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Nair v. Copeland

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

October 3, 2019

JAYAKRISHNAN K. NAIR, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CHANNA COPELAND, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER ON 1. MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION 2. MOTION TO TERMINATE GUARDIANSHIP, ETC.

          Marsha J. Pechman, United States Senior District Judge.

         The above-entitled Court, having received and reviewed:

1. Plaintiffs' Petition to Terminate Guardianship, Reinstate Insurance Nunc Pro Tunc, and Return Marshalled Assets (Dkt. No. 7), Response by Defendant Channa Copeland (Dkt. No. 17), and Plaintiffs' Reply (Dkt. No. 18);
2. Plaintiffs' Motion for Reconsideration (Dkt. No. 26); all attached declarations and exhibits, and relevant portions of the record, rules as follows:

         IT IS ORDERED that the motion for reconsideration is GRANTED insofar as the Order of Dismissal previously entered will be withdrawn and the case will be reopened.

         IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiffs' Petition to Terminate Guardianship, Reinstate Insurance Nunc Pro Tunc, and Return Marshalled Assets is DENIED.

         Discussion

         1. Withdrawal of the Order of Dismissal

          Concerned that Plaintiffs' lawsuit, which revolves around a series of events surrounding a state court guardianship instituted over an elderly and disabled family member, had been brought in violation of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the Court entered a sua sponte dismissal of this matter (and a related matter which is the subject of a separate order; see In re: The Guardianship of Omana Thankamma, C19-1307MJP, Dkt. No. 12) on September 24, 2019. (See Dkt. No. 24.)

         The Court's concerns about the applicability of Rooker-Feldman remain - a significant portion of this lawsuit represents an attempt to undo the results of a state court proceeding over which this Court has no jurisdiction, and to redress injuries alleged to have resulted from that proceeding. Additionally, the Court doubts that Plaintiffs' assertion of diversity jurisdiction in this matter is meritorious (see discussion below). However, the Court also believes that the interests of justice would be better served by an adjudication of these issues which permits all sides to present their position prior to a final determination.

         To that end, the Court will withdraw the previously-entered dismissal and reopen the case. Plaintiffs are directed to complete service on all named defendants; to date, of the ten defendants listed in the complaint, only three (Channa Copeland, Dr. Hahn, and Harborview Medical Center) have been served. Complete adjudication of this case is not possible without the presence of all defendants, not to mention that (as discussed below) Plaintiffs are currently seeking rulings on issues involving defendants who have not been served or appeared.

         On September 17, 2019, the Court issued a minute order requiring Plaintiffs to cease filing motions until further order of the Court. (Dkt. No. 23.) That order will remain in effect until all Defendants have been served. Plaintiffs will direct their efforts to completing service on the remaining unserved Defendants.

         The Court, in its (now withdrawn) Order of Dismissal, has expressed its concerns about the application of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine; the Plaintiffs disagree about whether Rooker-Feldman applies to their allegations, as is their right. Additionally, Plaintiffs have asserted diversity jurisdiction as the basis for their ability to prosecute their claims in federal court (see Dkt. No. 4, Complaint at 24), citing their citizenship in India as establishing the requisite diversity. Plaintiffs misunderstand the test for diversity jurisdiction; it is not enough that they are citizens of a foreign nation. The diversity jurisdiction statute states:

The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of ...

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