Williams v. Williams et al
DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING the Chautauqua Defendants' 4 Motion to Dismiss; GRANTING the State Defendants' 6 Motion to Dismiss; DECLINING to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claim; DISMISSING Plaintiff's state law claim; DIRECTING the Clerk of the Court to close this case. Signed by William M. Skretny, Chief Judge U.S.D.C. on 2/20/2012. (MEAL)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
ROGER L. WILLIAMS,
DECISION AND ORDER
KELLIE WILLIAMS, et al.,
Plaintiff Roger L. Williams, proceeding pro se, brings this personal property and civil
rights action against various defendants, alleging violations of the Fourth, Eighth, and
Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiff’s claims arise out of his divorced wife’s alleged retention
of marital and personal property that was not credited to his child support payments,
resulting in the issuance of a property execution and restraining notice on his bank
account. Presently before this Court is Defendants Chautauqua County Family Court
Judge Judith Claire, Support Magistrate Michael Bobseine, and former Support Magistrate
Lawrence Zobel’s (the “State Defendants”) Motion to Dismiss, as well as Defendants
Chautauqua County Department of Social Services1 and Jerry D. Hyde’s (the “Chautauqua
Defendants”) Motion to Dismiss.2 For the following reasons, Defendants’ motions are
The com plaint identifies as a defendant the “Chautauqua County Support Collection.” On
Defendants’ representations, no such entity exists. Considering the factual basis for Plaintiff’s com plaint,
and Defendants’ subm issions, this Court will interpret Plaintiff’s com plaint as instead bringing a claim
against the Chautauqua County Departm ent of Social Services, a departm ent of Chautauqua County, New
York. (See Steger Aff. ¶ 6, Docket No. 4-2.)
In support of their m otion, the Chautauqua Defendants filed the Affidavit of Betsy S. Steger, with
Exhibits; the Affidavit of Jerry D. Hyde; a Mem orandum of Law; and a Reply Mem orandum . (Docket Nos.
4, 5, 10.) TheState Defendants sim ilarly filed a Mem orandum of Law; and a Reply Declaration. (Docket
Nos. 3, 9.) In opposition to these m otions, Plaintiff filed a Mem orandum of Law; and two Reply
granted. Further, this Court declines to exercise jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s state law
property claim against Defendant Kellie Williams.
Plaintiff and Defendant, Kellie S. Williams, were divorced sometime prior to October
1, 2002. (Comp., p. 4, Docket No. 1.)3 Ms. Williams allegedly convinced Plaintiff that she
was entitled to sole legal possession over their marital property and evicted him under
threats of arrest. (Id.) In addition to losing what Plaintiff considers his fair share of the
marital assets, Plaintiff was also unable to recover the rest of his personal property from
their formerly shared residence. (Id.) Plaintiff then sought to have the Chautauqua County
Department of Social Services (“Social Services”) credit the value of his personal
belongings, left behind in Ms. Williams’ possession, in satisfaction of his child support
payments in arrears. (Id.) Social Services failed to act on his petitions, and on March 22,
2005 a property execution and restraining notice was sent to Plaintiff’s bank. (Comp., p.7;
Steger Aff. ¶ 15.) This notice was enforced against Plaintiff’s Jamestown Metal Products
Federal Credit Union account and resulted in two checks for the amount of $385.04 and
$65 being forwarded by the bank to Social Services. (Steger Aff. ¶ 15.)
Plaintiff commenced this action on March 21, 2011 by filing a complaint in the
m em oranda. (Docket Nos. 8, 11, 12.)
Plaintiff’s com plaint is written on several pages of a standard form used for filing civil com plaints
in federal court. Because the com plaint’s page num bers are not listed consecutively, all page citations in
this Opinion refer to pages as they electronically appear on the docket.
