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CASE NO: 07-1667

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UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS


FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
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WILLIAM YEE;

Plaintiff – Appellant

G. Y. Minor Daughter of Plaintiff William R. Yee

Plaintiff

v.

STATE COURT ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE; RANDY O. COLBRY,


Prosecuting Attorney; J. KEVIN MCKAY, Magistrate/Court Administrator; H.
WILLIAM REISING; MICHAEL J. MANGAPORA; EDWARD B. DAVISON; J.
STEVEN JOHNSTON; MICHAEL J. GUSS; ALAN R. SULLIVAN; SMITH,
MARTIN, POWERS, AND KNIER, P.C.; PATRICK A. ASELTYNE; DAVID
CARBAJAL; LYNN D. BOWNE; THOMAS A. CONNOLLY; ARNOLD D.
DUNCHOCK; JAMES D. CPA, JR.; PHILLIP L. DULMAGE, et al.

Defendants – Appellees

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Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
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DEFENDANT-APPELLEE ALAN R. SULLIVAN’S BRIEF ON APPEAL


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COLLINS, EINHORN, FARRELL & ULANOFF, P.C.


By: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Attorneys for Defendant-Appellee Alan R. Sullivan
4000 Town Center, Suite 909
Southfield, MI 48075

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STATEMENT OF QUESTION PRESENTED

I. The Rooker-Feldman doctrine prevents a losing


party in a state-court action from challenging
the state-court judgment in a federal district
court. Yee’s federal complaint alleges that a
series of state-court trial and appellate decisions
against him were incorrect and invalid, and
should be set aside. Did the district court
properly rule that it lacked subject-matter
jurisdiction over Yee’s claims under the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine?
STATEMENT OF THE CASE

Plaintiff-Appellant William Yee is a licensed medical doctor and an attorney

licensed by the State Bar of Michigan. This case has its roots in a dispute over the

legal level of Bambi Lake in Michigan, which adjoins Yee’s property. The dispute

was fully litigated in the state trial court, the Michigan Court of Appeals, and the

Michigan Supreme Court. The United States Supreme Court denied Yee’s petition

for a writ of certiorari.

Rather than accept defeat, however, Yee began a relentless campaign to sue

just about everyone who has any remote connection to the state-court litigation

involving Bambi Lake in federal court. Defendants named in Yee’s federal

complaint include the state trial court; the trial court judge; the Michigan Court of

Appeals and several of its judges individually; the Michigan Supreme Court and all

seven of its justices; Michigan’s State Court Administrative Office (SCAO); the

Michigan Attorney General; the board of commissioners, drain commission, and

prosecuting attorney of Shiawassee County, Michigan; and a number of lawyers

who represented Yee’s opposing parties. Defendant-appellee Alan R. Sullivan is

one of the lawyers who represented one of Yee’s neighbors, a fellow riparian

owner on Bambi Lake who was one of Yee’s opponents in the state-court action.

For good measure, Yee has also added his grievances arising from his divorce, and

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sued anyone involved in that litigation, including judges, the Friend of the Court,

Yee’s ex-wife, and her lawyer.

Though Yee, through artful drafting, has concocted a number of labels for

his grievances, his complaint, at its essence, did nothing more than ask that the

district court declare that the state-court orders were invalid or otherwise improper.

The district court properly ruled that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine forbids such a

ruling, and dismissed Yee’s claims against Sullivan with prejudice. Yee appealed.

Sullivan asks this Court to affirm the district court’s dismissal of Yee’s claims

against him.

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STATEMENT OF FACTS

Plaintiff-appellant William Yee bought a house on Bambi Lake in Shiawassee

County, Michigan, in 1986 (R.158, Apx, pg. ___). Yee claimed that the lake level

between 1986, when he bought the house, and 1994 was 799 feet above sea level

(R.2, Apx., pgs ____; R.158, Apx., pg. ___). Yee alleged that his property was

damaged by flooding when the lake’s level was raised to 800.95 feet above sea level

in 1994 (R.2, Apx, pgs. ___).

