Amato et al v. McGinty et al
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER denying 8 Motion for TRO and Preliminary Injunction: The Court hereby ORDERS that Plaintiffs' application for a temporary restraining order (Dkt. No. 8) is DENIED; and the Court furtherORDERS that the Clerk of the Court shall serve a copy of this Memorandum-Decision and Order on all parties in accordance with the Local Rules. Signed by U.S. District Judge Mae A. D'Agostino on 6/2/17. [copy mailed to pro se plaintiff Frances Amato) (ban)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
FRANCES AMATO; JOHN DOE,
progeny minor child; ADRIENNE
AUCHMOODY; TONI JEAN KULPINSKI;
VLADIMIR KULPINSKI; MICHAELA
KULPINSKI; MICHELLE ARZOLA; JANE
DOE, minor child; and JOHN DOE, minor child of
JUDGE ANTHONY MCGINTY, individually
and as Ulster County Family Court Judge;
ATTORNEY ANDREW GILDAY, individually
and as a public defender of New York; AMY INGRAM,
state attorney for the child; PATRICK V. BEESMER,
individually; and PAMELA AUGUSTINE, individually,
P.O. Box 820
Marlboro, New York 12542
Plaintiff, pro se
TONI JEAN KULPINSKI;
Plaintiffs, pro se
Mae A. D'Agostino, U.S. District Judge:
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
Pro se Plaintiff Frances Amato ("Plaintiff Amato") and various members of her family,
also proceeding pro se, commenced the instant action on May 26, 2017, alleging various
constitutional violations, a state law tort claim, and also seeking injunctive relief. See
generally Dkt. No. 1. Currently before the Court is Plaintiffs' request for a temporary restraining
order ("TRO"). See Dkt. No. 8.
This action arises out of Plaintiff Amato's involvement in custody proceedings before the
Ulster County Family Court regarding Plaintiff Amato's child. See Dkt. No. 1 at 3. The other
Plaintiffs in this action appear to all be related to Plaintiff Amato and her child. See id. at 2-3.
Plaintiffs have sued five Defendants, including Family Court Judge Anthony McGinty – the judge
presiding over the custody proceedings; Andrew Gilday – the public defender assigned to the
child's father in the custody proceedings; Amy Ingram – the appointed attorney for the child
during the proceedings; Patrick Beesmer – the child's father; and Pamela Augustine – Mr.
Beesmer's "paramour" as Plaintiff Amato describes her. See id. at 3-4. The crux of Plaintiff
Amato's claims is that Defendants violated her constitutional rights when Mr. Beesmer was
awarded custody of their child. The complaint is full of general and conclusory allegations of
wrongdoing by Defendants. Of course, the Court has construed Plaintiffs' claims liberally given
their pro se status.
Although the allegations in Plaintiffs' complaint are somewhat difficult to decipher, it
appears that Plaintiff Amato alleges that she was retaliated against during the custody proceedings
as a result of her outspoken criticism of Judge McGinty prior to those proceedings. See id. at 7.
As a result, during the custody proceedings, Plaintiff Amato claims that Judge McGinty "denied
[her] rights to proper serving process, denied any evidence into the court for purpose of record,
[and] [d]enied the serious risk and harm to [her] child." Id. Plaintiff Amata also complains that
Judge McGinty engaged in "[h]ighly abusive treatment" and "[c]aused [e]xtreme pain and
suffering and trauma to all plaintiffs by violating our constitutional rights." Id. at 6.
Plaintiffs further allege that Ms. Ingram, the child's attorney, violated Plaintiffs'
constitutional rights when she "never returned calls to [Plaintiff Amato] and ignored all abuse to
family and child." Id. at 11. Plaintiffs alleges that Mr. Beesmer and Ms. Augustine conspired
with the other Defendants to deprive Plaintiffs of their constitutional rights. See id. at 4.
Plaintiffs do not appear to allege anything specific against Mr. Gilday, but Plaintiffs generally
allege that Mr. Gilday effectively participated in the "kidnaping and endangerment of a minor"
and that he subjected Plaintiffs to "cruel and unusual punishment," along with the other
Defendants. Id. at 8, 11. Plaintiffs purport to bring claims for First and Fourteenth Amendment
violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"), and also claim that Defendants are
liable for "intentional and negligent emotional distress." Id. at 4, 24.
"Temporary restraining orders . . . and preliminary injunctions are extraordinary and
drastic remedies." Lawrence v. Zee, No. 16-CV-1515, 2016 WL 1690669, *1 (E.D.N.Y. Apr. 26,
2016) (citation omitted). The standards for granting either a TRO or a preliminary injunction
require the moving party to demonstrate "(1) irreparable harm in the absence of the injunction and
(2) either (a) a likelihood of success on the merits or (b) sufficiently serious questions going to the
merits to make them a fair ground for litigation and a balance of hardships tipping decidedly in
the movant's favor." Id. (quoting County of Nassau, N.Y. v. Leavitt, 524 F.3d 408, 414 (2d Cir.
2008)). Moreover, "[t]he movant must carry the burden of persuasion by a clear showing[.]" Id.
