Kneitel v. Doar et al
MEMORANDUM & ORDER granting 2 Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis. Kneitel's Complaint is dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. So Ordered by Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis on 12/09/2011. (c/m to pro se; fwd'd for jgm) (Lee, Tiffeny)
IN CLERK'S OFFICE
U.S. DlSTRirT COURTE.D.N.Y.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
* ~~1 z 2011 *
MICHAEL A. KNEITEL,
ROBERT DOAR; CHRISTINA M. PlAIA; MARIA
MIKHAILOV; OLGA STEFANCO; E. PACHEKO;
NICHOLAS J. PALOS; PAULA J. HEPNER;
YULIY A YASNOGORODSKA YA; MICHAEL A.
CARDOZO, Corporation Counsel; THE CITY OF
NEW YORK HUMAN RESOURCES
ADMINISTRATION; and THE STATE OF NEW
YORK UNIFIED COURT SYSTEM,
NICHOLAS G. GARAUFIS, United States District Judge.
Plaintiff prose Michael J. Kneitel ("Kneitel") filed the instant complaint pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Kneitel's request to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § I 915 is
granted. For the reasons discussed below, the complaint is dismissed for lack of subject matter
Kneitel alleges that Defendants violated his constitutional rights in connection with child
support proceedings in state court. He alleges that in January 2010, Defendant Yuliya
Yasnogorodskaya ("Yasnogorodskaya"), the custodial parent of their daughter, commenced a
child support action against him in Kings County Family Court. (Compl. (Docket Entry# I) at
6.) Kneitel argues that although he and Yasnogorodskaya privately settled the Family Court
matter by oral agreement, she later reneged on the agreement and obtained a default judgment
against him. (lQJ Defendant Nicholas J. Palos. the presiding Family Court magistrate judge,
ordered Kneitel to pay child support, and Kneitel applied for a downward modification, arguing
that the court's order reflected an amount in access of the statutory amount owed. (IQJ The
court denied Kneitel's application. (MJ Kneitel states that Magistrate Judge Palos "threatened
to incarcerate" him if he did not pay child support. (@
In February 2011, K.neitel again sought a downward modification, this time arguing that
his payments should be reduced based on his recent unemployment. (Id. at 6-7.) He states that
he alerted the state court that the New York State Office of Child Support Enforcement had
levied $15,557 from his bank account, 50% of his unemployment benefits, and his tax refund.
(Id. at 7.) Magistrate Judge Palos adjourned K.neitel's state court case. (IQJ Kneitel also alleges
that his driver's license was suspended impermissibly, and that Defendant E. Pacheko, a
supetvisor at the Department of Motor Vehicles, "refused to lift the suspension order." (l4J He
states that he filed an Article 78 proceeding about the suspension of his license and about the
levied funds. (!l!J
In Kneitel's instant case, he seeks monetary, injunctive and declaratory relief.
In reviewing Kneitel's Complaint, the court is mindful that "a prose complaint, however
inartfully pleaded, must be held to Jess stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (internal quotation marks and citations
omitted); Sealed Plaintiffv. Sealed Defendaot, 537 F.3d 185, 191 (2d Cir. 2008).
Federal courts have limited jurisdiction, and may hear only those cases involving a
federal question or jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship. Perpetual Sees .. Inc .. v. Tang.
290 F.3d 132, 136 (2d Cir. 2002). Under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(h)(3), the court
must dismiss an action if it determines that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction. A "failure of
subject matter jurisdiction is not waivable and may be raised at any time by a party or by the
court sua sponte. If subject matter jurisdiction is lacking, the action must be dismissed."
Lyndonville Sav. Bank & Trust Co. v. Lussier, 211 F.3d 697, 700-01 (2d Cir. 2000) (citations
Kneitel's Complaint focuses on a dispute about child support. Accordingly, his claims
fall within the well-established "domestic relations exception" to federal subject matter
jurisdiction. The Supreme Court has "recognized a 'domestic relations exception' that 'divests
the federal courts of power to issue divorce, alimony, and child custody decrees.'" Elk Grove
Unified Sch. Dist. v. Newdow, 542 U.S. 1, 12-13, (2004) (quoting Ankenbrandt v. Richards, 504
U.S. 689,703 (1992)); see also Amer. Airlines v. Block, 905 F.2d 12, 14 (2d Cir. 1990) (federal
courts should abstain from exercising jurisdiction over cases "on the verge" of being matrimonial
in nature); Fischer v. Clark. No. 08 CV 3807, 2009 WL 3063313, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 24,
As numerous courts have recognized, child support is a state law domestic relations issue.
See, e.g. Sullivan v. Xu, No. 10-CV-3626 (ENV), 2010 WL 3238979, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 13,
201 0) (district court lacked jurisdiction to hear claims regarding child support and child custody,
despite plaintiffs invocation of his constitutional rights); see also McKnight v. Middleton, 699
F.Supp.2d 507, 516-17 (E.D.N.Y. 2010) (district court lacked jurisdiction over claims involving
custody dispute); Puletti v. Patel, No. 05-CV-2293 (SJ), 2006 WL 2010809, at '4 (E.D.N.Y. July
14, 2006) (same).
Furthermore, Kneitel fails to present a federal question or establish diversity jurisdiction.
(See Compl. at 5 (showing all defendants reside in New York).) Although Kneitel attempts to
invoke his constitutional rights by bringing this action pursuant to § 1983, his claims nonetheless
function as challenges to child support orders. See Schottel v. Kutvba, No. 06-1577-cv, 2009
WL 230106, at *I (2d Cir. Feb. 2, 2009) (plaintiff's tort claims "begin and end in a domestic
dispute" and state courts are better suited to that adjudication). Kneitel has failed to plead facts
that, even read liberally, suggest that New York state courts are not available for full and fair
adjudication of his claims. Therefore, the "domestic relations" exception to this court's
jurisdiction requires dismissal of the Complaint.
Kneitel's Complaint is dismissed for Jack of subject matter jurisdiction. Fed. R. Civ. P.
12(h)(3). The Court certifies pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § !915(a)(3) that any appeal would not be
taken in good faith and therefore in forma pauperis status is denied for purpose of an appeal.
Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438,444-45 (1962).
s/Nicholas G. Garaufis
NICHOLAS G. GARAUFJ~
United States District Judge
Dated: Brooklyn, New York
December j_, 20 II
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