In 1995, Yee sued the owners of other property surrounding the lake in the

Shiawassee Circuit Court (R.158, Apx., pg. ___). Because the sole Shiawassee

circuit judge recused himself, Michigan’s State Court Administrative Office (SCAO)

appointed Judge Judith Fullerton of Genesee County Circuit Court to preside over the

case (R.158, Apx., pg ___ n 2). The Michigan Department of Natural Resources

(DNR), later known as the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), intervened

in the case (R.158, Apx., pg. ___). Defendant-appellee Alan R. Sullivan is a lawyer

who represented one of the riparian owners Yee sued, George Braidwood, Sr.

Yee’s complaint sought monetary relief and also injunctive relief to set the

lake level a 799 feet above sea level (R.158, Apx., pg. ___). The DEQ filed a

motion, in which the riparian owners concurred, that alleged that the court lacked

subject-matter jurisdiction under the Inland Lake Level Act (ILLA) of Michigan’s

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Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA).1 The DEQ argued

that the ILLA set the exclusive procedure to establish a legal lake level for an inland

lake by requiring that any action to set a legal level must be initiated by a county

board of commissioners (R.158, Apx., pg. ___). Judge Fullerton granted the motion

and dismissed the case on February 3, 1999 (R.158, Apx., pg. ___).

Yee appealed to the Michigan Court of Appeals (R.158, Apx., pg. ___). While

the appeal was pending, Yee filed two more lawsuits in Shiawassee Circuit Court:

one named the Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners, the Shiawassee County

Drain Commissioner, and George Braidwood, Jr., as defendants, and sought to enjoin

the county commissioners from setting a legal lake level; the other was styled a

“quiet title” action, but the relief requested was the same as the other two lawsuits

(R.158, Apx., pg. ___). Shiawassee Circuit Court’s judge again recused himself, and

the SCAO again assigned the case to Judge Fullerton (R.158, Apx., pg. ___ n 4).

Judge Fullerton dismissed both cases (R.158, Apx., pg. ___). Yee appealed both

dismissals to the Michigan Court of Appeals, which consolidated all three of Yee’s

appeals (R.158, Apx., pg. ___).

The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Fullerton’s dismissals, holding

that the court correctly dismissed the first case because of a lack of subject-matter

jurisdiction and that the two later cases were both frivolous. Yee v. Shiawassee

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MCL s 324.30701 et seq.

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County Bd. of Commissioners, 251 Mich. App. 379, 651 N.W.2d 756 (2002). Yee

filed an application for leave to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court, which was

denied. Yee v. Shiawassee County Bd. of Commissioners, 468 Mich. 852, 658

N.W.2d 491 (2003). Yee unsuccessfully petitioned the United States Supreme Court

for certiorari. Yee v. Shiawassee County Bd. of Commissioners, 540 U.S. 1004, 124

S. Ct. 538, 157 L. Ed. 2d 409 (2003) (R.158, Apx., pg. ___). The Board’s action

began in June 2002, and Yee was permitted to intervene (R.158, Apx., pg. ___).

In the meantime, the other riparian property owners adjoining Bambi Lake

petitioned the Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners to begin an action

seeking to set a legal lake level, which, after studying the issue, the Board voted to

do. The Shiawassee Circuit Court established the lake level consistent with the

Board’s petition (R.158, Apx., pg. ___). Yee appealed to the Michigan Court of

Appeals, which affirmed the circuit court. In re Lake Level for Bambi Lake,

unpublished opinion per curiam of the Michigan Court of Appeals, issued September

28, 2004 (Docket No. 244794); 2004 WL 2169037; 2004 Mich. App. LEXIS 2556.

The Michigan Supreme Court denied Yee’s application for leave to appeal. In re

Lake Level for Bambi Lake, 472 Mich. 939, 698 N.W.2d 392 (2005). The United

States Supreme Court denied Yee’s petition for certiorari on January 23, 2006. Yee

v. Shiawassee County, 546 U.S. 1158, 126 S. Ct. 1188, 163 L. Ed. 2d 1142 (2006).

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Yee began this federal case in November 2006, filing a complaint asserting a

number of claims against dozens of defendants (R.1, Yee’s Complaint). Yee filed a

first amended complaint soon after, which named additional parties (R.2, Apx., pgs.

