Guy A v. Moynihan et al
ORDER granting 16 & 19 MOTIONS to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction. The Clerk shall terminate all pending motions and close the case. Signed by Judge Stefan R. Underhill on 06/20/2017. (Jamieson, K)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
ERIC A. GUY,
No. 3:17-cv-00014 (SRU)
BRIAN MOYNIHAN, et al.,
RULING AND ORDER
Eric A. Guy,1 pro se, has moved for an emergency stay of ejectment and for an injunction
against foreclosure proceedings currently pending in Connecticut Superior Court. Various
defendants have moved to dismiss on the basis of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, res judicata, the
Anti-Injunction Act, the Eleventh Amendment, absolute judicial immunity, Younger abstention,
insufficient service of process, and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
Because, under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, I lack subject matter jurisdiction to review the
state court judgment, I grant the defendants’ motions and dismiss Guy’s case.
Standard of Review
“A case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction . . . when the district
court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it.” Makarova v. United States, 201
F.3d 110, 113 (2d Cir. 2000). A party who seeks to invoke a court’s jurisdiction bears the burden
of establishing that it exists by alleging facts to demonstrate that the legal basis for the dispute
allows it to be adjudicated in federal court. Thompson v. Cnty. of Franklin, 15 F.3d 245, 249 (2d
Cir. 1994) (citing Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 518 (1975)). Although I “accept as true all
The Clerk shall correct the plaintiff’s name on the docket to “Eric A. Guy.”
material allegations of the complaint, and . . . construe the complaint in favor of the complaining
party,” I may consider materials outside the record for the purpose of determining whether
subject matter jurisdiction exists. Id. (quoting Warth, 522 U.S. at 501).
Guy owned property in Windsor, Connecticut, which was the subject of a foreclosure
action by Bank of America in Connecticut Superior Court. See Compl., Bank of America v. Guy,
Doc. No. HHD-CV-14-6055975-S (Conn. Super. Ct. Dec. 11, 2014). On June 29, 2015, the state
court entered a judgment of strict foreclosure against Guy’s property. Judgment, Doc. No.
117.00, Bank of America v. Guy (June 29, 2015). Guy filed several motions to open the
judgment, see Mot. Open Judgment, Doc. No. 129.00, Bank of America v. Guy (Nov. 20, 2015);
Mot. Open Judgment, Doc. No. 133.00, Bank of America v. Guy (Jan. 4, 2016); Mot. Open
Judgment, Doc. No. 139.00, Bank of America v. Guy (May 2, 2016); Mot. Open Judgment, Doc.
No. 148.00 (Oct. 31, 2016), all of which were denied. See Order, Doc. No. 129.86, Bank of
America v. Guy (Dec. 21, 2015); Order, Doc. No. 133.86, Bank of America v. Guy (June 2,
2016); Order, Doc. No. 139.86, Bank of America v. Guy (May 18, 2016); Order, Doc. No.
148.86, Bank of America v. Guy (Nov. 21, 2016). Guy also appealed to the Connecticut
Appellate Court, see Doc. No. 146.00, Bank of America v. Guy (July 19, 2016), but his appeal
was dismissed as moot. See Order, Doc. No. 147.00, Bank of America v. Guy (Oct. 21, 2016).
The state court issued an execution of ejectment against Guy on December 29, 2016.2
Doc. No. 154.00, Bank of America v. Guy (Dec. 29, 2016). On January 4, 2017, Guy filed a
On February 27, 2016, the state court’s execution was returned unsatisfied. Doc. No. 155.00,
Bank of America v. Guy (Feb. 27, 2016). The court issued another execution of ejectment on
March 3, 2017, Doc. No. 157.00, id. (Mar. 3, 2017), which was also returned unsatisfied on May
3, 2017. Doc. No. 158.00, id. (May 3, 2017). A third execution of ejectment was issued on May
30, 2017. See Doc. No. 161.00, id. (May 30, 2017).
complaint in this court against various defendants, including Bank of America3 and its CEO,
Brian Moynihan; Bank of America’s attorneys in the state court action; several judges of the
Connecticut Superior Court; and the State of Connecticut. See Compl., Doc. No. 1, Guy v.
Moynihan, 3:17-cv-00014 (SRU) (D. Conn. Jan. 4, 2017). Essentially, Guy alleges that the state
court lacked jurisdiction and that the proceedings violated his rights protected by the
Constitution of the United States, 28 U.S.C. § 1343(a)(3), and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See id. at 1–2,
8–9. Guy simultaneously filed a motion for an injunction to abate the state court proceedings
(styled as a “motion to intervene”), Doc. No. 3; a motion for emergency stay of ejectment, Doc.
No. 4; and a motion to vacate the state court judgment, Doc. No. 5.4
Moynihan and Bank of America (collectively, “Bank of America”) appeared in the action
on March 31, 2017. Doc. No. 11. Judge Anthony Avallone of the Connecticut Superior Court
and the State of Connecticut (collectively, “the State”) appeared on April 28, 2017. Doc. No. 17.
