United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia
MATTHEW R. NATUSCH, Plaintiff,
DELORIS J. NIBERT, individually and in her capacity as Marion County West Virginia Temporary Family Court Judge; and DAVID R. JANES, individually and in his capacity as Marion County West Virginia Circuit Court Judge, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND
RECOMMENDATION [DKT. NO. 31], GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION
TO DISMISS [DKT. NO. 18], AND DISMISSING CASE WITHOUT
M. KEELEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
5, 2016, the pro se plaintiff, Matthew R. Natusch
(“Natusch”), filed a complaint against the
defendants, the Honorable Deloris J. Nibert (“Judge
Nibert”) and the Honorable David R. Janes (“Judge
Janes”), in both their official and individual
capacities. (Dkt. No. 1). At the relevant time, Judge Nibert
and Judge Janes were West Virginia state court judges
presiding over the Family Court and Circuit Court in Marion
County, West Virginia, respectively. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636 and L.R. Civ. P. 7.02(c) and 72.01(d)(6), the
Court referred the action to the Honorable James E. Seibert,
United States Magistrate Judge (Dkt. No. 6).
defendants moved to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1)
and 12(b)(6) (Dkt. No. 18). On September 22, 2016, Magistrate
Judge Seibert filed a Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”) recommending that the Court grant the
defendants' motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 31). Thereafter,
Natusch timely objected to the recommendation (Dkt. No. 33).
For the reasons that follow, the Court ADOPTS the R&R
(Dkt. No. 31), GRANTS the defendants' motion to dismiss
(Dkt. No. 18), and DISMISSES this case WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
Court draws its recitation of the facts from Natusch's
complaint and construes them in the light most favorable to
him. See De'Lonta v. Johnson, 708 F.3d 520, 524
(4th Cir. 2013).
the fall of 2002 to October 2003, Natusch lived in North
Carolina with Michele Ice (“Ice”). During this
time, a daughter was born to them on February 20, 2003 (Dkt.
No. 1-4 at 1). On November 17, 2005, the Family Court in Wake
County, North Carolina, entered a child custody and child
support order (Dkt. No. 1 at 6). Thereafter, in 2007, the
child custody and support matters were severed and assigned
respectively to the Wake County Family Court and Wake County
Child Support Court. Id. On March 26, 2012, the
North Carolina Family Court granted Ice's motion to file
for modification of child custody in West Virginia,
id., and on April 25, 2013, the Family Court of
Marion County, West Virginia, assumed jurisdiction over the
matter (Dkt. No. 1-2 at 2).
12, 2013, Judge Nibert held a hearing to address school
placement, child support, and several petitions to hold
Natusch in contempt. Id. at 1. Natusch appeared at
the hearing to contest both proper notice and West
Virginia's exercise of “jurisdiction both in
matters of child custody and in child support.”
Id. at 8, 12. Judge Nibert rejected both arguments
and, on August 20, 2013, entered an order finding Natusch in
contempt, modifying his parenting time, and accepting
Ice's estimation of his income. Judge Nibert then ordered
Natusch to pay $705.92 per month as child support.
Id. at 4-6.
appealed this ruling to the Circuit Court of Marion County,
where Judge Janes affirmed the order in its entirety (Dkt.
No. 1-3 at 14). Natusch then appealed to the Supreme Court of
Appeals of West Virginia (“Supreme Court of
Appeals”), arguing that Judge Nibert lacked the power
to modify his child support obligation because the North
Carolina court had relinquished jurisdiction only over child
custody matters (Dkt. No. 1-4). The Supreme Court of Appeals,
however, held that the authority to decide child custody
carried with it the authority to order child support, and
also concluded that Natusch had received sufficient notice of
the issues taken up at the July 12, 2013, hearing.
Id. at 4, 6. It therefore affirmed the decision of
Judge Janes in a memorandum opinion dated November 25, 2014.
Id. at 1. Natusch then petitioned the Supreme Court
of the United States (“Supreme Court”) for a writ
of certiorari, which that court denied on April 27, 2015
(Dkt. No. 1 at 16-17).
Natusch again appeared before Judge Nibert on January 30,
2015, to contest the West Virginia court's jurisdiction
to determine child support. He argued that federal law
precluded such jurisdiction because Natusch was still a
resident of North Carolina. Id. at 15. On March 9, 2015,
Judge Nibert rejected this argument and held Natusch in
contempt of her previous child support order. Judge Janes
affirmed this ruling on May 22, 2015, concluding that the
Supreme Court of Appeals had previously rejected
Natusch's jurisdictional arguments (Dkt. No. 1-5 at 1-5).
