United States District Court, D. Maryland
STEVEN T. CORBIN, Plaintiff,
JEFF SESSIONS, Attorney General, and LEE J. LOFTHUS, Justice Management Division, U.S. Department of Justice, Defendants.
THEODORE D. CHUANG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Steven T. Corbin has filed this civil action against
officials of the United States Department of Justice alleging
that Defendants improperly removed two prior civil actions
that he filed in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County,
Maryland in violation of federal removal statutes, 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1441(f), 1442(a)(1), and 1447 (2012). Pending
before the Court are Defendants' Motion to Dismiss,
Corbin's Motion for Sanctions, and Corbin's Motions
for Title VII Proceeding. Having reviewed the submitted
materials, the Court finds that no hearing is necessary.
See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth
below, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED, and
Corbin's Motions are DENIED.
Complaint and the attached documents primarily focus on two
prior lawsuits that Corbin filed in the Circuit Court for
Montgomery County, which Corbin alleges were improperly
removed to federal court. On April 23, 2015, Corbin filed the
first of those lawsuits ("Corbin 7"), Case
No. 404261-V, naming as defendants Lee J. Lofthus, Assistant
Attorney General for Administration, and "JMO Finance
Staff at the United States Department of Justice
("DOJ"), Justice Management Division
("JMD"). The defendants removed the action to the
United States District Court for the District of Maryland and
filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. On
November 10, 2015, the court (Titus, J.) issued an order
granting the defendants' motion and dismissing the case,
which the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth
Circuit later affirmed. See Corbin v. Loftus
("Corbin I"), No. RWT-15-2118, 2015 WL
13055760, at *2 (D. Md. Nov. 10, 2015); Corbin v.
Loftus, 671 Fed.Appx. 48, 49 (4th Cir.
November 4, 2015, Corbin filed another action
("Corbin II"), Case No. 411307-V, in the
Circuit Court for Montgomery County, naming as defendants
Loretta Lynch, Attorney General of the United States; Shaun
Donovan, Director of the Office of Management and Budget;
Beth Cobert, Acting Director of the United States Office of
Personnel Management; and Thomas E. Perez, Secretary of
Labor. After removal to this District, Corbin II was
dismissed as barred by Corbin I under the doctrine
of res judicata. See Corbin v. Lynch ("Corbin
II"), No. RWT 16-CV-1495, 2017 WL 1001325, at *2
(D. Md. Mar. 15, 2017).
has also attached documents that appear to allege that he was
wrongfully terminated from his position on the Finance Staff
of JMD. On June 3, 2015, he filed a formal complaint of
discrimination with the DOJ Equal Employment Opportunity
Staff, which was dismissed for reasons not specified in the
pleadings. Corbin has asserted that the termination of his
employment violated federal law because the Government:
"(1) failed to disclose charges of the court required
names, places and dates of the specific charges contained in
the notice of proposed adverse action; (2) failed to conduct
a post-termination hearing and (3) no barred from recovery
because of physical or mental disability in adverse action of
a Removal to prevent from obtaining salary." Suppl. at
2, ECF No. 9-1.
their pending Motion to Dismiss, Defendants argue that this
case should be dismissed in its entirety because Corbin may
not seek review of a prior federal court decision by filing a
new civil action in state court. Even if the Complaint is
viewed as an entirely new case, Defendants argue that
Corbin's claims would be barred by the doctrines of
res judicata and collateral estoppel.
extent Corbin challenges the removal of Corbin I and
Corbin II, this Court lacks jurisdiction to
entertain his claims. Federal courts are courts of limited
jurisdiction, "constrained to exercise only the
authority conferred by Article III of the Constitution and
affirmatively granted by federal statute." In re
Bulldog Trucking, Inc., 147 F.3d 347, 352 (4th Cir.
1998). There is no provision in the statutes governing
jurisdiction of the federal district courts and federal
courts of appeals that authorizes this Court to review the
prior rulings of either the United States Court of Appeals
for the Fourth Circuit in Corbin I or the district
court in both Corbin I and Corbin II. See
28 U.S.C. § 1291; 28 U.S.C. §§ 1330-1369.
Indeed, "where a judgment is entered by a court of
competent jurisdiction, with respect to a matter in
controversy before it, such judgment is binding upon the
parties and may not be reviewed by another court of
co-ordinate jurisdiction." Cottman Co. v.
