United States District Court, D. South Carolina
Arletta J. Kurowski, Daniel D. Kurowski Hawk, Debra J. Kurowski, and Donna M. Kurowski-Galvan, Plaintiffs,
Brian Kurowski, and Estate of Norma J. Kurowski, Defendants.
TIMOTHY M. CAIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
proceeding pro se, filed the instant action seeking damages
from defendants pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1983,
1986. (ECF No. 1). In accordance with 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1) and Local Civil Rule 73.02, D.S.C., this matter was
referred to a magistrate judge for pretrial handling. Before
the court is the magistrate judge's Report and
Recommendation (“Report”), recommending that the
court dismiss this action without prejudice and without
issuance and service of process because the court lacks
subject matter jurisdiction. (ECF No. 10). Plaintiffs were
advised of their right to file objections to the Report and
of the potential consequences of not filing timely
objections. Id. at 9. Plaintiffs filed timely
objections. (ECF No. 13). Plaintiffs subsequently filed a
motion to amend their complaint. (ECF No. 14).
recommendations set forth in the Report have no presumptive
weight, and this court remains responsible for making a final
determination in this matter. See Mathews v. Weber,
423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The court is charged with making
a de novo determination of those portions of the
Report to which a specific objection is made, and the court
may accept, reject, modify, in whole or in part, the
recommendation of the magistrate judge or recommit the matter
with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). However, the
court need not conduct a de novo review when a party
makes only “general and conclusory objections that do
not direct the court to a specific error in the
magistrate's proposed findings and
recommendations.” Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d
44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). In the absence of a timely filed,
specific objection, the magistrate judge's conclusions
are reviewed only for clear error. See Diamond v.
Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315
(4th Cir. 2005).
magistrate judge provided a detailed account of the facts in
his Report, which the court incorporates
herein. Briefly, Plaintiffs contend that Defendant
Brian Kurowski (“Brian”) falsified the death
certificate of his father, Kenneth H. Kurowski
(“Kenneth”) by claiming that his mother, Norma
Kurowski (“Norma”),  was the legal surviving
spouse of Kenneth. (ECF No. 1 at 5-6). However, Plaintiffs
claim that Plaintiff Arletta Kurowski (“Arletta”)
was Kenneth's true surviving spouse, and that she and her
children were, therefore, deprived of receiving the estate
property to which they were entitled. Id. at 6.
Plaintiffs allege the Deputy Coroner and several probate
judges, who are not named defendants in this case, then
conspired with Defendants to appoint Norma as the personal
representative of Kenneth's estate and
“blocked” Plaintiffs' attempts to correct the
death certificate. Id. at 7 - 8. Plaintiffs contend
that Defendants have, in essence, conspired to seize personal
estate property from them, have prevented them due process of
law, have criminally falsified Kenneth's death
certificate, and have allowed Norma to perjure herself in the
probate court proceedings by claiming she was Kenneth's
surviving spouse. Id. at 1 -8. Plaintiffs claim that
these facts amount to violations of their Fourth, Fifth, and
Fourteenth Amendment Rights along with the Morrill
Anti-Bigamy Act and that such violations give this court
subject matter jurisdiction. Id. at 3 - 5.
relief, Plaintiffs seek the following: (1) an Order to
correct Kenneth's death certificate and list Arletta as
the surviving spouse; (2) an award of $400, 000 in
“consideration of Kenneth's inheritance, the
current value of the estate property, Norma's estate, and
Brian's net worth”; and (3) a punitive damages
award of $100, 000. Id. at 10.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
Report, the magistrate judge determined that Plaintiffs'
claims are barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine
because Plaintiffs seek to have this court review and
interfere with state probate court proceedings. (ECF No. 10
at 4). Plaintiffs object to this determination, arguing that
the court does have jurisdiction because they have been
deprived of their constitutional rights. (ECF No. 13).
Plaintiffs contend that this case “is a separate action
and does not nor will it take the place of or subvert other
court actions and especially not probate.” Id.
at 2. However, the court agrees with the magistrate judge
that the crux of Plaintiffs' case challenges the validity
of the state court's orders and seeks to vacate or
overrule the state court's decisions and to interfere
with ongoing state court proceedings. It is not within the
power of this court to question the ongoing state court
proceedings or the prior orders of the probate judges.
Cf. In re Genesys Data Tech., Inc., 204 F.3d 124,
127 (4th Cir. 2000) (stating that pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§1738, all federal courts must give full faith and
credit to valid state court judgments).
court also notes that the magistrate judge determined that
the court also lacks jurisdiction because of the probate
exception to federal jurisdiction. (ECF No. 10 at 7).
Plaintiffs do not address this portion of the Report in their
objections. The court agrees with the magistrate judge that
the remedies sought by Plaintiffs would effectively require
the court to administer Kenneth's estate, which the court
lacks the jurisdiction to do. See Graham Shopping Ctr.,
LLC v. Estate of Kirsch, 777 F.3d 678, 680 - 81 (4th
while Plaintiffs contend in their objections that they seek
to amend their Complaint to “withdraw the remedy to
correct the State of South Carolina Death Certificate,
notwithstanding, this Court must know it is wrong to falsify
a vital record under state law to intentionally deprive
others of their constitutional rights, ” id.
at 3, and while Plaintiffs did, thereafter, file a motion to
amend the Complaint to withdraw such request for relief, (ECF
No. 14), the proposed amendment does not cure the
jurisdictional deficiencies. Even without the request for
this court to order a correction of the death certificate,
Plaintiffs still effectively ask this court to award damages
based on what Plaintiffs purport to be their proper
inheritance payout and based on the assumption that the state
court proceedings were faulty. Accordingly, the court denies
Plaintiffs' motion to for leave to amend the complaint
because the proposed amendments are futile. See Fed.
R. Civ. P. 15; Johnson v. Oroweat Foods, Co., 785
F.2d 503, 509 (4th Cir. 1986) (“leave to amend a
pleading should be denied only when the amendment would be
prejudicial to the opposing party, there has been bad faith
on the part of the moving party, or the amendment would be
futile”). Therefore, the court overrules
Plaintiffs' objections and finds that it lacks
jurisdiction over this case because of both the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine and the probate exception to
careful and thorough review of the record under the
appropriate standards, as set forth above, the court adopts
the magistrate judge's Report (ECF No. 10), which is
incorporated herein by reference. The court
DENIES Plaintiffs motion to amend their
Complaint (ECF No. 14), and the case is DISMISSED
without prejudice and without issuance and service
IS SO ORDERED.