Legal Memorandum: The Rooker-Feldman Doctrine

Issue: Would the Rooker-Feldman doctrine apply as a principal basis for a motion to dismiss a due process claim in a federal court?

Area of Law: Constitutional Law, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Rooker-Feldman doctrine; Motion to dismiss; Due process claim
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 456 U.S. 461; 100 F.3d 1348; 831 F.2d 559; 70 F.3d 367
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 08/01/2000

The RookerFeldman doctrine provides that the Supreme Court is the only federal court that may review a state court judgment.  See Gauthier v. Continental Diving Servs., Inc., 831 F.2d 559 (5th Cir. 1987).  However, the various courts of appeal have construed the doctrine differently.  See Kamilewicz v. Bank of Boston Corp., 100 F.3d 1348, 1350 (7th Cir. 1996) (Easterbrook, J., dissenting).

The Fifth Circuit applies RookerFeldman to bar federal court actions only to the same extent that such actions would be barred in the court of the state that rendered the decision.  See Gauthier, 831 F.2d at 561.  Where the state court would permit a challenge to an earlier judgment, RookerFeldman will not bar a federal court attack:

Rooker-Feldman casts in jurisdictional terms a rule that is very close if not identical to the more familiar principle that a federal court must give full faith and credit to a state court judgment.  To satisfy the full faith and credit requirement, a federal court must give the same deference to a state court judgment that a court of the rendering state would give it.  We decline to apply RookerFeldman in a way that would require a federal court to give greater deference to a state court judgment than a court of the state in which the judgment was rendered would give it.  For reasons explained below, we conclude that a Louisiana state court would permit Gauthier to attack the consent […]


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