In Truong v. Mountain Peaks Financial Services, Inc., 2013 WL 485763 (S.D.Cal. 2013), the District Court rejected application of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine and Noerr-Pennington doctrine to bar an FDCPA claim.
Rooker–Feldman “is a narrow doctrine, confined to ‘cases brought by state-court losers complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings commenced and inviting district court review and rejection of those judgments.’ “ Lance v. Dennis, 546 U.S. 459, 464 (2006) (quoting Exxon Mobil v. Saudi Basic Ind. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005)). The “doctrine ap-plies only in ‘limited circumstances,’ Exxon Mobil, supra, at 291, where a party in effect seeks to take an appeal of an unfavorable state-court decision to a lower federal court.” Lance, 546 U.S. at 466. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has interpreted the Rooker–Feldman doctrine as follows: “If 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, Rooker–Feldman bars subject matter jurisdiction in federal district court. If, on the other hand, a federal plaintiff asserts as a legal wrong an allegedly illegal act or omission by an adverse party, Rooker–Feldman does not bar jurisdiction. If there is simultaneously pending federal and state court litigation between the two parties dealing with the same or related issues, the federal district in some circumstances may abstain or stay proceedings; or if there has been state court litigation that has already gone to judgment, the federal suit may be claim-precluded under § 1738. But in neither of these circumstances does Rooker–Feldman bar jurisdiction.” Noel v. Hall, 341 F.3d 1148, 1164 (9th Cir.2003). The district court lacks jurisdiction under Rooker–Feldman if “the federal plaintiff [is] seeking to set aside a state judgment,” whereas there is jurisdiction if the federal plaintiff “present[s] some independent claim, albeit one that denies a legal conclusion that a state court has reached in a case to which he was a party [.]” Id. (quoting GASH Assoc. v. Village of Rosemont, 995 F.2d 726, 728–29 (7th Cir.1993)). In this case, Defendant submitted a document showing that judgment was entered in San Diego Superior Court, pursuant to the Stipulation, against Plaintiffs and in favor of Defendant.FN2 The state court judgment, dated October 17, 2012, was not “rendered before the district court proceedings commenced” on July 6, 2012 with the filing of the Complaint in this Court.FN3 Lance, 546 U.S. at 464. Moreover, the First Amended Complaint does not allege “as a legal wrong an allegedly erroneous decision by a state court,” nor does it seek relief from a state court judgment based upon that allegedly erroneous decision. Noel, 341 F.3d at 1164. The First Amended Complaint seeks to re-cover damages for alleged unlawful conduct prior to the entry of judgment, which is “not a basis for ab-staining under the Rooker–Feldman doctrine.” Id. The Court concludes that Rooker–Feldman does not bar Plaintiffs’ FDCPA claim.
The Court also rejected Plaintiff’s anti-SLAPP motion applicable to the state-law Rosenthal Act claim, finding that part of Plaintiff’s claim arose from non-protected activity.
After examining the pleadings, declarations and ex-hibits filed in this case, the Court concludes that the Defendant has failed to “ma[ke] a threshold showing that the challenged cause of action is one arising from a protected activity,” i.e. Defendant’s act of filing the state court lawsuit, as opposed to some other event, such as Plaintiffs’ receipt of the May 1, 2012 letter which rejected the $3,150.00 payment and demanded that the balance be paid in full. Navellier, 29 Cal.4th at 88 (in determining whether the conduct “arose from” a protected activity, the court should consider “the pleadings, and supporting and opposing affidavits stating the facts upon which the liability or defense is based.”); see also Hutton v. Law Offices of Collins & Lamore, 668 F.Supp.2d 1251, 1259 (S.D.Cal.2009) (“There is no doubt that the Firm’s Superior Court lawsuit against Hutton is protected activity, but there is plenty of doubt that that lawsuit, rather than the dunning letter, is what motivated Hutton to allege violations of the FDCPA…. It is the Firm’s burden to demonstrate that the acts of which Hutton complains were taken in furtherance the Firm’s right of petition, but the overwhelming gist of Hutton’s FDCPA action is that the dunning letter, not the Superior Court action, is this inspiration behind the action. Ultimately, it is pure conjecture, based only on the timing of Hutton’s present action vis-a-vis the dunning letter and the Firm’s lawsuit against Hutton in Superior Court, that Hutton is using the FDCPA to retaliate against the Firm for pursuing litigation against him.”). The Motion for Attorneys’ Fees filed by Defendant is denied.