___). Yee’s complaint is more than 160 pages long and lists a number of grievances

against such parties as Judge Fullerton, the attorneys representing the riparian owners

on Bambi Lake, the Michigan Court of Appeals, several Court of Appeals judges, the

Michigan Supreme Court and each of its justices, the Michigan Attorney General, the

Shiawassee Board of Commissioners, the Shiawassee County Drain Commissioner,

the Shiawassee Prosecuting Attorney, the SCAO, the DEQ, and many more (R.2,

Apx., pgs. ___). The case was assigned to United States District Judge Gerald E.

Rosen.

As it relates to Sullivan, Yee’s complaint centers on his allegations that Judge

Fullerton (and later the Michigan appellate courts, and, apparently, the United States

Supreme Court) wrongly decided the Bambi Lake litigation (R.2, Apx., pgs. ___).

Yee’s complaint doesn’t simply contest an unfavorable decision, but instead goes as

far as alleging that it was the result of a vast “conspiracy” involving the attorneys

representing the riparian owners, the Michigan Attorney General, the county

government, and Judge Fullerton (R.2, Apx., pgs. ___). According to Yee, these

parties conspired together to deprive Yee of a number of rights (R.2, Apx., pgs. ___).

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All defendants, except Yee’s ex-wife Christine Roche and her lawyer Philip

Dulmage, filed motions to dismiss.2 Judge Rosen considered these motions as

groups (for example, the motions filed by the judges and governmental parties were

considered together), and entered several opinions granting each group of motions.

Judge Rosen granted Sullivan’s motion to dismiss in an opinion and order entered

January 23, 2007 (R.158, Apx., pgs. ___).

Judge Rosen held that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine barred Yee’s complaint

because Yee’s claims “necessarily would require [the district court] to review

Judge Fullerton’s various decisions,” which lower federal courts do not have

jurisdiction to do:

[T]o find for the Plaintiff necessarily would require this


Court to review Judge Fullerton’s various decisions and
find that she wrongly decided that the 1970 dam permit
did not establish a legal water level for Bambi Lake, that
she erred in deciding that his monetary judgment was
limited to his mediation award, and that she further
committed reversable [sic] error in deciding these matters
via summary disposition. As Rooker and Feldman and
their progeny make clear, this Court is without
jurisdiction to do so. [(R.158, Apx., pgs. ___).]

Yee moved unsuccessfully for reconsideration of each of the district court’s

orders. Yee also filed several unrelated motions seeking stays and injunctions of

his state-court divorce case, all of which were also denied. This appeal followed.

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Roche and Dulmage were ultimately dismissed when Judge Rosen declined to
exercise jurisdiction over Yee’s state-law claims against them.

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SUMMARY OF THE ARGUMENT

The Rooker-Feldman doctrine prevents the losing party in a state-court

action from challenging the state-court judgment in a federal district court. Here,

Yee’s claims do nothing but challenge the propriety of the state-court proceedings.

Yee’s entire complaint is premised on his contention that his various state-court

cases were wrongly decided and that Judge Fullerton’s various orders and

judgments concerning Bambi Lake’s legal level violated his rights. Rooker-

Feldman dictates that federal district courts lack jurisdiction to second-guess state-

court decisions. Therefore, the district court properly ruled that it lacked subject

matter jurisdiction over Yee’s claims.

ARGUMENT I

The Rooker-Feldman doctrine prevents a losing party


in state court actions from challenging the state court
judgment in district court. Yee’s claims are nothing
more than a challenge to the propriety of the state-
court proceedings. The district court properly ruled
that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Yee’s
claims under Rooker-Feldman.

A. Standard of Review

This Court reviews a district court’s decision to grant a motion to dismiss or

for summary judgment de novo. Stanek v. Greco, 323 F.3d 476, 478 (6th Cir.

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2003) (motions to dismiss); Peters v. Lincoln Electric Co., 285 F.3d 456, 465 (6th

Cir. 2003). Likewise, “[t]his court reviews de novo a district court’s dismissal of a

case on the grounds that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine deprives it of subject matter

jurisdiction.” Fieger v. Ferry, 471 F.3d 637, 643 (6th Cir. 2006).

