Brown v. Chastain, No. 26848.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM
Citation416 F.2d 1012
Decision Date02 October 1969
Docket NumberNo. 26848.
PartiesDawn Elaine BROWN, by and through Gayle (Brown) Marden, as her mother and next friend, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, Cross Appellees, v. Dixie Herlong CHASTAIN et al., Defendants-Appellees, Cross Appellants.

416 F.2d 1012 (1969)

Dawn Elaine BROWN, by and through Gayle (Brown) Marden, as her mother and next friend, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, Cross Appellees,
v.
Dixie Herlong CHASTAIN et al., Defendants-Appellees, Cross Appellants.

No. 26848.

United States Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit.

August 4, 1969.

Rehearing Denied and Rehearing Denied October 2, 1969.


Tobias Simon, Miami, Fla., for appellants.

Thomas C. Britton, County Atty., John G. Fletcher, Joseph D. Komansky, Asst. Co. Attys., Miami, Fla., for appellees.

Before RIVES, BELL and DYER, Circuit Judges.

Rehearing Denied and Rehearing En Banc Denied October 2, 1969.

DYER, Circuit Judge:

We are here presented with the question whether the District Court had jurisdiction

416 F.2d 1013
to directly review a final determination of federal constitutional questions voluntarily submitted to and decided by the state courts of Florida in connection with litigation pending in the state courts, no review by the United States Supreme Court having been sought. The District Court had no jurisdiction, and we reverse

In 1961 Gayle and James Brown were divorced. Gayle was awarded custody of their child, Dawn Elaine Brown. In 1966 James Brown filed suit in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court of Dade County, Florida, and on May 8, 1967, an order was entered changing the custody of the child from the mother to the father. An appeal was filed in the Florida Third District Court of Appeal, but counsel for the mother and child soon discovered that the cost of preparing a transcript of the testimony in the lower court was beyond the financial means of the mother and child. A petition to the Juvenile Court praying that either the State of Florida or the father be required to pay for the transcript was denied; a similar petition in the Court of Appeal was denied; and finally an appeal to the Supreme Court of Florida from the order denying a free transcript was dismissed. No attempt for direct Supreme Court review of the state court decisions through certiorari under 28 U.S.C.A. § 1257 was made.

The appellants then filed their complaint in the District Court alleging that the denial by the State of a free transcript for use in their state civil appeal constituted a violation of the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, the very same allegation which the state courts had considered and rejected. The complaint prayed for relief in the form of a mandatory injunction requiring the State of Florida to provide a transcript at the expense of the State or the father, or alternatively to strike the order changing the custody of the child. Soon afterwards a hearing was held. In open court the parties stipulated that the facts alleged in the complaint were correct and further that the defendants did not have to file an answer or other response. The District Court then entered judgment on the merits in favor of the defendants based on the pleadings, and this appeal ensued.

It is obvious from the complaint and the requested relief that the appellants are here attempting to relitigate their federal constitutional claims by obtaining a form of direct federal district court review of the state decisions, since independent equitable proceedings to prevent the enforcement of a judgment are considered a direct attack upon it. See Restatement, Judgments § 11, comment a (1942). The District Court was patently without jurisdiction to engage in such a review. As noted in Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 1923, 263 U.S. 413, 44 S.Ct. 149, 68 L.Ed. 362:

If the constitutional questions stated in the . . . complaint actually arose in the cause, it was the province and duty of the state courts to decide them; and their decision, whether right or wrong, was an exercise of jurisdiction. If the decision was wrong, that did not make the judgment void, but merely left it open to reversal or modification in an appropriate and timely appellate proceeding. Unless and until so reversed or modified, it would be an effective and conclusive adjudication. Citations omitted Under the legislation of Congress, no court of the United States other than this the Supreme Court could entertain a proceeding to reverse or modify the judgment for errors of that character. Citations omitted To do so would be an exercise of appellate jurisdiction. The jurisdiction possessed by the District Courts is strictly original. * * * Id., at 415-416, 44 S.Ct. at 150.

