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Lim v. Goetz

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

February 5, 2016

CHANG LIM, Plaintiff,
v.
SANDY GOETZ, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Elizabeth K. Dillon United States District Judge

Plaintiff Chang Lim, proceeding pro se, has filed this action against a number of defendants. His amended complaint asserts thirteen counts. Of these, only the first two are federal causes of action, both of which are asserted only against defendant Marcus H. Long, Jr., a judge on the Circuit Court of Floyd County, Virginia. As discussed below, the court concludes that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction to consider the two federal claims against Judge Long pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Because the amended complaint asserts only federal question jurisdiction, and because the court concludes that it has no jurisdiction over the federal claims, the court cannot exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims. For these reasons, the court will grant Judge Long’s motion to dismiss and dismiss without prejudice the claims against him; and, because it lacks jurisdiction over the remaining claims, the court will deny the remaining defendants’ motions as moot and dismiss the claims against them without prejudice.

I. BACKGROUND

The facts underlying all of the claims in Lim’s amended complaint are interrelated. Lim, who resides in Floyd County, owned a house in Dexter, Michigan. He rented the house to defendants Sandy and Brian Goetz. Plaintiff claims that the Goetzes breached their lease and damaged his property to such an extent that he eventually had to sell the property for a “much lower price than expected due to damages.” (Dkt. No. 4, Am. Compl. at 8-9.) Lim also retained the Goetzes’ security deposit, in the amount of $2, 175. (Id. at 9.)

The Goetzes filed suit in small claims court in Michigan to recover their security deposit and, ultimately, were successful in obtaining a judgment against Lim. Lim contends that the Michigan court lacked personal jurisdiction over him and that the Goetzes and their counsel repeatedly failed to serve him with court documents or to provide notices of hearings. In an affidavit filed in this case, he submits that the Michigan judgment was “entered in violation of [his] constitutional rights (due process and equal protection) without timely notice or unbeknownst to me and with lack of subject matter jurisdiction.” (Id. at 41, Lim Aff. ¶ 13.) He also complains that the Gotezes and their Michigan attorneys sued Lim’s wife in Michigan “for harassment purposes” despite the fact that his wife had no minimum contacts with Michigan and was not a party to the lease. (Id. at 10.)

The Goetzes filed a Notice of Foreign Judgment in the Circuit Court of Floyd County, where Lim resides. To stop the Goetzes from trying to enforce the Michigan judgment, including through wage garnishment proceedings against his wife, Lim filed a “Motion to Set Aside Foreign Judgment” in the same case. In that motion, he alleged that the Michigan court lacked personal and subject matter jurisdiction, that there was improper and ineffective process of service, and that the Michigan judgment was the result of fraud. The case was assigned to Judge Long, who held a hearing on October 6, 2015.

Here, Lim alleges that, during the hearing, Judge Long “didn’t want to consider [Lim’s] arguments, ” “revealed extreme antagonism against Lim, ” and made statements such as “I don’t care whether the information is accurate or not and I just rule, ” and “I am not bound by any other court’s decision.” (Id. at 12.) Lim also argues that Judge Long’s legal rulings were improper. Ultimately, Judge Long ruled against Lim and in favor of the Goetzes, a ruling Lim challenges because it was drafted by the Goetzes’ counsel, “fail[ed] to accurately describe the circumstances, ” and contained no citations to any authority. (Id. at 42, Lim Aff. ¶ 15.) Upon the Goetzes’ motion, Judge Long also imposed sanctions in the amount of $2, 000 against Lim.

Lim’s amended complaint asserts two claims against Judge Long, both under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In Count One, he alleges that Judge Long violated his substantive due process rights. (Id. at 14.) In particular, he alleges that the Michigan court did not have proper jurisdiction over him and thus that Judge Long improperly enforced the Michigan judgment. Relatedly, he contends that the sanction against him was improper and that Judge Long’s “practice of rendering judicial opinions is highly subjective, arbitrary and manifests conscience shocking . . . in violation of [Lim’s] constitutional rights (both procedural and substantive due process).” (Id. at 16.)

In Count Two, Lim alleges that Judge Long violated his equal protection rights because Judge Long ignored Lim’s arguments and evidence. As part of this claim, Lim alleges that Judge Long treated him (as an Asian) differently from similarly situated Caucasians and that such difference in treatment was the result of purposeful or intentional discrimination. Lim does not offer any facts in support of this conclusory allegation, though. In a contradictory statement, moreover, he claims that Judge Long treated him poorly because of a “conflict of interest” related to a prior case, although his amended complaint does not specify what that case was or how it created a conflict of interest. (Id. at 13.)[1]

Lim’s remaining counts (three through thirteen) assert only state law claims against one or more of the remaining defendants, including the Goetzes, the attorneys and law firms who represented the Goetzes in both Michigan and Floyd, and the Michigan real estate company where Mrs. Goetz apparently worked. (Id. at 13.) Because the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the state law claims, it does not discuss them further.

In his prayer for relief, Lim asks for a declaratory judgment stating that he “is not obligated to make a payment to defendants Sandy Goetz and Brian Goetz as the foreign judgments in Michigan were unconstitutionally obtained.” (Id. at 24.) He also seeks injunctive relief against Judge Long, asking this court to order Judge Long to “stop exercising arbitrary judicial opinion practice and adhere to due process and equal protection” rights secured by the U.S. Constitution. (Id. at 25.) Additionally, Lim seeks damages against the remaining defendants, but not Judge Long. (Id.) The court reviewed the pleadings and briefing and notified the parties that it would rule without a hearing. See Local Rule 11(b).

II. DISCUSSION

Judge Long has filed a motion to dismiss, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), arguing both that he is entitled to judicial immunity from the claims against him and that the amended complaint fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted. In his reply, Judge Long also contends that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine ...


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