United States District Court for the Western District of New York. (Docket No. 1.) The
Chautauqua Defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss on April 25, 2011 (Docket No. 4), and
the State Defendants followed suit with their own Motion to Dismiss on April 26, 2011
(Docket No. 6). This Court issued a scheduling notice and Plaintiff filed a timely response
on May 5, 2011. (Docket No. 8.) State Defendants and the Chautauqua Defendants each
filed a reply on May 11, 2011. (Docket Nos. 9, 10.) The parties’ briefs were deemed
submitted as of May 23, 2011. Nevertheless, Plaintiff filed a reply to Defendants’ reply
memoranda on May 25, 2011 (Docket No. 12) and sought leave to amend his Complaint
(Docket No. 11). Because Plaintiff failed to comply with the requirements of Local Rule
15(a), Plaintiff’s Motion to Amend was denied without prejudice.
Standards of Review
Defendants argue that Plaintiff’s Complaint should be dismissed primarily for lack
of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) and/or for failure to state a claim
upon which relief could be granted under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil
A case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule
12(b)(1) 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). The plaintiff bears the
burden of establishing the existence of federal jurisdiction. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife,
The Chautauqua Defendants also seek dism issal under Rules 12(b)(2), 12(b)(4), and 12(b)(5).
504 U.S. 555, 560-61, 112 S. Ct. 2130, 119 L. Ed. 2d 351 (1992).
Where, as here, the jurisdictional challenges are raised at the pleading stage, the
court accepts as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draws all reasonable
inferences in the plaintiff’s favor. Sharkey v. Quarantillo, 541 F.3d 75, 83 (2d Cir. (2008).
It is “presume[d] that general [fact] allegations embrace those specific facts that are
necessary to support the claim.” Lujan v. Nat’l Wildlife Fed’n, 497 U.S. 871, 889, 110 S.
Ct. 3177, 111 L. Ed. 2d 695 (1990) (alterations added). The court also may consider
affidavits and other evidence outside the pleadings to resolve the jurisdictional issue, but
it may not rely on conclusory or hearsay statements contained in affidavits. J.S. v. Attica
Cent. Schs., 386 F.3d 107, 110 (2d Cir. 2004), cert. denied, 544 U.S. 968, 125 S. Ct. 1727,
161 L. Ed. 2d 616 (2005). Indeed, courts “must” consult factual submissions “if resolution
of a proffered factual issue may result in the dismissal of the complaint for want of
jurisdiction.” Robinson v. Gov’t of Malaysia, 269 F.3d 133, 140 n. 6 (2d Cir. 2001).
Rule 12 (b)(6) allows dismissal of a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 12 (b)(6). Federal pleading standards are generally
not stringent: Rule 8 requires only a short and plain statement of a claim. Fed. R. Civ. P.
8(a)(2). But the plain statement must “possess enough heft to show that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1966, 167 L.
Ed. 2d 929 (2007).
When determining whether a complaint states a claim, the court must construe it
liberally, accept all factual allegations as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in the
plaintiff’s favor. ATSI Commc’ns, Inc. v. Shaar Fund, Ltd., 493 F.3d 87, 98 (2d Cir. 2007).
Legal conclusions, however, are not afforded the same presumption of truthfulness. See
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009) (“The
tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is
inapplicable to legal conclusions.”).
“To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Iqbal, 129 S. Ct.
at 1945 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Labels, conclusions, or a “formulaic recitation
of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Facial
plausibility exists when the facts alleged allow for a reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct charged. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. The plausibility
standard is not, however, a probability requirement: the pleading must show, not merely
allege, that the pleader is entitled to relief. Id. at 1950; Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 (a)(2). Wellpleaded allegations must nudge the claim “across the line from conceivable to plausible.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.
