United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
CAROL M. KAM, Plaintiff,
DALLAS COUNTY, et al., Defendants.
FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
HARRIS TOLIVER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
to Special Order 3 and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b),
State of Texas' Motion to Dismiss, Doc. 24, and
Dallas County's Motion to Dismiss, Doc. 29, have
been referred to the undersigned for a recommended
disposition. For the reasons stated herein, Dallas
County's motion should be GRANTED IN
PART, resulting in the dismissal of all of
Plaintiff's claims, and the State of Texas' motion
should be DENIED AS MOOT.
Carol Kam brings this pro se action against the
State of Texas and Dallas County (the “County”)
(collectively “Defendants”) arising from the
probate litigation that ensued after the deaths of her
brother, Robert Kam, and father, Charles Kam (the
Litigation Regarding Robert Kam's Estate
alleges that in February 2011, after being diagnosed with
pancreatic cancer, Robert created a trust for his estate,
over which Plaintiff's brother, David Kam, was named
trustee (the “Original Trust”). Doc. 3 at 6, 37.
Under the terms of the Original Trust, Plaintiff was to
receive a $10, 000.00 inheritance. Doc. 3 at 7. Plaintiff
further alleges that in March 2011, Robert's girlfriend,
with the aid of her attorney, David Pyke (“Attorney
Pyke”), made changes to the Original Trust that were
approved by David and Robert (the “Amended
Trust”). Doc. 3 at 8-9. When it was discovered that the
provision providing for Plaintiff's inheritance had been
removed, Attorney Pyke drafted an amendment restoring
Plaintiff's inheritance, which was subsequently signed by
Robert (the “Second Amendment”). Doc. 3 at 10-11.
However, following Robert's death, David refused to
distribute to Plaintiff the sum she inherited. Doc. 3 at 11.
Plaintiff and her nephew, Justin Kam, who was also
dissatisfied with his inheritance under the Amended Trust,
filed a will contest in Dallas Probate Court No. 3, seeking
to void the Amended Trust and uphold the Original Trust (the
“First Will Contest”). Doc. 3 at 11. The case was
assigned to Judge Michael Miller and subsequently transferred
to Judge John Peyton for trial in July 2013, during which
Robert's testamentary capacity at the time he executed
the Amended Trust was contested. Doc. 3 at 11-13. Judge
Peyton found, inter alia, that (1) Plaintiff and
Justin failed to meet their burden of proof on all counts,
(2) the Original Trust was unenforceable, and (3) the contest
was maintained in bad faith and without probable cause. Doc.
3 at 48-49. Thus, pursuant to the Amended Trust's
“no contest” provision, Judge Peyton found that
Plaintiff and Justin revoked all benefits to which they would
have been entitled under the terms of the Amended Trust and
Second Amendment. Doc. 3 at 49. Judge Peyton also ordered
Plaintiff and Justin to pay attorneys' fees and
litigation expenses totaling $226, 242.88. Doc. 3 at 49-51.
Judge Peyton's ruling was affirmed on rehearing and in
November 2015, Judge Margaret Jones Johnson denied
Plaintiff's bill of review. Doc. 3 at 14- 16. The Fifth Court
of Appeals affirmed Judge Johnson's denial. Doc. 3 at 16;
see In re Estate of Kam, No.
05-16-00126-CV, 2016 WL 7473905 (Tex. App.--Dallas 2016, pet.
denied). Finally, in March 2017, the Supreme Court of Texas
denied Plaintiff's petition for review. Doc. 3 at 16.
Litigation Regarding Charles Kam's Estate
alleges that in April 2012, during the pendency of the First
Will Contest, Charles amended his will to remove David as an
heir. Doc. 3 at 18. After Charles died in August 2012,
Plaintiff filed the amended will for probate. Doc. 3 at
18-19. Thereafter, David, represented by Attorney Pyke,
contested the will (the “Second Will Contest”).
Doc. 3 at 19. Plaintiff alleges that David did so “to
destroy the entire amount of the Estate” through costly
litigation. Doc. 3 at 20. In September 2013, trial was held
in Dallas Probate Court No. 2 before Judge Chris Wilmouth,
who denied Plaintiff's application for probate. Doc. 3 at
20-21. In February 2016, the Eighth Court of Appeals reversed
Judge Wilmouth's ruling, admitted Charles' amended
will to probate, and awarded Plaintiff costs of the appeal.
Doc. 3 at 21-22; see Matter of Kam, 484
S.W.3d 642 (Tex. App.--El Paso 2016, pet. denied).
The Instant Lawsuit
February 2018, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit in which she
asserts violations of her Fourteenth Amendment right to due
process because the state judges and justices involved in the
Probate Proceedings allegedly denied her the right to a fair
trial. Specifically, Plaintiff challenges the validity of the
judgment entered in the First Will Contest, arguing: (1)
Robert lacked testamentary capacity to execute the Amended
Trust, Doc. 3 at 24-27; (2) Attorney Pyke relied on forged
evidence at trial, Doc. 3 at 28-29; (3) Judge Peyton lacked
authority to preside over the trial, Doc. 3 at 30-33; and (4)
Judge Peyton improperly denied Plaintiff the right to
question a witness during the rehearing, Doc. 3 at 34-36.
Plaintiff also contends she is entitled to the $10, 000.00
she inherited from Robert, and that Judge Peyton's order
that she pay over $200, 000.00 in litigation expenses and
court costs is a baseless and “malicious
penalty.” Doc. 3 at 37-42. As relief, Plaintiff
requests that: (1) Defendants grant her “a Fair Trial,
with a Jury, so [she] may have the opportunity to have the
Malicious Judgment removed, ” (2) she “receive
[her] assigned inheritance, ” and (3) she be fully
reimbursed for all legal expenses and court costs incurred to
date. Doc. 3 at 46.
County and State filed motions to dismiss Plaintiff's
Original Complaint on March 24, 2018 and April 6, 2018,
respectively. Doc. 24; Doc. 29. Plaintiff responded to each.
Doc. 30; Doc. 31. Only the County filed a
reply. Doc. 32.
motion to dismiss, the County argues, inter alia,
that the Rooker-Feldman
doctrinedivests this Court of jurisdiction to hear
Plaintiff's claims. Doc. 29 at 8-10. Upon review, the
County's argument is well-founded and entirely disposes
of Plaintiff's claims. As such, the Court need not reach
the other arguments raised by the County or the State of
Texas' motions to dismiss.