Bank of America moved to dismiss pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) on April 20, 2017,
arguing that Guy’s claims “are barred by the Rooker-Feldman and res judicata doctrines, as well
as the Anti-Injunction Act,” and that Guy “fails to . . . plead a cognizable legal basis for relief.”
Bank of America’s Mot. Dismiss, Doc. No. 16, at 1. The State moved to dismiss pursuant to
Rules 12(b)(1), 12(b)(5), and 12(b)(6) on April 28, 2017, contending that Guy’s claims “are
barred in their entirety by (1) the Eleventh Amendment; (2) absolute judicial immunity; (3) the
Younger abstention doctrine; (4) the Anti-Injunction Act; (5) improper and insufficient service of
process; and (6) failure to state a claim.” State’s Mot. Dismiss, Doc. No. 19, at 1.
The Clerk shall correct the spelling of defendant’s name on the docket to “Bank of America.”
Guy also filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, which was denied on January
11, 2017. Doc. No. 9. Guy then paid the filing fee on January 23, 2017.
Guy responded to the motions to dismiss and filed a petition for writ of mandamus on
May 2. 2017.5 Doc. No. 20. Neither he nor the defendants requested oral argument.
Bank of America and the State have raised numerous grounds for dismissing Guy’s
lawsuit. Because I conclude that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine is sufficient to dispose of Guy’s
case in its entirety, I will address only that basis for dismissal.
“Where a federal suit follows a state suit, the former may be prohibited by the so-called
Rooker-Feldman doctrine in certain circumstances.” Hoblock v. Albany Cnty. Bd. of Elections,
422 F.3d 77, 83–84 (2d Cir. 2005). Named for two Supreme Court cases—Rooker v. Fidelity
Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923), and D.C. Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983)—
the doctrine “established the clear principle that federal district courts lack jurisdiction over suits
that are, in substance, appeals from state court judgments.” See Hoblock, 422 F.3d at 84. Because
a federal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1257, “vests authority to review a state court’s judgment solely in
th[e] [Supreme] Court,” Rooker and Feldman held that federal district courts “lacked subjectmatter jurisdiction” to hear cases seeking to “overturn an injurious state-court judgment.” See
Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 291–92 (2005).
For the Rooker-Feldman doctrine to apply, “four requirements” must be satisfied.
McKithen v. Brown, 626 F.3d 143, 154 (2d Cir. 2010). First, the plaintiff must have “lost in state
court.” Id. Second, the plaintiff must “complain of injuries caused by the state court judgment.”
Id. Third, the plaintiff must “invite district court review of that judgment. Id. And fourth, “the
state court judgment [must have been] entered before the plaintiff’s federal suit commenced.” Id.
Guy subsequently also filed a motion to strike, Doc. No. 21, and a motion for default entry,
Doc. No. 22, which the defendants have opposed. See Docs. Nos. 23 & 24.
In the absence of those criteria, Rooker-Feldman “does not deprive a district court of subjectmatter jurisdiction ‘simply because a party attempts to litigate in federal court a matter
previously litigated in state court.’” Hoblock, 422 F.3d at 85 (quoting Saudi Basic Indus. Corp.,
544 U.S. at 293). Rather, the federal plaintiff must “complain of injuries caused by state-court
judgments . . . and invit[e] district court review and rejection of those documents.” Saudi Basic
Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. at 284 (emphasis added). If a plaintiff raises “independent claims,” even
if those claims “involve the identical subject matter and parties as previous state-court suits,”
then the case is not barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Id. at 293; Hoblock, 422 F.3d at 85.
“Courts in this Circuit have consistently held that any attack on a judgment of foreclosure
is clearly barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine,” and Guy’s claims are no exception. See
Gonzalez v. Ocwen Home Loan Serv., 74 F. Supp. 3d 504, 517–18 (D. Conn. 2015), aff’d, 632 F.
App’x 32 (2d Cir. 2016) (summary order). Guy “lost in the state foreclosure action, and the
foreclosure judgment was entered before [Guy] filed his . . . federal complaint.” Vossbrinck v.
Accredited Home Lenders, 773 F.3d 423, 426 (2d Cir. 2014) (per curiam). Moreover, Guy
explicitly “complain[s] of injury from a state-court judgment.” Hoblock, 422 F.3d at 85. In his
complaint, Guy alleges that he “never had the rights to a fair hearing or trial” because “the
opposing party [never] had to . . . appear to testify in Superior Court.” Compl., Doc. No. 1, at 9.
He also contends that the state court lacked jurisdiction, with the result that the judgment against
him “deprived [him] of life, liberty, property, and due process of law.” Id. Guy’s claimed injuries
“were caused by the Foreclosure Judgment because the foreclosure would not have occurred butfor the judgment in state court.” In re Sanders, 408 B.R. 25, 34 (Bankr. E.D.N.Y. 2009) (internal
quotation marks omitted). Hence, “the injury of which [Guy] ‘complains’ . . . , and which he
seeks to have remedied, is the state foreclosure judgment.” Vossbrinck, 773 F.3d at 427.
