United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
L. HORAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Todd Michael Tomasella f/k/a Todd Micha-El of the Family
Tomasella filed a pro se civil rights complaint
implicating state court child support proceedings.
See Dkt. No. 2. His action has been referred to the
undersigned United States magistrate judge for pretrial
management under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and a standing order
of reference from United States District Judge David C.
Godbey. The undersigned enters these findings of fact,
conclusions of law, and recommendation that the Court should
dismiss this action without prejudice for lack of subject
brings claims against multiple state officials - the Texas
Attorney General, two state judges, a state district court
clerk, and a county sheriff - and multiple state entities,
including the “Division of Child Support, ” which
appears to be a department within the Office of Texas
Attorney General. Although his claims are packaged as civil
rights violations, they appear to arise from proceedings in
the 86th District Court of Kaufman County, Texas -
Rebecca Tomasella vs. Todd Tomasella, No. 55963
(filed Nov. 24, 1999), and In The Interest Of: Micah
David Tomasella, Rebecca Tomasella vs. Todd Michael
Tomasella, No. 61378 (filed Sept. 18, 2002).
that the Court likely lacked subject matter jurisdiction over
Tomasella's claims, the Court ordered that he file no
later than April 29, 2019 a written response to show the
Court that it has subject matter jurisdiction over this
lawsuit. See Dkt. No. 6. Tomasella filed his
response on April 23, 2019. See Dkt. No. 7.
Standards and Analysis
courts have an independent duty to examine their own subject
matter jurisdiction, see Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil
Co., 526 U.S. 574, 583-84 (1999), particularly when - as
is the case here - a plaintiff's complaint fails to make
it apparent that subject matter jurisdiction exists.
federal courts' jurisdiction is limited, and federal
courts generally may only hear a case if it involves a
question of federal law or where diversity of citizenship
exists between the parties. See 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1331, 1332. Because Tomasella chose to file his
lawsuit in federal court, it is his burden to establish
federal jurisdiction. See Butler v. Dallas Area Rapid
Transit, __ F. App'x__, No. 18-10262, 2019 WL
1410726, at *1 (5th Cir. Mar. 27, 2019) (per curiam)
(“[A]ssertions [that] are conclusory [ ] are
insufficient to support [an] attempt to establish
subject-matter jurisdiction.” (citing Evans v.
Dillard Univ., 672 Fed.Appx. 505, 505-06 (5th Cir. 2017)
(per cuiam); Jeanmarie v. United States, 242 F.3d
600, 602 (5th Cir. 2001))). And if he does not, this lawsuit
must be dismissed. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3)
(“If the court determines at any time that it lacks
subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the
diversity cases, each plaintiff's citizenship must be
diverse from each defendant's citizenship, and the amount
in controversy must exceed $75, 000. See 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1332(a), (b).
question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331
“exists when ‘a well-pleaded complaint
establishes either that federal law creates the cause of
action or that the plaintiff's right to relief
necessarily depends on resolution of a substantial question
of federal law.'” Borden v. Allstate Ins.
Co., 589 F.3d 168, 172 (5th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Franchise Tax Bd. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Tr.,
463 U.S. 1, 27-28 (1983)). “A federal question exists
‘if there appears on the face of the complaint some
substantial, disputed question of federal law.'”
In re Hot-Hed Inc., 477 F.3d 320, 323 (5th Cir.
2007) (quoting Carpenter v. Wichita Falls Indep. Sch.
Dist., 44 F.3d 362, 366 (5th Cir. 1995)).
Court will not assume it has jurisdiction. Rather, “the
basis upon which jurisdiction depends must be alleged
affirmatively and distinctly and cannot be established
argumentatively or by mere inference.” Getty Oil
Corp. v. Ins. Co. of N.A., 841 F.2d 1254, 1259 (5th Cir.
1988) (citing Ill. Cent. Gulf R. Co. v. Pargas,
Inc., 706 F.2d 633, 636 & n.2 (5th Cir. 1983)).
claims, rooted in state family court proceedings, implicate
“the Rooker-Feldman doctrine” - “a
narrow jurisdictional bar ... designed to prevent lower
federal courts from exercising jurisdiction over matters that
are exclusively reserved for Supreme Court review under 28
U.S.C. § 1257.” Gross v. Dannatt, 736
Fed.Appx. 493, 494 (5th Cir. 2018) (per curiam) (citing
Lance v. Dennis, 546 U.S. 459, 464, 463 (2006) (per
curiam); citation omitted). Put differently, federal-court
authority to review a state court's judgement lies
exclusively with the United States Supreme Court. See
Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S.
280, 292 (2005) (“Because § 1257, as long
interpreted, vests authority to review a state court's
judgment solely in this Court, the District Courts in
Rooker and Feldman lacked subject-matter
jurisdiction.” (citations omitted)); see also Hale
v. Harney, 786 F.2d 688, 691 (5th Cir. 1986)
(“Judicial errors committed in state courts are for
correction in the state court systems, at the head of which
stands the United State Supreme Court.”).
this doctrine, a federal district court lacks jurisdiction to
consider “cases brought by state-court losers
complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments
rendered before the district court proceedings commenced and
inviting district court review and rejection of those
judgments.” Exxon, 544 U.S. 280 at 284;
see Johnson v. De Grandy, 512 U.S. 997, 1005-06
(1994) (“under [Rooker-Feldman] a party losing
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” (citing D.C. Ct. App. v. Feldman, 460
U.S. 462, 482 (1983); Rooker v. Fid. Tr. Co., 263
U.S. 413, 416 (1923))); Houston v. Queen, 606
Fed.Appx. 725, 730 (5th Cir. 2015) (stating that there are
four elements to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine:
“(1) a state-court loser; (2) alleging harm caused by a
state-court judgment; (3) that was rendered before the
district court proceeding began; and (4) federal suit
requests review and reversal of the state-court
judgment.”); see also Truong v. Bank of Am.,
N.A., 717 F.3d 377, 382 (5th Cir. 2013)
(“‘Reduced to its essence, the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine holds that inferior federal
courts do not have the power to modify or reverse state court
judgments' except when authorized by Congress.”
(quoting Union Planters Bank Nat'l Ass'n v.
Salih, 369 F.3d 457, 462 (5th Cir. 2004))).
plaintiff cannot ‘circumvent this jurisdictional
limitation by asserting claims not raised in the state court
proceedings or claims framed as original claims for
relief,' if these claims are ‘inextricably
intertwined with a state judgment.'” Turner v.
Cade, 354 Fed.Appx. 108, 111 (5th Cir. 2009) (per
curiam) (quoting United ...