SUTASINEE THANA; MICHAEL JAMES LOHMAN; THAI SEAFOOD & GRILL, INC., trading as Thai Palace & Thai Palace & Lounge, Plaintiffs - Appellants,
BOARD OF LICENSE COMMISSIONERS FOR CHARLES COUNTY, MARYLAND; PAMELA SMITH, Chair; GUY BLACK, Member; TOMASINA COATES, Member; STEVEN LOWE, Member; WILLIAM YOUNG, Member, Defendants-Appellees.
Argued: May 11, 2016
from the United States District Court for the District of
Maryland, at Greenbelt. Paul W. Grimm, District Judge.
Charles Grant Byrd, Jr., ALSTON & BYRD, Baltimore, Maryland,
Bock Karpinski, KARPINSKI, COLARESI & KARP, Baltimore,
Maryland, for Appellees.
Michael B. Rynd, KARPINSKI, COLARESI & KARP, Baltimore,
Maryland, for Appellees.
TRAXLER, Chief Judge, and NIEMEYER and KEENAN, Circuit
NIEMEYER, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
appeal, we decide whether the district court properly applied
the Rooker-Feldman doctrine to dismiss this federal
action challenging the actions of a state administrative
agency that were reviewed in state court.
Board of License Commissioners of Charles County, Maryland
("the Board"), revoked the alcoholic beverage
license of a restaurant and lounge known as Thai Palace, as
well as two consent orders that imposed conditions on the
license, because Thai Palace violated certain conditions
imposed by the consent orders. The Circuit Court for Charles
County affirmed in part and remanded in part, and the
Maryland Court of Special Appeals affirmed the circuit court.
The Maryland Court of Appeals declined to grant certiorari.
after the Circuit Court for Charles County had ruled and
before Thai Palace filed its notice of appeal to the Court of
Special Appeals, Thai Palace commenced this federal action
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the First Amendment,
challenging the actions of the Board. The district court
dismissed the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction,
based on the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. See Rooker
v. Fid. Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923); D.C. Ct. of
App. v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983). The district court
concluded that because Thai Palace "seeks to attribute
error to the core of the Board's order and the circuit
court ruling affirming it, " its federal action
"falls neatly within the bounds of the
reverse and remand, concluding that Thai Palace has, with
this action, commenced an independent, concurrent action
challenging actions by a state administrative agency. Because
Thai Palace did not request the district court to conduct
appellate review of the state court judgment itself, the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine does not apply. See
Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S.
280, 284 (2005). To the extent that the district court
concluded that Thai Palace is seeking to litigate the same
claims or issues decided in the state proceedings, it can, on
remand, apply state law principles of preclusion to bar this
action if that proves to be appropriate.
Palace -- formally, Thai Seafood & Grill, Inc., and trading
as Thai Palace and Thai Palace & Lounge -- is a restaurant
and lounge in Waldorf, Maryland. Sutasinee Thana, her
husband, and Michael Lohman are the owners of Thai Palace,
and Thana and Lohman hold the alcoholic beverage license on
behalf of Thai Palace. In 2009, Thai Palace filed an application with the Board for an
alcoholic beverage license, effectively seeking reinstatement
of an earlier license that had been revoked in 2007 for
hosting entertainment that featured nudity. Following a
hearing, the Board and Thai Palace entered into a consent
order dated November 12, 2009, by which the Board issued the
alcoholic beverage license on the condition that Thai Palace
"be operated as a family restaurant" between the