In the present matter, Plaintiffs fall well short of establishing the standards for a TRO. At
the outset, it appears that the custody proceedings have concluded.1 If the proceedings have
concluded, Plaintiff's claim for a TRO restoring custody of her child is barred by the RookerFeldman doctrine. "Under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, a district court lacks 'subject matter
jurisdiction over claims that effectively challenge state court judgments.'" Arena v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs. of Nassau Cty., 216 F. Supp. 2d 146, 151 (E.D.N.Y. 2002) (quoting Kropelnicki v. Siegel,
290 F.3d 118, 128 (2d Cir.2002)). "The Second Circuit has recently stated that the
Rooker–Feldman doctrine bars a district court from reviewing a family court's determinations
regarding custody, neglect and visitation where those issues have been decided after providing the
plaintiff a full and fair opportunity to litigate those issues." Id. at 152 (citing Phifer v. City of
New York, 289 F.3d 49, 57 (2d Cir.2002)). In this case, Plaintiffs merely seek review of the
family court's determination regarding custody in the requested TRO. Although Plaintiffs make
conclusory allegations that Judge McGinty acted with bias, Plaintiff Amato has completely failed
to demonstrate that she was deprived of a full and fair opportunity to litigate the custody issues in
family court. Every indication is that Plaintiff Amato is merely upset about the result of the
custody proceedings. Accordingly, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine prevents the Court from issuing
the requested TRO, which would require the Court to review a state court judgment.2
If, on the other hand, the proceedings are still ongoing, Younger abstention is appropriate
and the Court will not grant the requested injunctive relief. See Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37
Plaintiff Amato attached a letter from Judge McGinty stating that if Plaintiff Amato
disagrees with Judge McGinty's decision from 2016, the appropriate remedy is an appeal. See
Dkt. No. 1 at 22-23. Moreover, every indication from the complaint is that Mr. Beesmer already
has custody of the child.
It may be that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars all of Plaintiffs' claims in this case, but
at this juncture the Court is only reviewing Plaintiffs' application for a TRO.
(1971). "Younger requires federal courts to abstain from exercising jurisdiction over claims that
implicate ongoing state proceedings." Torres v. Gaines, 130 F. Supp. 3d 630, 635 (D. Conn.
2015). This doctrine "applies if the federal action involves ongoing: (1) 'state criminal
prosecutions'; (2) 'civil proceedings that are akin to criminal prosecutions'; or (3) civil
proceedings that 'implicate a State's interest in enforcing the orders and judgments of its courts.'"
Id. at 636 (quoting Sprint Commc'ns, Inc. v. Jacobs, 134 S. Ct. 584, 588 (2013)). "If the federal
action falls into one of these three categories, a Court may then consider the additional factors
described in Middlesex Cnty. Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 102 S.Ct.
2515, 73 L.Ed.2d 116 (1982)." Id. Since the Supreme Court's decision in Sprint, several courts in
this Circuit have held that Younger abstention applies in similar circumstances as this case. See
id.; see also Graham v. N.Y. Ctr. for Interpersonal Dev., No. 15-CV-00459, 2015 WL 1120120,
*2-3 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 12, 2015) (holding that the plaintiff's claims for injunctive relief were barred
by Younger where the plaintiff sought to challenge ongoing family court proceedings regarding
the loss of custody of her son). Moreover, like in Graham, the Middlesex factors3 weigh in favor
of invoking Younger abstention in this case.
Even if the Court had the authority to grant the requested TRO, the Court would decline to
do so since Plaintiffs have not established a likelihood of success on the merits or sufficiently
serious questions going to the merits. Since most, if not all, of Plaintiffs' claims arise out of the
underlying custody proceedings, it is likely that all of their claims are barred by the RookerFeldman doctrine. Moreover, generally speaking, Plaintiff merely asserts conclusory allegations
of wrongdoing that would likely not survive a Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion.
The factors examine "whether the state interest is vital and whether the state proceeding
affords an adequate opportunity to raise the constitutional claims." Torres, 130 F. Supp. 3d at
Specifically, Judge McGinty is entitled to absolute judicial immunity for his actions that
are judicial in nature. See McKnight v. Middleton, 699 F. Supp. 2d 507, 523 (E.D.N.Y. 2010).
The allegations in the complaint appear to relate directly to Judge McGinty's role as a judge in the
custody proceedings. See Dkt. No. 1 at 7. Plaintiffs argue that he acted in excess of his
jurisdiction because he violated Section 21 of the New York Judiciary Law, and thus, is not
entitled to absolute immunity. See id. at 6. However, "[a] judge will not be deprived of immunity
because the action he took was in error, was done maliciously, or was in excess of his authority;
rather, he will be subject to liability only when he has acted in the 'clear absence of all
jurisdiction.'" Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356 (1978). Accordingly, Judge McGinty is
likely entitled to absolute immunity from Plaintiffs' claims. Similarly, Ms. Ingram is also entitled
to quasi-judicial immunity for her actions arising from her representation of the child. See
McKnight, 699 F. Supp. 2d at 528-29.
With respect to the remaining Defendants, it appears that Plaintiffs primarily attempt to
assert a Section 1983 conspiracy claim against them. However, the allegations "fall far short of
pleading a 'close nexus' or 'joint engagement' to sustain a [Section 1983] claim." Id. at 531.
Plaintiffs merely allege that these Defendants participated in the proceedings, but do not appear to
allege any specific wrongdoing. Accordingly, Plaintiffs have not demonstrated a likelihood of
success on the merits or raised sufficiently serious questions going to the merits.
Having carefully reviewed Plaintiffs' submissions, and the applicable law, and for the
above-stated reasons, the Court hereby
ORDERS that Plaintiffs' application for a temporary restraining order (Dkt. No. 8) is
DENIED; and the Court further
ORDERS that the Clerk of the Court shall serve a copy of this Memorandum-Decision
and Order on all parties in accordance with the Local Rules.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: June 2, 2017
Albany, New York
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?