B. The Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars federal suits attacking state-


court decisions.

The Rooker-Feldman doctrine, gets its name from two United States Supreme

Court cases, Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 68 L. Ed. 362, 44 S. Ct.

149 (1923), and District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462,

75 L. Ed. 2d 206, 103 S. Ct. 1303 (1983). In Rooker, the plaintiff sued in federal

district court alleging that an Indiana state court judgment, which was appealed to

and affirmed by the Indiana State Court, violated the United States Constitution.

Id. at 414-415. The plaintiff asked the district court to declare the state-court

judgment “null and void.” Id. The Supreme Court rejected the contention that it

was the province of the state court to decide the constitutional questions, if there

were any, and that if the wrong decision was made, the appellate process was the

appropriate procedure for correcting the alleged error:

If the constitutional questions stated in the bill actually


arose in the cause, it was the province and duty of the
state courts to decide them; and their decision, whether
right or wrong, was an exercise of jurisdiction. If the
decision was wrong, that did not make the judgment

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void, but merely left it open to reversal or modification in
an appropriate and timely appellate proceeding. Unless
and until so reversed or modified, it would be an
effective and conclusive adjudication. [Id. at 415
(emphasis added).]

The Supreme Court emphasized that “[u]nder the legislation of Congress, no court

of the United States other than [the Supreme] Court could entertain a proceeding to

reverse or modify the [state-court] judgment for errors of that character.” Id. at

416. By contrast, the “jurisdiction possessed by the District Courts is strictly

original,” as opposed to appellate. Id. The district court in Rooker therefore ruled

that it lacked jurisdiction over the plaintiff’s case, and the Supreme Court affirmed.

Id. at 415, 417.

In Feldman, supra, Feldman and Hickey each sought admission to the

District of Columbia Bar, but neither graduated from a law school approved by the

American Bar Association (ABA). The District of Columbia required all Bar

applicants to have graduated from ABA-accredited law schools. Feldman did not

attend law school, but rather, studied law under a strict apprenticeship program

then prescribed as an alternative form of legal education. He was admitted to the

Virginia Bar after completing the program and passing the Bar examination. Id. at

465. He later applied for membership in the Maryland Bar, which, like the D.C.

Bar, also required graduation from an ABA-accredited school; however, the

Maryland Bar granted Feldman a waiver of that requirement. Id. Feldman asked

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the highest D.C. court, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, to waive the

ABA-accredited law school requirement and allow him to take the Bar

examination. The D.C. Court of Appeals denied the waiver. Id. at 468. Feldman

then sued the D.C. Court of Appeals in the United States District Court for the

District of Columbia, and sought a ruling that the denial violated his constitutional

rights and an injunction requiring the D.C. Court of Appeals to either admit

Feldman without examination, or to allow him to take the Bar examination. Id.

The federal district court dismissed the case, ruling that it lacked jurisdiction to

review the decision “of a jurisdiction’s highest court.” Id. at 470. The Supreme

Court agreed, holding that “[r]eview of such determinations can be obtained only

in [the Supreme] Court.” Id. at 476.

The Rooker-Feldman doctrine, in other words, “holds that lower federal

courts lack subject matter jurisdiction to engage in appellate review of state court

proceedings or to adjudicate claims ‘inextricably entwined’ with issues decided in

state court proceedings.” Peterson Novelties, Inc. v. City of Berkeley, 305 F.3d 386

(6th Cir, 2002). “Where federal relief can only be predicated upon a conviction

that the state court was wrong, it is difficult to conceive of the federal proceeding

as, in substance, anything other than a prohibited appeal of the state-court

judgment.” Tropf v. Fidelity National Title Ins. Co., 289 F. 3d 929, 937 (6th Cir

2002).

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Under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, “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.” Johnson v De Grandy, 512 US

997, 1005-1006, 114 S. Ct. 2647, 129 L Ed 2d 775 (1994).

In Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 293; 125

S. Ct. 1517; 161 L. Ed. 2d 454 (2005), the Supreme Court acknowledged that not

every federal lawsuit that is premised on a disagreement with a state court’s legal

conclusions falls within the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. “If a federal plaintiff

present[s] some independent claim, albeit one that denies a legal conclusion that a

state court has reached in a case to which he was a party . . ., then there is

jurisdiction and state law determines whether the defendant prevails under

principles of preclusion.” Id.

After the Supreme Court decided Exxon Mobil, this Court addressed the

question of “how to differentiate between a claim that attacks a state court

judgment, which is within the scope of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, and an

independent claim, over which a district court may assert jurisdiction.”

McCormick v. Braverman, 451 F.3d 382, 393 (6th Cir. 2006). This Court held that

the relevant “inquiry … is the source of the injury the plaintiff alleges in the

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federal complaint,” and that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine applies where the

alleged source of injury is a state-court judgment or order:

If the source of the injury is the state court decision,


then the Rooker-Feldman doctrine would prevent the
district court from asserting jurisdiction. [Id. (emphasis
added).]

C. Yee’s federal suit is barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine


because it merely attacks state-court orders and judgments.

Here, Yee’s entire complaint is premised on his contention that his various

state court matters have been wrongly decided, and that Judge Fullerton’s various

orders and judgments concerning Bambi Lake’s legal level have violated any

number of his rights. These state-court orders and judgments are the alleged

sources of Yee’s claimed injuries. Under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the district

court lacked jurisdiction over Yee’s complaint because the district court could not

rule that the decisions in the course of the state court proceedings were made in

error.

Yee has unsuccessfully litigated, several times, the Bambi Lake issue in the

state circuit court, the Michigan Court of Appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court,

and the United States Supreme Court. Undeterred, Yee moved on to the district

court, seeking redress for the alleged wrongs committed in connection with the

Bambi Lake litigation. Incredibly, plaintiff was not simply content to call his state-

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court defeat a loss, but rather, he has alleged that it is the result of some vast, wide-

ranging conspiracy of governmental officials, lawyers, and judges. At its core,

Yee’s complaint asked the district court to declare that the multiple judgments of

multiple state courts were wrong, that Yee should have won his efforts to set the

legal lake level at 799 feet above sea level, and that his loss was caused by some

supposed secret conspiracy of judges, lawyers, and government officers. This is

precisely what the Rooker-Feldman doctrine prevents, and Judge Rosen correctly

dismissed the case on that basis.

On appeal, Yee does not cite a single case in support of his assertion that the

Rooker-Feldman doctrine does not apply. Instead, he states, conclusorily, that “the

Rooker-Feldman doctrine is irrelevant ….” (Yee’s Brief on Appeal, pp 25-26.) In

fact, his brief contains a barely cohesive jumble of numbered paragraphs that

largely repeats the allegation made in his complaint.

Yee’s status as an in pro per party is no excuse for this complete failure to

adequately brief his appeal. Yee is not simply an unrepresented layperson, but

instead is an attorney who is licensed by the State Bar of Michigan. Indeed,

virtually every paper Yee has filed in this action, including his brief on appeal in

this Court, lists his State Bar of Michigan membership number (also known as a

“P” number) next to his name on either the caption or the signature line, or both.

And Yee is also a licensed medical doctor. In short, Yee is a well-educated man

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who is both educated in the law, and licensed by the state of Michigan to practice

law.

As a lawyer, Yee should know that a fleeting reference to the Rooker-

Feldman doctrine in a single paragraph buried in his brief is not sufficient to

support reversal of the district court’s order, based primarily on the Rooker-

Feldman doctrine.

CONCLUSION AND RELIEF REQUESTED

Defendant-Appellee Alan R. Sullivan asks this Court to affirm the district

court’s order dismissing Plaintiff-Appellant’s claims against him.

COLLINS, EINHORN, FARRELL


& ULANOFF, P.C.

BY: ________________________________________
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Attorneys for Defendant-Appellee Sullivan
4000 Town Center, Suite 909
Southfield, MI 48075
(248) 355-4141

Dated: August 17, 2007

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