Guy also impermissibly “seek[s] federal-court review and rejection of the state-court
judgment.” Hoblock, 422 F.3d at 85. Guy’s prayer for relief requests that I “[v]acate [the]
[j]udgment” of the Superior Court “due to the fact that . . . the trial court has not complied with
the U.S. Bill of Rights.” Compl., Doc. No. 1, at 12. He has filed motions seeking orders to abate
the state court proceedings, Doc. No. 3, stay the state court’s order of ejectment, Doc. No. 4, and
vacate the judgment of stricture foreclosure, Doc. No. 5. His petition for a writ of mandamus
“demand[s] [that] the Court . . . vacate or set [a]side [the] foreclosure judgment.” See Pet. Writ
Mandamus, Doc. No. 20-1, at 1. Thus, Guy’s case presents the “paradigm situation” for
application of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, “where the plaintiff has ‘repaired to federal court to
undo the [state] judgment.’” Vossbrinck, 773 F.3d at 427 (quoting Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544
U.S. at 293). Having “lost in the [state] foreclosure action,” Guy “may not now re-litigate the
validity of the foreclosure in federal court.”6 Gonzalez, 74 F. Supp. 3d at 517–18.
To be sure, the Second Circuit has cautioned that “[t]he Rooker-Feldman doctrine does
not prevent a district court from reviewing a claim for damages stemming from an allegedly
fraudulent foreclosure judgment, because the district court can determine damages liability
without reviewing the propriety of the state court judgment.” Worthy-Pugh v. Deutsche Bank
Nat’l Tr. Co., 664 F. App’x 20, 21 (2d Cir. 2016) (summary order) (emphasis added). But Guy
does not seek damages in his prayer for relief. See Compl., Doc. No. 1, at 12. Even if he did,7
Even were I to read Guy’s complaint to “allege that [the] state court judgment was procured
by fraud,” jurisdiction is lacking. See id. at 513. Allegations that a “judgment was void because it
was obtained through a fraudulent scheme to interfere with the judicial process do not defeat
application of [the] Rooker-Feldman [doctrine].” Worthy-Pugh v. Deutsche Bank Nat’l Tr. Co.,
664 F. App’x 20, 21 (2d Cir. 2016) (summary order).
Guy’s Affidavit in Support of Civil Rights Complaint, attached to his complaint, does purport
to demand “$1,000,000” in “actual damages” for “[f]our years of constant unlawful litigation in
the State of New York” and “[p]unitive damages of $8,000,000.” Aff., Doc. No. 1-1, at 21–22.
any damages claims against the State still would be barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine,
because in order to adjudicate a claim that the state court violated Guy’s constitutional rights, I
would need to “review the propriety of the state court judgment.” Worthy-Pugh, 664 F. App’x
at 21. Likewise, any damages claims against Bank of America would fail due to the doctrine of
issue preclusion, which “bars ‘successive litigation of an issue of fact or law actually litigated
and resolved in a valid court determination essential to the prior judgment,’ even if the issue
recurs in the context of a different claim.” Taylor v. Sturgell, 553 U.S. 880, 892 (2008) (quoting
New Hampshire v. Maine, 532 U.S. 742, 748–49 (2001)). Here, a damages claim against Bank of
America would turn on the validity of the order of foreclosure, which was “actually litigated and
determined by a valid and final judgment” and “essential to that judgment.” See Chadha v.
Charlotte Hungerford Hosp., 97 Conn. App. 527, 536 (2006). As such, Guy could not
collaterally attack the foreclosure through a damages claim in federal court.
“Because [Guy] seek[s] review and reversal of [a] prior unfavorable state court
judgment in a later federal action,” I “lack subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to the RookerFeldman doctrine.” Gonzalez, 74 F. Supp. 3d at 517. Although “a pro se complaint is to be read
liberally” and held to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers,”
Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980); Shomo v. City of New York, 579 F.3d 176, 183 (2d Cir.
2009), here, “there is no indication [Guy] could establish subject matter jurisdiction by any
lawful amendment.” Nachbaur v. Weiss, 19 F. App’x 24, 26 (2d Cir. 2001) (summary order).
Therefore, I dismiss Guy’s complaint without leave to replead.
That language refers to litigation in New York that does not appear in the record, so I doubt that
it states a plausible claim. See Mem. Supp. Bank of America’s Mot. Dismiss, Doc. No. 16-1, at 8
(“[The] allegations pertaining to a different individual and a foreclosure in New York . . . are not
reasonably tied to a specific federal cause of action.”). Assuming that it did, however, a claim for
damages would still be barred for the reasons discussed above.
Under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, I lack subject matter jurisdiction over Guy’s efforts
to challenge the state court judgment. I grant the defendants’ motions to dismiss pursuant to Rule
12(b)(1) and dismiss Guy’s case.
The Clerk is directed to terminate all pending motions and close the case.
Dated at Bridgeport, Connecticut, this 20th day of June 2017.
/s/ STEFAN R. UNDERHILL
Stefan R. Underhill
United States District Judge
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