In Stissi v. Bag Fund, LLC, 2018 WL 354611, at *3–4 (C.D.Cal., 2018), Judge Otis Wright III dismissed an FDCPA case under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.
In determining the applicability of the Rooker–Feldman doctrine, a district court must first decide whether the plaintiff is attempting a de-facto appeal of a state court judgment. Bell, 709 F.3d at 897. A de-facto appeal exists when “a federal plaintiff asserts as a legal wrong an allegedly erroneous decision by a state court, and seeks relief from a state court judgment based on that decision.” Id. With this case, Plaintiff does just that. He is not attacking Defendants’ manner in collecting the debt—i.e. harassing phone calls or improper communications, a claim that could be actionable in federal court; rather, he is attacking the amount of the debt Defendants are attempting to collect, which is based on the Judgment and subsequent state-court filings. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated the FDCPA when they “took legal action against [ ] Plaintiff on a Judgment that was void on its face; added attorney fees without judicial determination; and filed a Memorandum of Costs by Vincent Quigg when he [was] not the attorney of record.” (FAC ¶¶ 51–55.) Accordingly, were this Court to adjudicate the merits of this allegation, it would be forced to determine the validity of the underlying Judgment. This second-guessing of a state court’s prior determination is the exact type of situation the Rooker–Feldman doctrine prohibits. Plaintiff contends that the Rooker–Feldman doctrine does not apply, because he is not attacking the state court’s Judgment but, rather, the Defendants’ actions in seeking attorney’s fees—namely, those included in the various Memoranda of Cost filed in the state court—to which they are not entitled. (Opp’n 47, ECF No. 89.) This argument lacks merit because, as explained above, Plaintiff explicitly alleges that the underlying Judgment is void. Even if the various filings of Memoranda of Costs were independently actionable, Plaintiff has not pleaded those acts independently of his attack on the underlying Judgment, nor as he alleged separate damages related to the Memoranda of Costs. (See FAC ¶¶ 51–55.) As Plaintiff has repeatedly pleaded his case, including in his recently submitted proposed second amended complaint, Plaintiff lumps all of the FDCPA allegations together, which would require the Court to question the validity of the underlying Judgment. Ultimately, these issues fall squarely within the realm of the state court, which is still in the process of hearing the parties’ disputes. Therefore, under the Rooker–Feldman doctrine, the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s FDCPA claim