United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MARTIN H. POEL, Plaintiff,
STATE OF NEW MEXICO, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
matter comes before the Court upon Defendant's Amended
Motion to Dismiss (Motion to Dismiss) under Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(1) and (6), filed on March 1, 2017. (Doc. 16).
Plaintiff filed a response on March 5, 2017, and the State of
New Mexico (Defendant) filed a reply on March 19, 2017.
(Docs. 18, 24). Also before the Court is Plaintiff's
Motion for Oral Argument (Motion for Oral Argument), filed
March 22, 2017; Defendant's Motion to Strike that Motion
as an Unauthorized Sur-Reply (Motion to Strike), filed March
23, 2017; and the responses and replies thereto. (Docs. 27-
30). Having reviewed the motions, briefs, and relevant law,
the Court will grant the Motion to Dismiss, deny all other
relief, and require Plaintiff to show cause why sanctions or
filing restrictions should not be imposed.
case commenced with Plaintiff's Complaint for
Violations of the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to
the United States Constitution, Retaliation, and Questions of
the Constitutionality of Certain New Mexico Rules of
Discipline (Complaint), filed February 6, 2017. (Doc.
1). Plaintiff asserts Defendant violated the Constitution in
connection with his prior proceedings before New Mexico's
Third Judicial District Court (State Court), the Federal
District Court (Federal Court), and the New Mexico Supreme
Court Disciplinary Board (Disciplinary Board). (Doc. 1).
to the Complaint, Plaintiff spent most of his career as a
dentist in Las Cruces, New Mexico. (Doc. 1) at ¶ 4.
Fourteen years ago, he became involved in a dispute with an
insurance company. Id. at ¶ 19, 25, 28, 30. The
dispute unfortunately spurred five lawsuits and occupied much
of his time during retirement. Id.
filed the first lawsuit through counsel in 2003. See Poel
v. United Concordia, D-307-CV-2003-1487. He asserted
claims against United Concordia Insurance Co. (United
Concordia) for violations of the New Mexico Dental Health
Care Act (Dental Care Act). (Doc. 1) at ¶¶ at 8,
19. Plaintiff alleges he was compelled to sue because
Defendant refused to enforce the statute. Id. at
¶ 19. He also alleges that during the litigation, the
State Court refused to enforce its own discovery order,
causing his attorneys to bill hundreds of thousands of
dollars without his consent. Id. at ¶¶
20-21. Plaintiff asserts he eventually had to settle with
United Concordia as a result of such misconduct. Id.
at ¶¶ 23-24.
the settlement, Plaintiff was still dissatisfied. In 2006, he
obtained a law degree to “file a petition for contempt
on behalf of dentists who were harmed by” United
Concordia's policies. (Doc. 18) at 4. That same year,
Plaintiff sued his former attorneys in State Court “to
show lack of due process during the [United Concordia]
litigation.” (Doc. 1) at ¶ 25; Poel v. Vogel,
et al, D-307-CV-2006-1638. The attorneys countersued for
malicious abuse of process. (Doc. 1) at ¶ 26. The State
Court dismissed Plaintiff's claims and entered a $400,
000 judgment against him for malicious abuse of process
(Money Judgment). Id. at ¶¶ 26-27, 39-44.
filed his third State Court lawsuit in 2010, seeking a writ
of mandamus requiring the New Mexico Attorney General to
enforce the Dental Care Act. Id. at ¶ 18;
Poel v. New Mexico Attorney General.
D-307-CV-2010-3265. He now alleges the State Court again
improperly denied the petition. (Doc. 1) at ¶ 18. A year
later, Plaintiff filed a fourth suit, this time in Federal
Court, against his attorneys and the judge who entered the
Money Judgment. Id. at ¶ 28; Poel v.
