Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

Rooker Feldman Does Not Apply until State Court Judgment Has Become Final — Inapplicable to Interlocutory Orders — Circuit Split

Persley v. Lee, 794 F. Supp. 2d 728 (E.D. Ky. 2011):

While Defendant correctly argues that a lower federal court may not review final state court judgments, the matter before this Court has not become final. Thus, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine does not apply. The Rooker-Feldman doctrine precludes this Court "from exercising appellate jurisdiction over final state-court judgments." Lance v. Dennis, 546 U.S. 459, 463, 126 S. Ct. 1198, 163 L. Ed. 2d 1059 (2006). The Supreme Court, however, has recently limited this doctrine's application solely to cases where "the losing party in state court filed suit in federal court after the state proceedings ended, complaining of an injury caused by the state-court judgment and seeking review and rejection of that judgment." Exxon Mobil Corp v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 292, 125 S. Ct. 1517, 161 L. Ed. 2d 454 (2005) (emphasis added). While the Sixth Circuit has held since 2003 the doctrine applies in pre-judgment matters, it has not revisited this issue post-Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp, 544 U.S. 280, 125 S. Ct. 1517, 161 L. Ed. 2d 454. Other circuits, however, have held that Exxon Mobil Corp. makes it clear that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine does not apply to interlocutory orders. See Nicholson v. Shafe, 558 F.3d 1266, 1276-77 (11th Cir. 2009) ("[T]he . . . Sixth Circuit[] lacked the benefit of the analysis in Exxon Mobil, in which the Supreme Court 'confined' the application of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine to cases resembling Rooker and Feldman where the 'state proceedings ended.'"); TruServ Corp. v. Flegles, Inc., 419 F.3d 584, 591 (7th Cir. 2005) ("Therefore, under the Supreme Court's recent ruling [in Exxon Mobil], the Rooker-Feldman doctrine is not applicable to this lawsuit because the Kentucky court's judgment was not rendered before the district court proceedings commenced."); see generally Dustin E. Buehler, Revisiting Rooker-Feldman: Extending the Doctrine to State Court Interlocutory Orders, 36 Fla. St. U. L. Rev. 373 (2009) (discussing the circuit split on whether Rooker-Feldman bars suit to challenge state interlocutory orders in light of Exxon Mobil). In the matter presently before the Court, state proceedings have not ended in the Fayette Circuit Court. Rather, the proceedings are just beginning as a result of the Circuit Court's Order Setting Aside Default Judgment. [Record No. 1, para. 21]. Applying Exxon Mobil Corp., this Court shall deny Plaintiff's Motion to Dismiss based on the Rooker-Feldman doctrine for failure to state a claim.

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