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Thomas v. Disanto

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Waycross Division

June 23, 2017

THOMAS L. THOMAS, on behalf of Artheray D. Thomas, Petitioner,



         Petitioner Thomas Thomas (“Thomas”), proceeding pro se, has filed a cause of action seeking habeas corpus and coram nobis relief pursuant to the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651, and 28 U.S.C. § 2241.[1] (Doc. 1.) Thomas has also filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis, a Motion to Forward State Records, and a Motion for Process of Service. (Docs. 2, 3, 4.) For the reasons which follow, the Court DISMISSES as moot Thomas' Motions for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis[[2]], to Forward State Records, and for Process of Service. For these same reasons, I RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS this cause of action and DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case.


         Thomas filed his Petition on January 12, 2017. (Doc. 1.) He asserts that his son is being “unlawfully restrained” of his liberty as a result of child custody proceedings in the State of Ohio. (Id. at p. 3.) Thomas requests that this Court reverse the unlawful and invalid orders the Ohio state courts have issued. (Id. at p. 11.) Thomas names as Respondents Dorene Disanto, the mother of his son and a resident of the State of Ohio, and Mike DeWine, the Attorney General for the State of Ohio. Thomas raises several issues in his Petition, which the Court addresses in turn.


         I. Whether Thomas Filed his Petition in the Proper Court

         Thomas is challenging child custody proceedings arising in the State of Ohio. Because he is challenging child custody proceedings and he names residents of Ohio as Respondents, his Petition should have been filed in the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, rather than in the Waycross Division of this Court. 28 U.S.C. § 115(a)(1); Ramirez v. Hastings, No. CV214-085, 2015 WL 1022363, at *2 (S.D. Ga. Mar. 9, 2015) (“[A] habeas petition . . . generally is available only for challenging the execution of a sentence or the nature of confinement, ‘not the validity of the sentence itself or the fact of confinement, ' and is filed in the district of” the alleged unlawful detention.) (internal citation omitted). A district court may raise the issue of defective venue sua sponte. Collins v. Hagel, No. 1:13-CV-2051-WSD, 2015 WL 5691076, at *1 (N.D.Ga. Sept. 28, 2015) (citing Kapordelis v. Danzig, 387 F. App'x 905, 906-07 (11th Cir. 2010) (affirming sua sponte transfer, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a), of pro se prisoner's civil rights action from New York to Georgia); Berry v. Salter, 179 F.Supp.2d 1345, 1350 (M.D. Ala. 2001); cf. Lipofsky v. New York State Workers Comp. Bd., 861 F.2d 1257, 1259 (11th Cir. 1988); and Nalls v. Coleman Low Fed. Inst., 440 F. App'x 704, 706 (11th Cir. 2011)). When venue is improper, a court “shall dismiss, or if it be in the interest of justice, transfer such case to any district . . . in which it could have been brought.” 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). “The court may transfer the case if (1) the proposed transferee court is one in which the action ‘could have been brought' and (2) transfer would be ‘in the interest of justice.'” Leach v. Peacock, Civil Action No. 2:09cv738-MHT, 2011 WL 1130596, at *4 (M.D. Ala. Mar. 25, 2011) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a)). Trial courts generally have broad discretion in determining whether to transfer or dismiss a case. Id. (citing England v. ITT Thompson Indus., Inc., 856 F.2d 1518, 1520 (11th Cir. 1988)). Ordinarily, this Court would transfer this case, in the interest of justice, as venue is not proper in this Court.

         However, as explained below, in this case, the interest of justice would not be served by transferring this case to the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division. Thomas' Petition would be subject to dismissal in that court for the reasons which follow, and thus, transferring this case to another district would be futile. Accordingly, the Court should DISMISS Thomas' Petition on the basis of improper venue.

         II. Whether This Court can Review State Court Proceedings

         Thomas is essentially requesting that this Court review child custody proceedings which occurred within the State of Ohio. However, this Court is without jurisdiction to do so.

         Pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the Court is without jurisdiction over claims which essentially seek review of a state court judgment. “The Rooker-Feldman doctrine derives from Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Company, 263 U.S. 413 (1923), and District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983), and provides that, as a general matter, federal district courts lack jurisdiction to review a final state court decision.” McCorvey v. Weaver, 620 F. App'x 881, 882 (11th Cir. 2015). Nor under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine may a federal court “decide federal issues that are raised in state proceedings and ‘inextricably intertwined' with the state court's judgment.” Datz v. Kilgore, 51 F.3d 252, 253 (11th Cir. 1995) (quoting Staley v. Ledbetter, 837 F.2d 1016, 1018 (11th Cir. 1988)). “Rooker-Feldman applies because, among the federal courts, Congress authorized only the [United States] Supreme Court to reverse or modify a state court decision.” Helton v. Ramsay, 566 F. App'x 876, 877 (11th Cir. 2014) (citing Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005)). Put succinctly, this Court is not an appeals court to which a losing or disgruntled state court party can appeal an unfavorable decision. This Court and other federal courts frequently find that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine prevents federal courts from hearing claims based on a state court's custody determination or parental rights' termination. See, e.g., Goodman ex rel. Goodman v. Sipos, 259 F.3d 1327, 1334 (11th Cir. 2001) (finding that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine barred jurisdiction over the plaintiffs' due process claims against state officials because the success of those claims would require finding that the state court wrongly decided to terminate the plaintiffs' parental rights and wrongly denied their petition for return of custody); Taylor v. Randolph, 594 F. App'x 578 (11th Cir. 2014) (Rooker-Feldman doctrine barred mother's claims against state court judges and employees of sheriff's office and child protection agency, alleging that defendants' decisions in child-custody proceedings and child well-being matters violated her and her child's fundamental rights); Plunkett v. Rountree, No. CV214-015, 2015 WL 1505970, at *12 (S.D. Ga. Mar. 31, 2015) (dismissing claims based on juvenile court's removal of plaintiff's children, the litigation in juvenile court, and the treatment of her children in foster care); Daw v. Cowan, No. 3:11CV96/RV/EMT, 2013 WL 5838683, at *5 (N.D. Fla. Oct. 30, 2013) (“[T]o the extent Plaintiff seeks review of any final judgments issued by the state court, including those that terminated her parental rights, this court lacks jurisdiction over the matter.”). Further, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has “also determined those officers and other government personnel acting pursuant to, or in concert with, child-custody or child well-being proceedings fall within the Rooker-Feldman doctrine because their acts are inextricably intertwined with state court judgments.” Taylor, 594 F. App'x at 580 (citing Goodman, 259 F.3d at 1334.)[3]

         Because Thomas is seeking review of child custody proceedings in the State of Ohio, this Court lacks jurisdiction over the matter. Thus, the Court should DISMISS Thomas' Petition for lack of jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.

         III. Whether the All Writs Act is Applicable

         The All Writs Act permits courts to “issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their . . . jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.” 28 U.S.C. § 1651(a). A petition seeking relief under the All Writs Act is a collateral proceeding and is not predicated on a specific cause of action. Klay v. United HealthGroup, Inc., 376 F.3d 1092, 1100 (11th Cir. 2004). Rather, the movant “must simply point to some ongoing proceeding, or some past order or judgment [of the court], the integrity of which is being threatened by someone else's action or behavior.” Id. However, “[w]here a statute specifically addresses the particular issue at hand, it is that authority, and not the All Writs Act, that is controlling. Although that Act empowers federal courts to fashion extraordinary remedies when the need arises, it does not authorize them to issue ad hoc writs whenever compliance with statutory procedures appears inconvenient or less appropriate.” Pa. Bureau of Corr. v. United States Marshals Serv., 474 U.S. 34, 43 (1985).

         As noted throughout this Report, this Court lacks jurisdiction to address the merits of Thomas' Petition. Thomas also fails to establish that the integrity of the state court proceedings has been threatened by another party or that he lacks other avenues of relief. Consequently, Thomas cannot use the All Writs Act to attack child custody proceedings in this Court. The fact that Thomas was ultimately unable to obtain relief through the courts in the State of Ohio does not provide grounds for the Court to invoke the All Writs Act. Id. (affirming district court's dismissal of petitioner's collateral attack on his conviction, brought pursuant to the All Writs Act, as a successive habeas petition “[b]ecause [petitioner] could not circumvent the statutory requirements for filing a successive [28 U.S.C.] § 2254 petition by invoking the All Writs Act[.]”). Here, Thomas asks this Court to invalidate the ...

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