Dailey, 94 F.2d 85, 89 (4th Cir. 1938).
state courts, including the Maryland court in which Corbin
filed this case, do not have the power to review decisions of
federal district courts. The statute governing the
jurisdiction of the Maryland circuit courts states that their
jurisdiction is constrained "where by law jurisdiction
has been limited or conferred exclusively upon another
tribunal." Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. §
1-501 (West 2011). Because the power to review federal
district court decisions belongs to the federal courts of
appeals, see 28 U.S.C. § 1291, the Maryland
circuit courts lack jurisdiction to review the propriety of
removal in Corbin I or Corbin II.
opportunity to challenge the removal of Corbin I and
Corbin II was while those cases were before the
district court, when he could have filed a motion to remand
each case and, if denied, appealed the matter to the United
States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Corbin
apparently failed to seek remand in either case, such that
there was no order to review on appeal. See Corbin
I, 671 Fed.Appx. at 49 n.l (declining to consider an
apparent challenge to the removal of Corbin II
because there had been "no ruling by the district court
on a motion to remand"). At this point, Corbin's
appeal in Corbin /has been resolved, he never filed
an appeal in Corbin II, and this Court lacks
jurisdiction to review the rulings in those cases. Thus, this
Court may not consider Corbin's claims that the prior
removal decisions were erroneous.
the present case were deemed to be a new civil action,
Corbin's claims-even if broadly read to assert other
grievances such as wrongful termination or employment
discrimination-must be dismissed under the doctrine of
res judicata. Res judicata is a legal doctrine that
promotes judicial efficiency and the finality of decisions.
In re Microsoft Corp Antitrust Litigation, 335 F.3d
322, 325 (4th Cir. 2004). Under the doctrine of res
judicata, a final judgment on the merits in an earlier
decision precludes the parties from relitigating issues that
were raised or could have been raised during that action.
Pueschel v. United States, 369 F.3d 345, 354 (4th
Cir. 2004). This doctrine applies when there is: (1) a final
judgment on the merits in a prior lawsuit; (2) an identity of
cause of action in both the earlier and later suits; and (3)
an identity of parties or their privies in the two suits.
Id. at 354-55.
there can be no dispute that Corbin I culminated in
a final judgment on the merits because the motion to dismiss
was granted with prejudice and affirmed by the Fourth
Circuit. Corbin I, 2015 WL 13055760, at *2;
Corbin I, 671 Fed.Appx. at 49; see, e.g., McLean
v. United States, 566 F.3d 391, 396 (4th Cir. 2009)
("[A] dismissal for failure to state a claim under Rule
12(b)(6) is presumed to be both a judgment on the merits and
to be rendered with prejudice."). Likewise, Corbin
II culminated in a final judgment on the merits because
the motion to dismiss was granted with prejudice on the basis
that Corbin's claims were precluded by Corbin I. See,
e.g., Garcia-Monagas v. De Arellano, 674 F.3d 45, 52 (1
st Cir. 2012) (holding that another court's res judicata
determination has a claim preclusive effect); Matter of
Brady, Texas, Mun. Gas Corp., 936 F.2d 212, 219 (5th
Cir. 1991) (same); Electro-Miniatures Corp. v. Wendon
Co., Inc., 889 F.2d 41, 45-46 (3d Cir. 1989) (same);
see also Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller,
Federal Practice and Procedure § 4435 (2d ed.
Supp. 2018) ("Fittingly, dismissal of a second action on
the ground that it is precluded by a prior action is itself
effective as res judicata, and a judgment on the merits that
forecloses further litigation of the preclusion question in a
whether there is identity of parties, the United States
Supreme Court has held that "[t]here is privity between
officers of the same government so that a judgment in a suit
between a party and a representative of the United States is
res judicata in relitigation of the same issue between that
party and another officer of the government."
Sunshine Anthracite Coal Co. v. Adkins, 310 U.S.
381, 402-03 (1940). The crucial point is "whether or not
in the earlier litigation the representative of the United
States had authority to represent its interests in a final
adjudication of the issue in controversy." Id.
In both Corbin I and the present case, Corbin has
named as a defendant Lee J. Lofthus in his capacity as
Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Management
Division. In both Corbin II and the present case,
Corbin names the Attorney General of the United
States-Loretta Lynch in Corbin II and Jeff Sessions
in the present case-as defendants. Thus, in all three cases,
Corbin has effectively filed suit against the United States
Department of Justice. Because all of the named officials are
representatives of DOJ and can answer to Corbin's
allegations in that capacity, there is privity of interest
among them. See Harms v. United States, 972 F.2d
339, 1992 WL 203942, at *8 (4th Cir. 1992) (holding that
there was privity of interest between the Postmaster General
in the former case and the United States in the case on
appeal because the Postmaster General had ...