As stated in Pilkinton v. Pilkinton, 8 Cir. 1968, 389 F.2d 32, "it is plainly evident that what appellant seeks in this original action is a review by the federal courts of the proceedings

416 F.2d 1014
of the . . . Florida State Courts in the divorce action. Federal courts are without authority to function as an appellate arm of the state courts." Id. at 33. The decision of a federal constitutional question by a state court does not warrant a mandatory injunction in the nature of mandamus nor an order striking its decision even if erroneous. "State courts are competent to decide questions arising under the federal constitution, and federal courts most assuredly do not provide a forum in which disgruntled parties can re-litigate federal claims which have been presented to and decided by state courts." Deane Hill Country Club, Inc. v. City of Knoxville, 6 Cir. 1967, 379 F.2d 321, 325. See generally Evanson v. Northwest Holding Co., 8 Cir. 1966, 368 F.2d 531; Coral Gables First Nat. Bank v. Constructors of Florida, Inc., 5 Cir. 1962, 299 F.2d 736; Hanna v. Home Ins. Co., 5 Cir. 1960, 281 F.2d 298; Norwood v. Parenteau, 8 Cir. 1955, 228 F.2d 148; Parnacher v. Mount, 10 Cir. 1953, 207 F.2d 788, cert. denied, 1954, 347 U.S. 917, 74 S.Ct. 515, 98 L.Ed. 1073; Williams v. Tooke, 5 Cir. 1940, 108 F.2d 758, cert. denied, 1940, 311 U.S. 655, 61 S.Ct. 8, 85 L.Ed. 419; Moran v. Paine, Webber, Jackson & Curtis, W.D.Pa.1967, 279 F. Supp. 573, aff'd 3 Cir. 1968, 389 F.2d 242; Lenske v. Sercombe, D.Or.1967, 266 F.Supp. 609; Chirillo v. Lehman, S.D.N.Y.1940, 38 F.Supp. 65, aff'd 1941, 312 U.S. 662, 61 S.Ct. 741, 85 L.Ed. 1108. See also City of Greenwood v. Peacock, 1966, 384 U.S. 808, 86 S.Ct. 1800, 16 L.Ed.2d 944; England v. Louisiana State Bd. of Medical Examiners, 1964, 375 U.S. 411, 84 S.Ct. 461, 11 L.Ed.2d 440; Angel v. Bullington, 1947, 330 U.S. 183, 67 S.Ct. 657, 91 L.Ed. 832; Jones v. Hulse, 8 Cir. 1968, 391 F.2d 198; Stevens v. Frick, 2 Cir. 1967, 372 F.2d 378; Tomiyasu v. Golden, 9 Cir. 1966, 358 F.2d 651

Appellants' reliance upon verbiage in Fay v. Noia, 1963, 372 U.S. 391, 83 S.Ct. 822, 9 L.Ed.2d 837, is misplaced. Fay involved a habeas corpus action instituted in the federal district court as an original proceeding for which there is specific statutory authority. Habeas corpus is an exception to ordinary rules of res judicata. See Note, Developments in the Law — Res Judicata, 65 Harv.L.Rev. 818, 851 (1952). Neither do we consider the instant action as a collateral attack rather than direct, since appellants waived the requirement of an answer to the complaint, in which the affirmative defense of res judicata could have been pleaded, and since the defense affirmatively appeared in the body of the complaint itself.

The District Court should have dismissed the complaint for lack of jurisdiction to review the state courts' action rather than entering judgment on the merits. Therefore the case is reversed and remanded to the District Court with instructions to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction.

Reversed and remanded.

RIVES, Circuit Judge (dissenting):

Florida law provides that appeals may be taken from custody orders rendered by the juvenile courts. F.S.A. § 39.14 (1968 Supp.); infra Part I. Appellants ask the federal courts to decide whether Florida may, consistent with the commands of the United States Constitution, "administer this statute so as to deny adequate appellate review to the poor while granting such review to all others." Griffin v. Illinois, 1956, 351 U.S. 12, 13, 76 S.Ct. 585, 588, 100 L.Ed. 891. The district court, after declaring that it had jurisdiction over the controversy, found no transgression of constitutional rights in the administration of this statute. I would reverse in part and hold that under present Florida practice the indigent mother and child plaintiffs seeking to appeal from a change of custody order are entitled to a free transcript of the custody hearings.

A chronological review of the facts will sharpen the focus on the important constitutional considerations. In 1958 plaintiff Dawn Elaine Brown was born

416 F.2d 1015
to the union of plaintiff Gayle (Brown) Marden and James Brown. Three years later the natural parents were divorced and custody of Dawn Elaine was awarded by decree to the mother. On June 1, 1966, the Florida Circuit Court which rendered the divorce and custody decree transferred custody jurisdiction of Dawn Elaine to the Juvenile Court wherein James Brown filed suit for a change of custody of Dawn Elaine. See State ex rel. Marden v. Chastain, 197 So.2d 561 (Fla.App.1967), cert. discharged 207 So. 2d 6 (Fla.1968). On May 8, 1967, after more than a year of hearings, custody of the then 9-year-old plaintiff was awarded to her father, with whom she had not maintained a close family relationship for six years. The several hearings held prior to the final order of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court were recorded entirely by a court stenographer. The cost of transcribing these stenographic notes is presently $2500.00. The plaintiffs, mother and child, secured the services of Tobias Simon, Esq. and immediately appealed the order of custody change.1

Florida's appellate court rules require that an appellant furnish an adequate record for the appellate court or face summary dismissal of his appeal. Rules 3.3 and 3.6(a), Florida Appellate Rules, 32 F.S.A.; Brown v. Householder, 134 So.2d 801, 802-804 (Fla.App.1962). When Mr. Simon became aware of the choices facing him...

