United States District Court, D. Oregon
OPINION AND ORDER
Michael McShane, United States District Judge.
se plaintiff Robert Mahler seeks leave to proceed in
forma pauperis (IFP). The Court, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2), must screen applications to proceed IFP
and dismiss any case that is frivolous or malicious, or fails
to state a claim on which relief may be granted. Pro
se pleadings are held to less stringent standards than
pleadings by attorneys. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S.
519, 520-21 (1972). That is, the court should construe
pleadings by pro se plaintiffs liberally and afford
the plaintiffs the benefit of any doubt. Karim-Panahi v.
Los Angeles Police Dep't, 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th
Mahler seeks to challenge his parking ticket following what
Mahler alleges were Constitutionally deficient proceedings in
Marion County Justice Court. Stated another way, Mahler seeks
to turn his parking ticket into a federal case. Mahler
alleges the judge below failed to grant him IFP status, and
that the “abbreviated trial” denied him
“the time to completely plead his case.” Compl.
¶¶ 7-8. Construed liberally, Mahler brings claims
to this Court that fall under the Oregon Tort Claims Act and
42 U.S.C.A. § 1983. Mahler seeks $155, 000 in damages and
asks this Court to stay the fines and fees from his state
complaint is an end run around state court proceedings and as
such, his claims are barred by the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine. Here, Mahler seeks to set aside the fine imposed by
the court below; i.e., that the deficiencies below render his
violation invalid. The Rooker- Feldman doctrine
deprives federal district courts of jurisdiction over cases
directly challenging a state court judgment. Exxon Mobil
Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 292
(2005); Amerisourcebergen Corp. v. Roden, 495 F.3d
1143, 1153 (9th Cir. 2007). As Mahler's action here is
actually an end run challenge to his state court violation,
his claims are barred.
there is no final judgment on his appeal in state court,
Younger abstention could prevent this court from
wading into the issues Mahler raises. “Younger
abstention is a common law equitable doctrine holding that a
federal court should refrain from interfering with a pending
state court proceeding. Poulos v. Caesars World,
Inc., 379 F.3d 654, 699 (9th Cir. 2004) (citations
omitted). Younger abstention applies when: (1) the
state proceedings are ongoing; (2) the claims implicate
important state interests; and (3) the state proceedings
provide an adequate forum to raise federal questions.
Weiner v. County of Sand Diego, 23 F.3d 263, 266
(9th Cir. 1994).
asks this Court to stay the payment required to appeal to the
Marion County Circuit Court demonstrating that if a final
judgement has not been given, the state proceedings are
ongoing. Given the types of claims made against the State of
Oregon, Mahler's claims implicate an important state
interest, and the forum of the Marion County Circuit Court is
adequate for such proceedings. Mahler's claims could be
barred since the three criteria for the Younger
abstention have been met in this case.
extent Mahler intended to bring a tort claim against
Defendants in Count 3, he must comply with the requirements
of the Oregon Tort Claims Act (OTCA), ORS 30.260-300. Compl.
¶ 21-24. “The Oregon Torts Claims Act provides an
exclusive remedy for pursuing a tort claim against a public
body.” Plumeau v. Sch. Dist. No. 40 Cnty of
Yamhill, 130 F.3d 432, 436 (9th Cir. 1997). The OTCA
requires plaintiffs to give notice of their claims to the
public body in question, usually within 180 days after the
alleged loss or injury. ORS 30.275(2)(b). The burden is on
the plaintiff to show the notice was timely. ORS 30.275(7).
In this case, Mahler does not mention any notice given to
Defendants and unless notice is provided, Mahler's tort
claims against the public body defendants would be barred.
Sovereign and Judicial Immunity
Eleventh Amendment provides the states with “sovereign
immunity” allowing a state immunity from suit, whether
by its own citizens or those of another state, without its
consent. U.S. Const. amend. XI; Va. Office for Prot.
& Advocacy v. Stewart, 131 S.Ct. 1632, 1637 (2011).
Absent a waiver, or congressional abrogation, the courts
cannot entertain an individual's suit against a state.
Id. at 1638. The State must choose to assert this
defense and, without such assertion, a court can ignore it.
Wis. Dep't of Corr. v. Schacht, 524 U.S. 381,
389 (1998). The state of Oregon has not appeared yet to
assert this affirmative defense, but should the defense be
raised Mahler's claims against the state would be barred.
immunity is a common law doctrine that protects “the
finality of judgements” and “discourage[es]
inappropriate collateral attacks . . . by insulating judges
from vexatious actions prosecuted by disgruntled
litigants.” Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219,
225 (1988)(citing Bradley v. Fisher, 80 U.S. 335, 347
(1871)). “The common law's rationale for these
decisions- freeing the judicial process of harassment or
intimidation-has been thought to require absolute immunity
even for advocates and witnesses. Id. However, even
with this immunity, “judicial mistakes or wrongs are
open to correction through ordinary mechanisms of review,
” the appellate process. Id.
case, Mahler's claims are all based on certain alleged
events and actions that occurred during the litigation of a
parking ticket in Marion County Justice Court. Given common
law notions of judicial immunity, this sort of collateral
suit claiming error in adjudication is barred. Mahler is free
to pursue these claims through the “ordinary ...