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Marx v. Marx

United States District Court, D. Alaska

May 4, 2018

DAVID H. MARX, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES C. MARX, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          SHARON L. GLEASON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On March 15, 2018, self-represented litigant David H. Marx filed a motion seeking to reopen this case, after voluntarily dismissing it in February of 2017.[1] David Marx seeks an order annulling the Testament of Lawrence Eugene Marx (Deceased) and an order “restor[ing] all assets, money, and real property to Plaintiff, and order[ing] immediate criminal sanctions against James C. Marx and all parties associated with the theft of real property from the Trust and Residuary Estate and unauthorized removals of property from Plaintiff's house in Tenakee Springs, Alaska.”[2] Attached to his motion are documents from the Superior Court for the State of Alaska in Ketchikan, a trust registration, case no. 1KE-91-3TR, for the Lawrence and Nancy Marx trust, and documents from a state Superior Court informal probate proceeding for the Estate of Lawrence Eugene Mark, pending in Juneau, case no. 1JU-17-78PR.[3] David Marx is Lawrence Marx's only surviving child. David Marx is purportedly the sole beneficiary of the trust at issue. James C. Marx, Lawrence Marx's brother, is purportedly the sole beneficiary of Lawrence Marx's estate.[4] Plaintiff asserts that “Defendant and counsel's actions have undermined the integrity of th[e] Informal Probate of The Matter of Lawrence Eugene Marx (Deceased)” by filing an allegedly fraudulent “Inventory and Appraisal” with the probate court.[5]

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A United States District Court is a court of limited, not general, jurisdiction, and a district court is obligated to consider sua sponte (on its own initiative) whether it has subject matter jurisdiction.[6] “Subject-matter jurisdiction can never be waived or forfeited.”[7] A federal district court generally has the authority to hear only two types of civil cases: cases in which there is federal question jurisdiction, under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and cases in which there is diversity jurisdiction, under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.[8]

         Section 1331 confers jurisdiction over civil actions Aarising under@ federal law.[9] “[A] suit ‘arises under' federal law ‘only when the plaintiff's statement of his own cause of action shows that it is based upon [federal law].'”[10] Federal law is not at issue in this case. Diversity jurisdiction requires that the plaintiff have “citizenship which is diverse from that of every defendant.”[11] In addition, to establish diversity jurisdiction, the amount in controversy must exceed $75, 000.[12] Here, there may well be diversity of citizenship between Plaintiff and all Defendants. However, “diversity jurisdiction does not exist for two major types of cases: probate matters and domestic relations cases involving divorce, alimony, and child custody matters.”[13] As explained by the Supreme Court, “the probate exception reserves to state probate courts the probate or annulment of a will and the administration of a decedent's estate; it also precludes federal courts from endeavoring to dispose of property that is in the custody of a state probate court.”[14]

         ANALYSIS

         Here, even if there was diversity of citizenship and a sufficient amount in controversy, the probate exception to diversity jurisdiction precludes this Court from exercising jurisdiction. The Court takes judicial notice that probate case no. 1JU-17-78PR, involving the estate of decedent Lawrence Marx, is currently open with David Marx appearing as an intervenor.[15] Similarly, the public record of the trust registration, 1KE-91-3TR, indicates David Marx has a motion pending before the Ketchikan court, seeking the appointment of a successor trustee.[16]

         David Marx seeks relief in this federal case that is substantially intertwined with both of the currently pending state probate proceedings. He alleges that the personal representative of his father's estate trespassed onto the Tenakee Springs property, and then proceeded to “sell-off, move, transfer, convey, or confer upon himself assets belonging to the Trust” from the Tenakee Springs property.[17] David Marx also alleges James C. Marx and his attorney(s) knew of assets, including real estate in Hyder, Alaska, that was intended to be a part of the trust in addition to the Tenakee Springs real estate, but committed fraud by alleging to the probate court that such property was part of the estate.[18] David Marx seeks “the annulment of the Testament of Lawrence Eugene Marx (Deceased)” and “INJUNCTIVE -TRO (remedies): ORDERING (DEFENDANT-S) to return (all) real properties-valuables-monie(s) ‘taken' by DEFENDANT-S via BREACH LIVING TRUST, felony theft, and or extortion[] inter alia.”[19] These claims fall squarely within the probate exception to a federal court's diversity jurisdiction, such that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear them.

         IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED:

         1. The Motion to Re-Open Civil Action Case No. 3:16-cv-00288-SLG at Docket 8 is DENIED.

         2. All other outstanding motions are DENIED AS MOOT.

         3. The case shall remain closed.[20]

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