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63 practice notes
  • Henry v. First Nat. Bank of Clarksdale, No. 76-4200
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • May 21, 1979
    ...Board, 5 Cir., 1976, 531 F.2d 1331, Cert. denied, 429 U.S. 897, 97 S.Ct. 260, 50 L.Ed.2d 180 (1976); Brown v. Chastain, 5 Cir., 1969, 416 F.2d 1012, Cert. denied, 397 U.S. 951, 90 S.Ct. 976, 25 L.Ed.2d 134. But see Brown v. Georgia Power Co., S.D.Ga., 1973, 371 F.Supp. 543, Aff'd, 5 Cir., 1......
  • Nicholson v. Board of Com'rs of Alabama State Bar Ass'n, Civ. A. No. 3395-N.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Alabama
    • February 1, 1972
    ...appellate jurisdiction.9 Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 1923, 263 U.S. 413, 44 S.Ct. 149, 68 L.Ed. 362; Brown v. Chastain, 5 Cir. 1969, 416 F.2d 1012; Mackay v. Nesbet, D.Alaska 1969, 285 F. Supp. 498, aff'd, 9 Cir. 1969, 412 F.2d 846. However we do not pass on the question of the propriety ......
  • Campise v. Hamilton, Civ. A. No. 72-H-239.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • August 9, 1974
    ...appellate jurisdiction; it cannot be used as "a form of direct federal district court review of the state decision." Brown v. Chastain, 416 F.2d 1012, 1013 (5th Cir. At first blush the argument sounds of merit, but upon closer analysis, the argument falls under its own weight and it becomes......
  • Getty v. Reed, Nos. 76-1633
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • February 8, 1977
    ...1973), with Kauffman v. Moss, 420 F.2d 1270 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 400 U.S. 846 (91 S.Ct. 93, 27 L.Ed.2d 84) (1970); Brown v. Chastain, 416 F.2d 1012 (5th Cir. 1969), with Mack v. Florida State Bd. of Dentistry, 430 F.2d 862 (5th Cir. 1970), cert. denied, 401 U.S. 960 (91 S.Ct. 971, 28 L.......
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63 cases
  • Henry v. First Nat. Bank of Clarksdale, No. 76-4200
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • May 21, 1979
    ...Board, 5 Cir., 1976, 531 F.2d 1331, Cert. denied, 429 U.S. 897, 97 S.Ct. 260, 50 L.Ed.2d 180 (1976); Brown v. Chastain, 5 Cir., 1969, 416 F.2d 1012, Cert. denied, 397 U.S. 951, 90 S.Ct. 976, 25 L.Ed.2d 134. But see Brown v. Georgia Power Co., S.D.Ga., 1973, 371 F.Supp. 543, Aff'd, 5 Cir., 1......
  • Nicholson v. Board of Com'rs of Alabama State Bar Ass'n, Civ. A. No. 3395-N.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Alabama
    • February 1, 1972
    ...appellate jurisdiction.9 Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 1923, 263 U.S. 413, 44 S.Ct. 149, 68 L.Ed. 362; Brown v. Chastain, 5 Cir. 1969, 416 F.2d 1012; Mackay v. Nesbet, D.Alaska 1969, 285 F. Supp. 498, aff'd, 9 Cir. 1969, 412 F.2d 846. However we do not pass on the question of the propriety ......
  • Campise v. Hamilton, Civ. A. No. 72-H-239.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • August 9, 1974
    ...appellate jurisdiction; it cannot be used as "a form of direct federal district court review of the state decision." Brown v. Chastain, 416 F.2d 1012, 1013 (5th Cir. At first blush the argument sounds of merit, but upon closer analysis, the argument falls under its own weight and it becomes......
  • Getty v. Reed, Nos. 76-1633
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • February 8, 1977
    ...1973), with Kauffman v. Moss, 420 F.2d 1270 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 400 U.S. 846 (91 S.Ct. 93, 27 L.Ed.2d 84) (1970); Brown v. Chastain, 416 F.2d 1012 (5th Cir. 1969), with Mack v. Florida State Bd. of Dentistry, 430 F.2d 862 (5th Cir. 1970), cert. denied, 401 U.S. 960 (91 S.Ct. 971, 28 L.......
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