Ultimately, on June 12, 2015, Judge Nibert incarcerated
Natusch for failing to comply with her child support order
(Dkt. Nos. 1 at 20; 1-6).
the latter part of 2015, Natusch sought a declaration in Wake
County, North Carolina, regarding jurisdiction (Dkt. No. 1-9;
1-10). Ultimately, on March 2, 2016, the state trial court in
Wake County entered an order declaring that “North
Carolina has continuing, exclusive jurisdiction over the
matter of child support, ” and thus had the controlling
child support order (Dkt. No. 1-12 at 5-6).
primary claim is that both Judge Nibert and Judge Janes
deprived him of his rights within the meaning of 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 when they “subject[ed] [him] to . . .
unlawful ‘orders'” without due process (Dkt.
No. 1 at 25). He alleges that he has been a resident of North
Carolina during all relevant times, and that, under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1738B,  North Carolina retains continuing
jurisdiction over all relevant child support matters, to the
exclusion of West Virginia. Id. at 29. As a result,
Natusch claims that the defendants acted unconstitutionally
and unlawfully “in the absence of jurisdiction.”
Id. at 32.
complaint seeks a variety of declaratory and injunctive
relief in connection with his § 1983 claim. First, he
seeks a declaration that no West Virginia state court
“has, or has ever had, jurisdiction in matters of child
support.” Id. at 38. Second, he seeks a
declaration that Judge Nibert and Judge Janes deprived him of
his rights, privileges, and immunities under the Constitution
and 28 U.S.C. §§ 1738 and 1738B. Finally, he seeks
an injunction against “similar unlawful acts and other
potential acts of discrimination and retaliation.”
Id. at 38-39.
second, third, and fourth claims, Natusch requests that the
Court refer this matter to federal law enforcement due to
violations of 18 U.S.C. §§ 4 and 2382, award him
fees and costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988, and declare
that he has preserved his right to bring further claims
against the defendants. Id. at 39.
Judge Nibert and Judge Janes moved to dismiss the complaint
on May 26, 2016 (Dkt. No. 18). As a threshold matter, they
argue that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine precludes the
Court from exercising jurisdiction over this case (Dkt. No.
19 at 10). Additionally, they argue that sovereign immunity
and judicial immunity bar the recovery of damages,
id. at 11-17, and that Younger abstention
and the limitations of § 1983 foreclose the equitable
and injunctive relief Natusch seeks. Id. at 17-22.
Finally, they argue that Natusch has no private right of
action under 18 U.S.C. §§ 4 and 2382. Id.
full briefing (Dkt. Nos. 27; 29), Magistrate Judge Seibert
filed an R&R recommending that the Court grant the
defendants' motion (Dkt. No. 31). Natusch filed timely
objections (Dkt. No. 33), making the matter ripe for review
by this Court (Dkt. No. 34).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Motion to Dismiss
Civ. P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) allow a defendant to move for
dismissal on the ground that the Court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction or that the complaint does not “state a
claim upon which relief can be granted.” When reviewing
the sufficiency of a complaint, a district court “must
accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in
the complaint.” Anderson v. Sara Lee Corp.,
508 F.3d 181, 188 (4th Cir. 2007) (quoting Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)). “While a
complaint . . . does not need detailed factual allegations, a
plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds'
of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than
labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)
(internal citation omitted).
is “not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion
couched as a factual allegation.” Papasan v.
Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). In order to be
sufficient, “a complaint must contain ‘enough
facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.'” Anderson, 508 F.3d at 188 n.7
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 547). “A claim
has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual
content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009). A motion to dismiss “does not resolve contests
surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the
applicability of defenses.” Republican Party of
N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992).
deciding on the motion, the Court need not confine its
inquiry to the complaint; it may also consider
“documents incorporated into the complaint by
reference, and matters of which a court may take judicial
notice.” Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues &
Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007). “A copy of
a written instrument that is an exhibit to a pleading is a
part of the pleading for all purposes.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
10(c). The Court may also consider documents “attached
to the motion to dismiss, so long as they are integral to the
complaint and authentic.” Philips v. Pitt Cty.
Mem'l Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009).
Magistrate Judge's R&R
reviewing a magistrate judge's R&R, the Court must
review de novo only the portion to which an
objection is timely made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). On
the other hand, the Court may adopt, without explanation, any
of the magistrate judge's recommendations to which the
parties do not object. See Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d
198, 199-200 (4th Cir. 1983). Courts will uphold those
portions of an R&R to which no objection has been made
unless they are “clearly erroneous.” See
Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416
F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005).
careful review, it is clear that the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine and the Eleventh Amendment divest this Court of
subject matter jurisdiction over Natusch's claims.
Moreover, Natusch has not established that he otherwise would
be entitled to damages, declaratory relief, or injunctive
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
The Rooker-F ...