Courts therefore use a two-pronged approach to examine the sufficiency of a
complaint, which includes “any documents that are either incorporated into the complaint
by reference or attached to the complaint as exhibits.” Blue Tree Hotels Inv. (Can.), Ltd.
v. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., 369 F.3d 212, 217 (2d Cir. 2004). This
examination is context specific and requires that the court draw on its judicial experience
and common sense. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950. First, statements that are not entitled to
the presumption of truth – such as conclusory allegations, labels, and legal conclusions –
are identified and stripped away. See Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950. Second, well-pleaded,
non-conclusory factual allegations are presumed true and examined to determine whether
they “plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id.
Plaintiff’s complaint, though difficult to decipher, appears to state three causes of
action.5 One is a claim against the State and Chautauqua Defendants for repeatedly failing
to credit the value of his half of the marital property, as well as the personal property left
with Ms. Williams, towards his child support arrears and future child support payments.
Plaintiff alleges that the State Defendants’ dismissal of his petitions in New York Family
Court were in contravention of New York law, and that the Chautauqua Defendants,
through their attorney Jerry D. Hyde, wrongful defended these actions in bad faith.
Another claim alleges that the Chautauqua Defendants violated Plaintiff’s
constitutional rights by receiving checks from his federal credit union account when the
amounts owed in arrears should have been covered by credit received for his marital and
Lastly, Plaintiff brings a property claim against his former wife for her retention of
their, and his, property.
Both the State and Chautauqua Defendants argue that the claims against them
should be dismissed pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. As discussed below, this
Court agrees that it is precluded from exercising jurisdiction.
independent, grounds exist for granting Defendants’ motions.
As a pro se litigant, Plaintiff is entitled to broad consideration of his subm issions. Federal courts
routinely read pro se subm issions liberally, and interpret them to raise the strongest argum ents that they
suggest. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 S. Ct. 594, 596, 30 L. Ed. 2d 652 (1972); Burgos v.
Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994). This court has considered Plaintiff’s subm issions accordingly.
Pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, federal district courts lack subject matter
jurisdiction over suits that are “cases brought by state-court losers complaining of injuries
caused by state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings
commenced and inciting district court review and rejection of those judgments.” Exxon
Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284, 125 S. Ct. 1517, 161 L. Ed.
2d 454 (2005); see Rooker v. Fidelity trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 414-15, 44 S. Ct. 149, 68
L. Ed. 362 (1923); D.C. Ct. of App. v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 103 S. Ct. 1303, 75 L. Ed.
2d 206 (1983). The Rooker-Feldman doctrine applies if: (1) the federal court plaintiff lost
in state court; (2) the plaintiff’s alleged injuries are caused by the state court judgment; (3)
the plaintiff’s claims invite the district court to review and reject that state court judgment;
and (4) the state court judgment was rendered prior to the commencement of the district
court proceedings. Hoblock v. Albany Cnty. Bd. of Elections, 422 F.3d 77, 85 (2d Cir.
In the present case, Plaintiff’s complaint states that he has petitioned Defendants
repeatedly to credit the value of his half of the marital property, as well as the personal
property left with Ms. Williams, towards his child support arrears and future child support
payments. Both the State and Chautauqua Defendants argue that dismissal under Rule
12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) is appropriate under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine because Plaintiff
seeks to effectuate a reversal of a state court judgment by bringing a civil rights action in
this district. Plaintiff resists this argument by asserting that the state courts rulings at issue
dismissed his claims for lack of jurisdiction, and thus did not consider the merits of his
To resolve Plaintiff’s claims, and determine the applicability of the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine, it is necessary to scrutinize the New York Family Court holdings concerning the
substance of Plaintiff’s petitions. See, e.g., Velez v. Reynolds, 325 F. Supp. 2d 293, 309
(S.D.N.Y. 2004) (Rooker-Feldman doctrine requires that plaintiffs have full and fair
opportunity to litigate issues in state court proceeding). Plaintiff’s complaint is devoid of
the Family Court’s specific holdings, other than that they occurred from December 16, 2002
to the time he filed his complaint. Chautauqua Defendants, by contrast, have provided the
affidavit of Betsy S. Steger summarizing the various proceedings before Judge Claire and
Support Magistrate (“S.M.”) Bobseine and former S.M. Zobel. Additionally, attached to
Steger’s affidavit, are copies of 66 pages-worth of family court decisions chronicling
Plaintiff’s frequent, and colorful, appearances in that forum. These submissions are
properly before this Court and must be considered on a Rule 12(b)(1) motion. See Attica
Cent. Schs., 386 F.3d at 110; Robinson, 269 F.3d at 140 n. 6.
