United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
FRANK R. MONTERO, Plaintiff,
TULSA AIRPORT IMPROVEMENTS TRUST, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
TERENCE C. KERN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Plaintiff Frank Montero's pro se
Complaint (styled as “Petition”) (hereinafter
“Complaint”) (Doc. 4). For reasons discussed
below, the Complaint is dismissed sua sponte because
the Rooker-Feldman doctrine prevents this Court from
exercising subject-matter jurisdiction over this case.
See Rooker v. Fid. Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923);
D.C. Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462
January 15, 2014, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant in
the District Court for Tulsa County (“State Court
Action”), alleging breach of contract and various
claims of property damage arising out of Plaintiff's
lease of an airplane hangar from Defendant. (Complaint,
Montero v. Tulsa Airport Auth.,
CV-2014-72.) Plaintiff alleged that Defendant stole his
septic tank, gave it to his neighbor, and installed an
illegal bootlegged septic tank on Plaintiff's leased
airplane hangar. Id.
also alleged that he should not be required to purchase a
mandatory liability insurance policy pursuant to the
parties' lease agreement (“Ground Lease
Contract”), as the Ground Lease Contract was between
Defendant and A.A. Inc., Plaintiff's corporation, rather
than with Plaintiff personally, and also contained other
technical defects. (Compl. at 2.) In the State Court Action,
the judge judicially reformed the Ground Lease Contract to be
between Defendant and Frank Montero personally. (Id.
at 2, 6.) The state court also granted Defendant's motion
to dismiss and entered final judgment on July 14, 2015.
(Final Judg. of Dismissal with Prej., Montero v. Tulsa
Airport Auth., CV-2014-72.) Plaintiff filed the instant
action on November 14, 2017.
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, a
plaintiff has the burden to allege sufficient jurisdictional
facts to establish federal subject-matter jurisdiction.
See McNutt v. Gen. Motors Acceptance Corp. of Indiana,
Inc., 298 U.S. 178, 182 (1936) (“It is incumbent
upon the plaintiff to properly allege the jurisdictional
facts, according to the nature of the case.”);
Montoya v. Chao, 296 F.3d 952, 955 (10th Cir. 2002).
The Court addresses Plaintiff's Complaint sua
sponte because “[f]ederal courts ‘have an
independent obligation to determine whether subject-matter
jurisdiction exists, even in the absence of a challenge from
any party.'” 1mage Software, Inc. v. Reynolds
& Reynolds Co., 459 F.3d 1044, 1048 (10th Cir. 2006)
(quoting Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 546 U.S. 500,
501 (2006)); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3). A
court may raise the question of subject-matter jurisdiction
“at any stage in the litigation.” Id.
case raises the potential application of the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine. The Rooker-Feldman
doctrine establishes that, as a matter of subject-matter
jurisdiction, only the United States Supreme Court has
appellate authority to review a state-court judgment. See
Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S.
280, 284 (2005). Accordingly, this Court may not review a
state-court judgment. Id. The
Rooker-Feldman doctrine, however, does not extend to
parallel federal actions, or to independent claims, even if
those claims raise overlapping legal issues. Such cases would
be subject only to preclusion law. See id., 544 U.S.
is a pro se litigant participating in this
proceeding in forma pauperis; accordingly, the Court
construes his allegations liberally. See Hall v.
Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). If the
Court can reasonably read Plaintiff's Complaint to state
a valid ground for jurisdiction, the Court should do so
“despite the plaintiff's failure to cite proper
legal authorities, his confusion of various legal theories,
his poor syntax and sentence structure, or his unfamiliarity
with pleading requirements.” Id. However, it
is not the proper function of this Court to assume the role
of advocate for the pro se litigant. See
Plaintiff's allegations are not clearly stated, Plaintiff
appears to seek reconsideration of the claims he raised in
the State Court Action, as well as relief from enforcement of
the judgment in that case. In the Complaint, Plaintiff lists
his causes of action as follows: (1) declaratory judgment;
(2) unlawful conversion of an out-of-state corporation; (3)
wrongful conversion of Plaintiff's septic tank; (4)
“sounds in tort causing property damage”; (5)
“civil rights violations”; and (6) breach of
contract. (Compl. at 7-9.) Despite the liberal construction
that this Court affords to pro se pleadings, this
Court cannot construe these listed claims as anything other
than claims seeking review of and relief from the judgment in
the State Court Action. Plaintiff's first cause of action
requests immediate relief from the judgment in the State
Court Action, while his remaining causes of action challenge
the judgment in the State Court Action.
his Complaint, Plaintiff describes the same conduct which he
first challenged in the State Court Action, and how that
conduct has caused him harm. For example, Plaintiff describes
Defendant's alleged breach of contract and
Defendant's attempt to enforce the Ground Lease Contract
against him, rather than against A.A. Inc. (Id. at
¶¶ 4, 18.) Similarly, Plaintiff describes
Defendant's alleged misconduct related to his septic
tank, including that Defendant stole his septic tank, gave it
to his neighbor, and installed an illegal, bootlegged septic
tank on his property. (Id. at ¶ 18.) Plaintiff
also describes the judgment in the State Court Action, such
as the decision to judicially reform the Ground Lease
Contract, as well as how that judgment has harmed him, in
great detail. (Id. at ¶¶ 4-6.) Moreover,
Plaintiff devoted his entire jurisdiction section and
statement of facts to describing the harm he suffered as a
result of the State Court Action and its underlying events.
(Id. at ¶¶ 4-18.) Finally, Plaintiff has
pleaded no facts that suggest this case falls outside the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Specifically, he has not
pleaded any allegations that this federal court action is a
parallel action to the State Court Action, or pleaded any
facts indicating that Plaintiff has any claims independent of
the State Court Action.
together, Plaintiffs Complaint demonstrates that he is
seeking, essentially, a review of the judgment in the State
Court Action, rather than the adjudication of separate
claims. Accordingly, the Court lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction in this proceeding, pursuant to the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Plaintiffs Complaint (Doc.
4) is therefore DISMISSED ...