440 F.3d 439 (7th Cir. 2006), 05-3058, Loubser v. Thacker

Docket Nº:05-3058.
Citation:440 F.3d 439
Party Name:Annare L. LOUBSER, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Robert W. THACKER, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:March 08, 2006
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
 
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Page 439

440 F.3d 439 (7th Cir. 2006)

Annare L. LOUBSER, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Robert W. THACKER, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 05-3058.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

March 8, 2006

Submitted Dec. 5, 2005.

Page 440

Annare L. Loubser, Monticello, IN, pro se.

Elizabeth Rogers, Office of the Attorney General, Indianapolis, IN, for Defendant-Appellee, Robert W. Thacker.

Michael J. Stapleton, Ball, Eggleston, Bumbleburg, McBride, Walkey & Stapleton, Lafayette, IN, for Defendant-Appellee, Alexander R. Pala.

Terry L. Smith, Dellinger, Dellinger & Smith, Monticello, IN, for Defendant-Appellee, David Diener.

Lewis D. Dellinger, Dellinger, Dellinger & Smith, Monticello, IN, for Defendant-Appellee, Doug Radersdorf.

Courtney B. Justice, Logansport, IN, pro se.

John T. Million, Monticello, IN, for Defendant-Appellee, Indiana Abstract & Title Co.

Brent R. Dechert, Dechert Law Office, Kokomo, IN, pro se.

Charles V. Traylor, Kortepeter McPherson Hun Freihofer & Minton, Indianapolis, IN, pro se.

Before POSNER, WILLIAMS, and SYKES, Circuit Judges.

POSNER, Circuit Judge.

Annare Loubser brought this federal civil rights suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against more than 40 individuals who she alleges conspired to defraud her by corrupting her divorce proceedings; those proceedings ended in a judgment that, she claims, deprived her of property to which she was entitled. She brought this suit after the state appellate court had affirmed the judgment in the divorce proceedings. The district court dismissed the suit on the pleadings as barred by two judge-made doctrines: Rooker-Feldman, which denies the lower federal courts the authority to overturn a state court judgment, and the "domestic relations exception," a judge-made doctrine that denies to the federal courts jurisdiction over domestic-relations matters such as divorce on the theory that the reference to "the judicial Power" in Article III of the Constitution was intended to exclude the powers exercised by Britain's ecclesiastical courts, which, rather than the common law courts at Westminster, exercised jurisdiction in such matters. (Because the judgment in the divorce suit was civil rather than criminal, the doctrine of Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 is clearly inapplicable. See, e.g., Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74 (2005).)

Page 441

Loubser does not have a lawyer. Although her self-authored complaint is quite well written, it is sprawling—71 pages long divided into 115 paragraphs—disorganized, and repetitious. Worse, it has a paranoid quality, with some of the allegations bordering on, perhaps crossing over into, the fantastic. The complaint charges that over a three-year period beginning in August of 2001, state judges and court reporters, Loubser's own lawyers, her former husband, building contractors, the owner of a jewelry store, and numerous friends and relatives of the other conspirators, conspired to destroy her financially and drive her out of the country by manipulating the divorce proceedings to deny her due process of law, and that they did all this because they consider her a "fucking South African Bitch who makes too much Fucking Money" as a physical therapist. One of the defendants, she charges, destroyed title documents essential to her divorce proceedings; two of the defendants effaced all records of the existence of a related case; her own lawyers, along with court reporters, altered transcripts; her lawyers refused to present crucial evidence; the judge presiding over the divorce proceeding consorted improperly with Loubser's ex-husband and a number of his witnesses, one of whom touched the judge and "rubbed his belly" (at a party, though, not in court). Among still other allegations, Loubser charges that the judge joked about golf with a witness while he was testifying and the court reporter deliberately deleted the exchange from the transcript, and that Loubser's ex-husband said to the judge, "goodbye judgee wudgee, I will see you around town." In support of the belly-rubbing allegation, Loubser has included in the appendix to her opening brief in this court photographs of the incident, but the photographs do not depict anybody's belly being rubbed.

It is highly improbable that the suit has any merit, but the allegations are not so fantastic that the suit can be dismissed out of hand, as being obviously frivolous, as in Lee v. Clinton, 209 F.3d 1025 (7th Cir. 2000). The setting for the alleged conspiracy is White County, Indiana, a rural county with a population of only 25,000. The county seat, Monticello, where the divorce proceedings were held, has a population of only 5,500. No doubt there is much less formality than attends litigation in big cities and much more social interaction among the judges, lawyers, and other members of the community. Loubser has probably mistaken innocent interactions for a vast conspiracy. But this is not a case on the fantasy level of Lee, where the complaint "charg[ed] the United States and China with a conspiracy to 'bio-chemically and bio-technologically infect and invade' " various people including Lee "with a mind reading and mental torture device" called "MATRET," to elude which "Lee claim[ed] to have developed a variety of space technologies, …including an email system and nanny services, that [would] enable the victims of MATRET to relocate to MATRET-free planets." The reference to extraterrestrial nanny service was the clincher.

The grounds on which the district court dismissed Loubser's suit were erroneous. The claim that a defendant in a civil rights suit "so far...

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