United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION AND ORDER
BARBARA B. CRABB DISTRICT JUDGE
proposed civil action for monetary relief, pro se plaintiff
Lawrence William Watson, Sr. is alleging that defendant Dane
County Child Support Agency and several individuals working
with it violated his constitutional rights in conjunction
with paternity judgments and income withholding orders issued
in the Circuit Court for Dane County, Wisconsin. Because
plaintiff is proceeding under the in forma pauperis statute,
28 U.S.C. § 1915, and has not made an initial partial
payment, I must screen his complaint and dismiss any claims
that are legally frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted or ask for money damages
from a defendant who by law cannot be sued for money damages.
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
this court plainly lacks subject matter jurisdiction over
plaintiff's claims, I am dismissing plaintiff's
threshold question in any case is whether the court has
jurisdiction over any of the claims that plaintiff is trying
to bring. Federal courts have limited jurisdiction, which
means that they may hear a case only if Congress or the
Constitution authorizes it. As a result, I must determine
whether subject matter jurisdiction exists, even if none of
the parties raise the issue. McCready v. White, 417
F.3d 700, 702 (7th Cir. 2005).
support, child custody and alimony decisions fall within the
areas of family or domestic relations, which are exclusively
governed by state law. Ankenbrandt v. Richards, 504
U.S. 689, 703 (1992) (federal courts lack jurisdiction over
domestic relations cases in which the relief sought would
“involve[e] the issuance of a divorce, alimony, or
child custody decree”); Rose v. Rose, 481 U.S.
619, 625 (1987) (quoting In re Burrus, 136 U.S. 586,
593-94 (1890)) (“[T]he whole subject of the domestic
relations of husband and wife, parent and child, belongs to
the laws of the States and not to the laws of the United
States.”); Moore v. Sims, 442 U.S. 415, 435
(1979) (“Family relations are a traditional area of
state concern.”); De Sylva v. Ballentine, 351
U.S. 570, 580 (1956) (“[T]here is no federal law of
domestic relations, which is primarily a matter of state
concern.”). Indeed, federal courts must refrain from
exercising jurisdiction over claims that would interfere with
domestic-relations issues that belong in state court.
Struck v. Cook County Public Guardian, 508 F.3d 858,
859 (7th Cir. 2007).
lower federal courts are precluded by the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine from reviewing state-court
judgments, such as a denial of visitation or a
state-court-ordered injunction or restraining order. That
doctrine prevents a party “complaining of an injury
caused by [a] state-court judgment” from seeking
redress in a lower federal court. Exxon Mobil Corp. v.
Saudi Industries Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 291-92 (2005)
(citing D.C. Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S.
462, 482 (1983)); Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263
U.S. 413, 416 (1923)). For the most part, litigants who
believe that a state court proceeding has violated their
federal rights must assert those rights in state court and
then appeal that decision through the state court system and,
as appropriate, to the United States Supreme Court.
Golden v. Helen Sigman & Associates, Ltd., 611
F.3d 356, 361-62 (7th Cir. 2010) (holding that
Rooker-Feldman barred review of claims related to a
state court divorce and child custody proceeding); T.W.
by Enk v. Brophy, 124 F.3d 893, 898 (7th Cir. 1997)
(applying Rooker-Feldman to Wisconsin child-custody
plaintiff is challenging the paternity and child support
decisions reached in Dane County Nos. 2019PA121PJ and
2009FA956, he cannot proceed with his claims in federal
court. Therefore, I am dismissing the complaint for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction.
ORDERED that plaintiff Lawrence William Watson, Sr.'s
complaint is DISMISSED for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. The ...