Lawrence v. Ramseur et al
DECISION AND ORDER: The Court grants Plaintiff's 2 request to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) solely for the purpose of this Order. This Court dismisses the instant pro se complaint for la ck of subject matter jurisdiction. Likewise, Plaintiff's request for a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction is DENIED. Any state law claims that Plaintiff may have are dismissed without prejudice. This Court certifies pursuan t to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3) that any appeal would not be taken in good faith and therefore in forma pauperis status is denied for the purpose of any appeal. SO ORDERED by Judge William F. Kuntz, II, on 6/30/2014. (Latka-Mucha, Wieslawa)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
DECISION AND ORDER
CRAIG RAMSEUR individually and in his
official capacity as Court Attorney Referee;
WANDA WARDLAW MATTHEWS,
individually and in her official capacity
as Court Attorney Referee,
WILLIAM F. KUNTZ II, United States District Judge:
On June 30, 2014,pro se plaintiff David Lawrence filed this complaint against two New
York State Court Attorney Referees of the Family Court of the State o.fNew York, County of
Queens ("Queens Family Court") alleging that the state court's entry of a temporary order of
protection against him violates his constitutional rights. He seeks to have the orders of the Queens
Family Court "dismissed without prejudice" and "all subsequent orders and acts'" by the
defendants be declared void with prejudice. Dkt. 1 ("Complaint") ~ 36. Plaintiff also filed an
"Emergency OSC TRO for Relief of a Void Judgment Pursuant to Rule 60(B)(4) of the Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure for Relief of a Void Judgment," by which he seeks the same relief. The
Court grants Plaintiffs request to proceed informapauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)
solely for the purpose of this order. The complaint is dismissed and Plaintiffs request for a
temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction is denied for the reasons set forth below.
The Court assumes familiarity with the facts of Plaintiffs prior action in this Court,
Lawrence v. Hoyos, 14-CV-1875 (WFK)(LB) (dismissed March 25, 2014) in which Plaintiff
challenged his eviction from the property located at 255-10 149th Avenue, Rosedale, New York
("the Property") on the grounds that his constitutional rights were violated.
From this new filing, it is clear that the litigation and antagonism between Plaintiff and his
mother, Irma Lawrence, is ongoing in Queens County Family Court. See Lawrence v. Lawrence,
0-05690-14, File No. 104072. At the heart of the challenged state court proceeding are Plaintiffs
ongoing housing and domestic disputes with his mother-in particular, Plaintiffs practice of
affixing various Court documents to the property and telephoning his mother to apprise her of
supposed court dates. On June 6, 2014, Irma Lawrence obtained a temporary order of protection
against Plaintiff; Plaintiff has been ordered to stay away from her, her home and to cease
communication with her until July 21, 2014, the date on which there is a hearing on Irma
Lawrence's family offense petition. On June 23, 2014, Plaintiff filed an Order to Show Cause
seeking a modification of the Order of Protection in Queens Family Court. He alleges herein that
the entry of the order of protection violates his rights under the Fifth, Ninth and Fourteenth
Amendments to the United States Constitution.
Standard of Review
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (e)(2)(B), a district court shall dismiss an informapauperis action
when it is satisfied that the action is "(i) frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which
relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such
relief." However, a court must construe a prose litigant's pleadings liberally, see Chavis v.
Chappius, 618 F.3d 162, 171 (2d Cir. 2010), especially when those pleadings allege civil rights
violations, Sealed Plaintiffv. Sealed Defendant# 1, 537 F.3d 185, 191-93 (2d Cir. 2008).
Notwithstanding the liberal pleading standard afforded to prose litigants, Plaintiff must
establish that the court has subject matter jurisdiction over the action. Lyndonville Sav. Bank &
Trust Co. v. Lussier, 211 F.3d 697, 700-01 (2d Cir. 2000); see also Rene v. Citibank NA, 32
F.Supp.2d 539, 541-43 (E.D.N.Y. 1999) (Spatt, J.) (dismissingpro se complaint for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction). "[S]ubject-matter jurisdiction, because it involves the court's power
to hear a case, can never be forfeited or waived." United States v. Cotton, 535 U.S. 625, 630
(2002). Courts "have an independent obligation to determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction
exists, even in the absence of a challenge from any party." Arbaughv. Y & H Corp., 546 U.S. 500,
514 (2006) (citing Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 583 (1999)).
Plaintiff seeks dismissal of the temporary order of protection entered against him in
Queens County Family Court. However, Plaintiff's claims challenging family court proceedings
are barred under the Younger abstention doctrine. See Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971).
Under Younger, federal courts cannot intervene in ongoing state court proceedings except in the
most extraordinary circumstances and upon clear showing of both great and immediate harm.
Younger, 401 U.S. at 46; see Middlesex Cnty. Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass 'n, 457 U. S.
426, 432 (1982). In the "interests of comity and federalism," the doctrine requires federal courts
to abstain from jurisdiction "whenever federal claims have been or could be presented in ongoing
state judicial proceedings that concern important state interests." Hawaii HousinR Auth. v. Midkiff,
467 U.S. 229, 237-38 (1984). Therefore, a federal court should abstain from exercising
jurisdiction when: (1) a state proceeding is pending; (2) an important state interest is implicated;
and (3) the state proceeding affords the plaintiff an adequate opportunity for judicial review of
federal, constitutional claims. Gentner v. Shulman, 55 F.3d 87, 89-90 (2d Cir. 1995).
Accordingly, where Younger applies, "the appropriate remedy is dismissal" of the federal action,
thus allowing state court review of the constitutional claims at issue. Fleming v. Grosvenor, No.
08-CV-3074, 2008 WL 3833589, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 15, 2008) (Ross, J.).
Here, each of the three conditions is satisfied. First, Plaintiff is challenging the ongoing
state proceeding. Second, Plaintiffs challenge to the constitutionality of the Family Offense
proceeding implicates important state interests. Third, Plaintiff has not alleged that he lacks the
opportunity to present his constitutional challenges in state court. In fact, New York state law
provides multiple opportunities for appeal. N.Y. Fam. Ct. Act§ 1112; Brown v. Comm 'r of
Admin.for Children's Servs. o/City o/New York, 2009 WL 602905 at *5 (S.D.N.Y. March 9,
2009) (Berman, J.). Furthermore, Plaintiffs allegations fail to show either great or immediate
harm. Younger, 401 U.S. at 46. Accordingly, this Court must abstain from adjudication of
Plaintiffs claims challenging ongoing state court proceedings.
This Court dismisses the instant pro se complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12 (h)(3). Likewise, Plaintiffs request for a temporary restraining order or
preliminary injunction is DENIED. Any state law claims that Plaintiff may have are dismissed
without prejudice. This Court certifies pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3) that any appeal would
not be taken in good faith and therefore in forma pauperis status is denied for the purpose of any
appeal. Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438, 444-45 (1962).
Dated: June 30, 2014
Brooklyn, New York
/S/ Judge William F. Kuntz, II
United States Distri
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