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Hallmark Care Services Inc. v. Superior Court of State of Washington for Spokane County

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

April 16, 2019

HALLMARK CARE SERVICES, INC., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
SUPERIOR COURT OF STATE OF WASHINGTON FOR SPOKANE COUNTY; SPOKANE COUNTY, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING MOTION TO VACATE ORDER DISMISSING ACTION AND MOTION FOR SANCTIONS

          Justin L. Quackenbush, Senior United States District Judge.

         BEFORE THE COURT is the Plaintiffs' Motion to Vacate Order Dismissing Action, (ECF No. 39), and Defendants' Motion for Sanctions, (ECF No. 46). This Order memorializes the court's ruling on the Motions.

         I. Introduction

         On July 27, 2017, this court issued an Order granting Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim and denying Defendants' Motion for CR 11 Sanctions. (ECF No. 25). In granting Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, the court made two specific determinations: (1) the court did not have subject matter jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, (ECF No. 25 at 8-10), and (2) Defendants were entitled to judicial immunity, (ECF No. 25 at 10-13). Plaintiffs appealed the dismissal of this case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, (ECF No. 29), and Defendants cross-appealed the denial of the motion for sanctions, (ECF No. 33). The court has reviewed the docket of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and no dispositive order has been entered on either appeal. See 17-35678, 17-35717 (9th Cir.).

         On January 28, 2019, Plaintiffs filed the Motion to Vacate the Order Dismissing the Action under Fed.R.Civ.P. 60. (ECF No. 39). Plaintiffs allege Defendants misrepresented the status of the state court claims by asserting that the state court claims were dismissed and no appeal had been taken. (ECF No. 39 at 4). Plaintiffs argue that the appeal actually continued, and this rendered the Rooker-Feldman doctrine inapplicable because the state court case was not final at the time of this court's Order. (ECF No. 39 at 9-10). Plaintiffs request that the Order be reversed in full or in part, leaving the court's ruling regarding judicial immunity to be argued before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Plaintiffs make no argument that the court's judicial immunity determination should be vacated under Rule 60(b).

         Defendants allege that no misrepresentation occurred and that any appeal of the state court claims did not render the Rooker-Feldman doctrine inapplicable. (ECF No. 42). Defendants also filed a Motion for Sanctions. (ECF No. 46). The Motion to Vacate and Motion for Sanctions were submitted for decision without oral argument.

         II. Recent State Court Activity

         This court summarized the state court actions in the Memorandum Opinion and Order Re: Motion to Dismiss and Motion for CR 11 Sanctions filed on July 27, 2017. (ECF No. 25). Since the Order was filed, litigation has continued within the state court system. See No. 33356-6 (Wash.Ct.App. Div. III).

         On October 18, 2018, the Court of Appeals of the State of Washington Division III entered an opinion reversing the money judgments. (ECF No. 40 at 23-47). According to that order, Plaintiffs were allowed to challenge the assessment of Guardian ad Litem (GAL) fees, but not the orders removing them as guardians. Id.

         On November 19, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a Petition for Review with the Washington Supreme Court (ECF No. 40 at 49-77). A review of the online docket of that court shows an Order terminating Review was filed on April 3, 2019. See No. 96535-8 (Wash. Sup. Ct.).

         III. Discussion

         A. Motion to Vacate

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b) allows a party to seek relief from a final judgment and request the case be reopened under six circumstances: (1) mistake; (2) newly discovered evidence; (3) fraud; (4) the judgment is void; (5) the judgment has been satisfied, release, or discharge; it is based on an earlier judgment that has been reversed or vacated; or applying it prospectively is no longer equitable; and (6) any other reason that justifies relief. A motion to request relief under the first three circumstances must be brought within one year after the entry of the judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(c)(1).

         Plaintiffs admit relief under the first three circumstances is time-bared, but assert Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(5) is applicable as the prospective application of the order is no longer equitable. ECF No. 39 at 9. Later, in Reply briefing, Plaintiffs allege ...


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