Reviewing the Family Court’s decisions reveals that Plaintiff’s petitions were indeed
dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. New York State’s Family Court has limited jurisdiction
over matters specifically enumerated in the New York State Constitution and relevant
statutes. King v. State Educ. Dep’t, 182 F.3d 162, 163 (2d Cir. 1999). In a decision dated
July 25, 2005, S.M. David L. Turnbull dismissed a petition brought by Plaintiff seeking to
modify a judgment of divorce because Social Services had not yet credited the value of his
property. (Steger Aff. 44.)6 The court found that “even if the proper petition was filed with
this Court, the parties would need to proceed in Supreme Court to determine the value of
The affidavit subm itted by the Chautauqua Defendants includes various exhibits, but does not
num ber the individual pages, nor create separate docket entries for them . As with the com plaint, this
Court will refer to any exhibits included with the Steger Affidavit according to the page num bers as they
electronically appear on the docket.
the former marital residence” and dismissed without prejudice. (Id.) The following year,
a decision by S.M. Zobel again dismissed, without prejudice, Plaintiff’s petition for similar
relief because “Family Court has no jurisdiction over land or transfer of property” and
because “Family Court has nothing to do with tax liens.” (Id. at 46.) In a decision dated
March 27, 2008 Plaintiff’s petition was dismissed, this time with prejudice, and again
addressed claims identical to those raised in Plaintiff’s complaint.
Mr. Williams claims that he is entitled to a credit against his
arrears for the value of property that Kellie allegedly stole from
him. It was explained to Mr. Williams that such issue was not
for this Court and that if he believed a theft occurred he should
take it to the proper Court. Mr. Williams also claimed that the
Support Collection Unit was willfully and intentionally
disobeying New York State law in their collection efforts. Mr.
Williams was advised that he needed to exhaust all
administrative remedies before raising such issues with this
(Id. at 53.)
A later decision by S.M. Timothy J. Cooper relied on this decision in applying the
principle of res judicata to dismiss Plaintiff’s renewed petition, which again alleged that his
personal property, allegedly taken by Ms. Williams, should be applied to his child support
arrears and future child support. (Id. at 66.)
Although this Court agrees with Plaintiff that these decisions make clear that his
petitions were dismissed, with prejudice, on jurisdictional grounds, whether this means the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine does not apply is another question. Some courts have found an
exception under the doctrine where a plaintiff alleges that the state court lacked subject
matter jurisdiction. See Schmitt v. Schmitt, 324 F.3d 484, 487 (7th Cir. 2003) (noting void
ab initio Rooker-Feldman exception might be appropriate in bankruptcy cases, but
declining to apply it for violations of constitutional jurisdictional limits); In re James, 940
F.2d 46, 52 (3d Cir. 1991). To date, the Second Circuit has not taken a position on this
issue. See In re Salem, 94 Fed. Appx. 24 (2d Cir. 2004) (noting circuit split on exceptions
to Rooker-Feldman doctrine where underlying state court judgment was void for lack of
jurisdiction, but declining to decide issue); cf., In re Agard, 444 B.R. 231, 243 (Bankr.
E.D.N.Y. 2011) (no exception for judgment procured by fraud or default judgments).
