395 F.3d 508 (4th Cir. 2005), 02-2347, Burrell v. Virginia

Docket Nº:02-2347.
Citation:395 F.3d 508
Party Name:Charles Davis BURRELL, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Commonwealth of VIRGINIA; Department Of Motor Vehicles; James E. Junius; Asbury W. Quillian; Chris Johnson, Police Officer; R.M. Rogers, Police Officer; John W. Hall, Police Sergeant; Sue Matthew; City Of Richmond Police Department; Governor of Virginia, The Honorable Mark Warner; Birdie H. Jamison, Ju
Case Date:January 27, 2005
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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Page 508

395 F.3d 508 (4th Cir. 2005)

Charles Davis BURRELL, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Commonwealth of VIRGINIA; Department Of Motor Vehicles; James E. Junius; Asbury W. Quillian; Chris Johnson, Police Officer; R.M. Rogers, Police Officer; John W. Hall, Police Sergeant; Sue Matthew; City Of Richmond Police Department; Governor of Virginia, The Honorable Mark Warner; Birdie H. Jamison, Judge, Defendants-Appellees,

and

Mufeed Said, Commonwealth Attorney; Vaughan Jones, Commonwealth Attorney, Defendants.

No. 02-2347.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

January 27, 2005

Argued: Oct. 28, 2004

Page 509

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 510

ARGUED:

Hillary Jane Collyer, Dimuro, Ginsberg & Mook, P.C., Alexandria, Virginia, for Appellant.

Vicki West Harris, Assistant City Attorney, City Attorney's Office, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellees.

ON BRIEF:

Bernard J. DiMuro, DIMURO, GINSBERG & MOOK, P.C., Alexandria, Virginia, for Appellant.

Peter R. Messitt, Office of the Attorney General, Richmond, Virginia, for State Appellees.

Before LUTTIG, MOTZ, and DUNCAN, Circuit Judges.

Affirmed by published opinion. Judge LUTTIG wrote the opinion, in which Judge MOTZ and Judge DUNCAN joined.

OPINION

LUTTIG, Circuit Judge:

Plaintiff-appellant Charles Davis Burrell filed a complaint in federal district court against numerous officials in the City of Richmond and the Commonwealth of Virginia, alleging numerous claims arising out of an automobile accident in which he was involved. He alleged, inter alia, that city officials violated his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and his Fourth Amendment right against unlawful seizure by summoning him to appear in court, after he refused to provide evidence of automobile insurance at the scene of the accident. The district court dismissed all of appellant's claims, and Burrell appeals, raising only his claims against the city in which he alleges that his Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights were violated. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

I.

Appellant was in a traffic accident on February 19, 2002. J.A. 15. The police officer on the scene, Officer Chris Johnson, requested that Burrell produce documentation of automobile liability insurance for his vehicle. Id. Burrell followed advice he had previously received from an attorney and refused to answer the question, asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Id. 15-16. Officer Johnson told Burrell that he would be arrested for obstruction of justice if he continued to assert his Fifth Amendment privilege. Id. 15.

Officer Johnson called his supervisor, Sergeant John Hall, to the scene, and Sergeant Hall repeated the warning that Burrell would be arrested if he failed to cooperate by answering the questions. J.A. 16.

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Burrell continued to assert his Fifth Amendment right. Id. As Burrell was taken to the hospital to be treated for injuries sustained in the accident, Officer Johnson served Burrell with a Confirmation of Liability form, which required that he furnish liability insurance information to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles within thirty days. He also served Burrell with two summonses for violation of the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia: one for operating an uninsured motor vehicle without paying an uninsured motorist fee, 1 and one for obstruction of justice. J.A. 63, 66-67.

On March 27, 2002, a Virginia traffic court convicted Burrell of obstructing justice, but dismissed the charge for failure to maintain insurance. J.A. 55, 69. The obstruction of justice charge was dismissed on appeal. Id.

Burrell thereafter brought suit in federal district court against numerous city and state defendants, seeking $10,000,000 in damages for his emotional distress, emotional pain, inconvenience, mental anguish, and reputation. He alleged that the defendants had violated his rights under the Fifth Amendment by compelling him to produce evidence of insurance, violated his rights by issuing a citation without probable cause, violated the Due Process Clause and the Commerce Clause, and that they were civilly liable to him under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The district court entered an order dismissing all claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, having announced in an oral decision that the suit was barred under the Rooker- Feldman doctrine. The court also concluded in its oral decision that the state defendants were protected by the Eleventh Amendment, that the city defendants were protected by qualified immunity, that Burrell failed to state a claim against any of the defendants, and that his Fifth Amendment right had not been violated. J.A. 58-60. Burrell appealed.

II.

Before reaching the Fourth and Fifth Amendment claims, we must address whether the district court correctly concluded that it lacked jurisdiction over all of Burrell's claims by virtue of the Rooker- Feldman doctrine. J.A. 58-60. The district court held that "the arguments that the plaintiff raises in this matter ... are defenses that he should have raised in state court." J.A. 59. We review the court's dismissal pursuant to the Rooker- Feldman doctrine de novo. Shooting Point v. Cumming, 368 F.3d 379, 383 (4th Cir. 2004).

The district court erred in its conclusion that the Rooker- Feldman doctrine barred consideration of appellant's claims. That doctrine "precludes federal 'review of adjudications of the state's highest court and also the decisions of its lower courts.' " Shooting Point, 368 F.3d at 383 (quoting Jordahl v. Democratic Party, 122 F.3d 192, 199 (4th Cir. 1997)). The federal lower courts are barred not only from reconsidering "issues actually decided by a state court" but also "those that are 'inextricably intertwined with questions ruled upon by a state court.' " Id. (quoting Plyler v. Moore, 129 F.3d 728, 731 (4th Cir. 1997)). Burrell did not ask the court to reconsider any such issue. We have recognized that a " 'party losing in state court is barred from seeking what...

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