Webber, et al, Civ. No. 11-882 JB/GBW. Plaintiff
asserted various constitutional claims and alleged his
attorneys conspired with the judge in the original 2003
United Concordia litigation. (Doc. 1 in Civ. No. 11-882). The
Honorable James O. Browning dismissed the complaint because
it failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
(Docs. 73, 75 in Civ. No. 11-882).
the Disciplinary Board initiated proceedings to revoke
Plaintiff's law license on the grounds that he had no
factual or legal basis for the lawsuit he filed in federal
court. (Doc. 1) at ¶ 30; (Doc. 18-2); In the Matter
of Martin H. Poel, Disciplinary No. 09-2013-675.
Plaintiff now alleges the proceeding was initiated in
retaliation and “solely because Plaintiff sued
[Defendant] in Federal Court.” (Doc. 1) at ¶ 30. The
Disciplinary Board found Plaintiff violated three Rules of
Professional Conduct: NMRA 16-301 (frivolous suits); NMRA
16-802(A) (misstatements about a judge); and NMRA 16-804(D)
(conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).
Id. at ¶ 34; (Doc. 18-3). Plaintiff was placed
on probation, censured, and ordered to pay $2, 193.48 in
costs. (Doc. 1) at ¶ 34; (Doc. 18-3). Plaintiff elected
not to pursue re-instatement of his law license and is no
longer a member of the bar. (Doc. 27) at 3.
on the foregoing, Plaintiff now asserts Defendant violated
the Constitution by: (1) refusing to enforce the Dental Care
Act; (2) denying him due process during the four prior
lawsuits; (3) retaliating for those lawsuits by initiating
the disciplinary proceeding; (4) suspending his law license;
and (5) enacting the above disciplinary rules. Plaintiff asks
this Court to “[d]eclare the [$400, 000] Judgment in
Poel v. Vogel et al D-307-CV-2006-01638 to be void,
” and “[d]eclare Rules 16-301, 16-802(A), and
6-804(D) NMRA to be unconstitutional.” (Doc. 1) at
p. 11. Plaintiff also appears to seek $400, 000 in money
damages for the alleged constitutional violations, unless the
Court determines sovereign immunity applies. (Doc. 18) at 23;
(Doc. 27) at p. 4-5.
moved to dismiss this action pursuant to Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), and for sanctions.
(Doc. 16). Defendant contends Plaintiff's claims are
barred by, inter alia, sovereign immunity, the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine, and a lack of standing.
Id. Defendant also asserts the complaint fails to
state a cognizable claim. Id. Plaintiff opposes the
Motion to Dismiss in its entirety and requests oral argument.
(Docs. 18, 27). Defendant argues the Motion for Oral Argument
is really an unauthorized surreply. (Doc. 28).
Standard of Review
as here, a defendant seeks dismissal under both Rules
12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), Plaintiff must first carry the burden
of proving the Court has jurisdiction. See Mounkes v.
Conklin, 922 F.Supp. 1501, 1505 (D. Kan. 1996). Rule
12(b)(1) requires dismissal where the Court lacks subject
matter jurisdiction over the claims. “Rule 12(b)(1)
motions generally take one of two forms: (1) a facial attack
on the sufficiency of the complaint's allegations as to
subject matter jurisdiction; or (2) a challenge to the actual
facts upon which subject matter jurisdiction is based.”
Ruiz v. McDonnell, 299 F.3d 1173, 1180 (10th Cir.
2002) (citing Holt v. United States, 46 F.3d 1000,
1002-03 (10th Cir. 1995)). Defendant presents a facial
challenge, which requires the Court to accept the factual
allegations contained in the complaint. Id.
jurisdiction is established, the claims may still be subject
to dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6). That rule authorizes a
court to dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff's
complaint must contain sufficient facts that, if assumed to
be true, state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face. See Mink v. Knox, 613 F.3d 995, 1000 (10th
Cir. 2010) (citations omitted). A complaint need not set
forth detailed factual allegations, yet a “pleading
that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation
of the elements of a cause of action” is insufficient.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(citation omitted). While a pro se plaintiff's
allegations must be liberally construed, pro se
parties must follow the same rules of civil procedure as any
other litigant. See Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106,
1110 (10th Cir. 1991).