Here, however, Plaintiff is not alleging that the state court improperly rendered a
judgment by ruling on a matter over which it lacked subject matter jurisdiction. Rather,
Plaintiff is arguing the opposite– that the Family Court found it had no jurisdiction, when
in actuality it could have heard his petitions. Although this is a novel point, this Court is
unpersuaded that it renders the Rooker-Feldman doctrine inapplicable. The RookerFeldman doctrine blocks district courts from exercising jurisdiction over claims that are
inextricably intertwined with state court determinations. Kropelnicki v. Siegel, 290 F.3d
118, 128 (2d Cir. 2002) (quoting Feldman, 460 U.S. at 482-83 n.16). Although “where the
claims were never presented in the state court proceedings and the plaintiff did not have
an opportunity to present the claims in those proceedings, the claims are not ‘inextricably
intertwined’ and therefore not barred by Rooker-Feldman,” if “adjudication of a claim in
federal court would require the court to determine that a state court judgment was
erroneously entered or was void, the claim is inextricably intertwined with the merits of the
state court judgment.” Id. at 128-29. Applying the Second Circuit’s four-pronged test for
whether Rooker-Feldman precludes federal jurisdiction makes clear that such is the case
First, Plaintiff was a loser in a state court. He sought to have the Family Court
resolve his claims against Ms. Williams, but had those claims dismissed with prejudice.
Whether Plaintiff could bring his claims in a different state court is a matter separate from
his desire to litigate in New York Family Court. In finding that it lacked jurisdiction, the
Family Court disagreed with Plaintiff’s contention that the issues should be addressed in
that forum, and not elsewhere. Because the complaint now challenges the dismissal of the
petitions by New York’s Family Court as having been in violation of New York law, including
the New York State Family Court Act, Plaintiff was a loser in the state court actions.
Second, Plaintiff’s complaint asserts a claim on the ground that the Family Court’s
dismissal was in violation of New York law. He has thus alleged an injury that is caused
by and the result of the state court judgment.
As to the third prong, Plaintiff did have the opportunity to present his claims as
evidenced by the support magistrates clear and concise summary of them. However,
Plaintiff does not appear to have litigated the merits of his substantive claims because the
Family Court determined that it did not have jurisdiction. Nevertheless, by entertaining
Plaintiff’s claims, this Court would still find itself in a position to find the state courts’ rulings
erroneous. This is because, were this Court now to find the judges to have committed a
constitutional violation in not exercising jurisdiction, it would, in essence, declare that the
state court did have jurisdiction and it was error not to exercise that jurisdiction. “This is
precisely the result that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine seeks to avoid[.]” Id. at 129. Plaintiff
had the opportunity to appeal the Family Court’s decisions in an effort to establish
jurisdiction. He declined to do so. In filing his complaint, Plaintiff now asks this Court to
act in the role of an appellate court and review the Family Court’s dismissal. This it cannot
do, this Court itself lacking subject matter jurisdiction. See Phifer v. City of New York, 289
F.3d 49, 57 (2d Cir. 2002) (federal court may not review family court determinations
decided after plaintiff was provided “full and fair opportunity to litigate those issues”);
Montesano v. New York, Nos. 05 CV 9574(GBD), 05 CV 10624(GBD), 2006 WL 944285,
at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 12, 2006) (observing that a “plaintiff cannot circumvent the appropriate
state appellate process by bringing a declaratory action, couched in terms of a civil rights
violation, seeking federal review and vacatur of adverse state-court decisions”).7
Finally, in satisfaction of the fourth prong, the Family Court decisions were rendered
prior to the March 21, 2011 filing date of the complaint .
