District Court, based on the losing party's claim that the state judgment itself violates the loser's federal rights.
Bennett v. Yoshina, 140 F.3d 1218, 1223 (9th Cir. 1998) (quoting Johnson v. De Grandy, 512 U.S. 997, 1005-06 (1994)).
The Rooker-Feldman doctrine precludes a district court from exercising subject-matter jurisdiction in an action it would otherwise be empowered to adjudicate. See Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284, 291 (2005) (noting that the doctrine bars district courts from reviewing challenges brought by state-court losers challenging state-court judgments). See also Allah v. Superior Court of Cal., 871 F.2d 887, 890-91 (9th Cir. 1989), superseded on other grounds by Fed. R. App. P. 4, as recognized in Harmston v. City & Cnty. of S.F., 627 F.3d 1273, 1279-80 (9th Cir. 2010). Litigants who believe that state judicial proceedings have violated their constitutional rights must appeal those decisions through their state courts and then to the Supreme Court. See Feldman, 460 U.S. 482-483; Bennett, 140 F.3d at 1223 (noting that "[t]he rationale behind [the Rooker-Feldman doctrine] is that the only federal court with the power to hear appeals from state courts is the United States Supreme Court").
The Rooker-Feldman doctrine does not apply to a "general constitutional challenge"--one that does not require review of a final state court decision in a particular case. Doe & Assocs. Law Offices v. Napolitano, 252 F.3d 1026, 1029 (9th Cir. 2001). "[The] distinction between a permissible general constitutional challenge and an impermissible appeal of a state court determination may be subtle, and difficult to make." Id. If the federal constitutional claims presented to a court are "inextricably intertwined" with the state court's judgment, then a plaintiff is essentially asking this court to review the state court's decision. Id.
Mizukami's Complaint arises from various disputes with Edwards in the Family Court of the First Circuit, State of Hawaii ("Family Court"), and the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals ("ICA") regarding custody and child-support payments. Mizukami and Edwards were previously married, but divorced in 1991.
Compl. ¶ 3, ECF No. 1. This is not the first action Mizukami has filed in this court. He has two prior cases, which also concerned state court proceedings. See Mizukami v. Edwards, Civ. No. 09-00550 SOM/BMK (initiated Nov. 17, 2009); Mizukami v. Edwards, Civ. No. 09-00572 DAE/KSC (initiated Dec. 4, 2009). Those cases were dismissed. The present action was filed on the same day as another case, in which Mizukami similarly makes allegations relating to state court proceedings. See Mizukami v. Edwards, Civ. No. 12-00103 LEK/BMK (initiated Feb. 21, 2012).
It is not entirely clear from the Complaint in this case what occurred, but it appears that, in 2000, Mizukami and Edwards went to Family Court to address issues such as child-support payments. Id. ¶¶ 14-17. Mizukami alleges that on February 10, 2000, the Hawaii Child Support Enforcement Agency issued an order against Edwards in Mizukami's favor. Id. ¶ 14. Edwards then allegedly retained Collins to represent her. Id. ¶ 15. On May 14, 2001, Judge Murakami allegedly denied Edwards's claims against Mizukami, but by order dated May 15, 2001, awarded Edwards and Collins $3,400 in attorneys' fees. Id. ¶¶ 16-17.
Judge Murakami's order was appealed to the ICA, which allegedly affirmed the Family Court's order, but awarded Edwards and Collins $8,613 in attorneys' fees. Id. ¶ 18. In 2002, the parties again went to Family Court, and, by order dated January 14, 2002, the Family Court awarded Collins $29,273 in attorneys' fees. Id. ¶ 19. The Family Court's order was appealed to the ICA, and Mizukami alleges ...