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Vextious Litigators in Divorce Court

The Sixth Circuit recently issued a rare domestic relations decision. Evans v. Cordray, Case No. 09-3998 (May 27, 011), originating from a Southern District of Ohio case, was actually a ruling on the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which is a jurisdictional rule precluding lower district courts from "exercising appellate jurisdiction over final state-court judgments."

The ex-husband, in a suit separate from his divorce case but arising out of those proceedings, filed an abuse of process claim against his ex-wife. She counterclaimed, alleging that he was a vexatious litigator. After the civil court found he was a vexatious litigator, it ruled that he could not file any more actions or motions in Ohio courts without first obtaining leave pursuant to R.C. § 2323.52. Thus, his abuse of process action was dismissed. Shortly thereafter, he filed two motions in his domestic relations case, which the Court denied, because he failed to seek leave under § 2323.52.

This is where the Rooker-Feldman doctrine comes in. When the state court denied his motions, the ex-husband filed a claim in the Southern District of Ohio against the Ohio Attorney General and the Common Pleas Court, claiming that R.C. § 2323.52 was unconstitutional as applied to him and other domestic-relations litigants. In response, the Attorney General moved to dismiss the claim on the basis that the court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction, pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.

The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded the ruling. Divorce attorneys will soon find out whether R.C. § 2323.52 is unconstitutional in the domestic-relations setting.

By: Chelsea Long

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