Thursday, March 27, 2008

What is the Rooker Feldman Doctrice and the meaning of intertwined?

An article appears in the Duke University Law Review which is quite complete and has an exhaustive footnote of cases for reference. The majority of commentators on the Rooker-Feldman doctrine sharply criticize it, and many have suggested that it be abandoned [*pg 655 complete cite follows] entirely. The critics assert that to the extent that the current conception of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine overlaps with existing doctrines of preclusion and abstention, it is redundant and unnecessary, and to the extent that it reaches beyond the preclusion and abstention doctrines, it is harmful and even illegitimate. Some commentators, on the other hand, acknowledge that Rooker-Feldman plays a necessary, albeit narrow, role that neither existing preclusion nor abstention doctrines fill. For example, imagine that a plaintiff [*pg 656] brings a federal suit, not seeking to enjoin state proceedings, but seeking what is essentially review of a state judgment while state appeals are still pending. Younger abstention does not apply, and in some states interlocutory or appealable orders have no preclusive effect. Rooker-Feldman would be necessary to prevent the inappropriate federal appeal of the state court judgment. An even better example is the situation in which a losing state court defendant brings a federal suit seeking to rectify harms done by the state suit itself. Such a challenge raises claims that do not arise from the same transaction as the original state suit; indeed, these claims could not have been raised in the state proceedings because the injury did not occur until the announcement of the unfavorable state judgment. These new claims would not be barred by res judicata, but federalism certainly counsels that federal courts should not entertain these challenges to state court decisionmaking; the Rooker-Feldman doctrine is necessary to protect state courts in these instances. The few scholars who find some value in the Rooker-Feldman doctrine perhaps have been vindicated by the Exxon Mobil decision, in which the Court demonstrated that it still perceived a niche for Rooker-Feldman not covered by any other existing doctrine. Cited: 56 Duke L. J. 643[*pg 643]

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