Having found that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine does apply in this case, this Court
must conclude that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiff’s claims against the State
and Chautauqua Defendants will be dismissed.8
Claims against the Chautauqua Defendants
Even if this Court had subject matter jurisdiction, dismissal would still be
independently called for on those claims against the Chautauqua Defendants because the
claims fall outside the statute of limitations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.9 The statute of
limitations for claims arising under § 1983 in New York is three years. Shomo v. City of
Further supporting this conclusion is Defendant’s request that this Court order a change of
custody status, a request over which this Court clearly lacks jurisdiction. See Phifer, 289 F.3d at 57
(claim s challenging fam ily court decisions concerning custody, neglect, and visitation rights barred by
In reaching this conclusion, this Court has also considered Plaintiff’s claim against the
Chautauqua Defendants, that they im properly defended the collection of funds from his bank account. To
the extent Plaintiff seeks this Court to find the Fam ily Court’s rulings concerning that collection
unconstitutional, Plaintiff’s claim is also dism issed pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Plaintiff
could have availed him self of his state appellate rem edies. His failure to do so does not now confer
jurisdiction on this Court.
Plaintiff’s com plaint does not state under what statute he brings his constitutional civil rights
claim s, but § 1983 provides a civil cause of action for deprivation of federal rights. See Yip v. Bd. of Trs.
of State Univ. of N.Y., No. 03-CV-00959C(SR), 2004 W L 2202594, at *4 (W .D.N.Y. Sept. 29, 2004)
(interpreting constitutional claim s as arising under § 1983). Moreover, Plaintiff’s own reply m em orandum
refers to his claim s against the State Defendants as arising under § 1983. (Docket No. 12.)
New York, 579 F.3d 176, 181 (2d cir. 2009). A § 1983 claim ordinarily accrues when a
plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the harm. Id. The proper focus is on the time of
the unlawful act and when Plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury that is the
basis of the action; not when the consequences become painful. Eagleston v. Guido, 41
F.3d 865, 871 (2d Cir. 1994).
Plaintiff claims that the Chautauqua Defendants sent a restraining notice against his
federal credit union bank account on March 22, 2005, and that thereafter on May 24, 2005
an Execution and Notice was sent against the same account. (Comp. p. 7.) Exhibits
submitted by Defendants, including copies of the cancelled checks, acknowledge that on
March 22, 2005 a property execution and restraining notice was sent to Plaintiff’s bank,
and that as a result of this notice two checks were forwarded to the Child Support
Enforcement Collection Unit in June 2005. (Steger Aff. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff claims these acts
were illegal and in violation of his Fourth and Eighth Amendment rights.
Regardless of the merits of Plaintiff’s contentions, the statute of limitations on those
claims has long since run. The alleged acts occurred in 2005, and Plaintiff’s complaint was
not filed until early 2011. Plaintiff does not argue that he had no knowledge of these acts
or that these acts were but one of a series of similar notices that were still being sent in
2008. Instead, Plaintiff argues that the proper statute of limitations for these acts should
be that applied to crimes of felony grand larceny in the second degree, which, according
to Defendant is seven years.
Plaintiff’s argument is without merit. Plaintiff seeks redress for constitutional
violations, not extortion and theft. Moreover, there is no reason why the statute of
limitations should be tolled or that the violations are ongoing. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s claims
against the Chautauqua Defendants must be dismissed as untimely.10
Claims against the State Defendants
Similarly, the claims against the State Defendants are subject to dismissal even if
the Rooker-Feldman doctrine were not to apply. It is well settled that judges are absolutely
immune from suit for any actions taken within the scope of their judicial responsibilities.
See generally, Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 112 S. Ct. 286, 116 L. Ed. 2d 9 (1991). “[I]t
is a general principle of the highest importance to the proper administration of justice that
a judicial officer, in exercising the authority vested in him, shall be free to act upon his own
convictions, without apprehension of personal consequences to himself.” Id. at 10 (quoting
Bradley v. Fisher, 80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 335, 347, 20 L. Ed. 646 (1871)). This immunity holds
fast even against allegations that a judge acted in bad faith or with malice. Pierson v. Ray,
386 U.S. 547, 554, 87 S. Ct. 1213, 1217, 18 L. Ed. 2d 288 (1967). This immunity has also
been found to extend to support magistrates. Lomtevas v. Cardozo, No. 05-CV-2779,
2006 WL 229908, at *5 (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 31, 2006) (finding support magistrates in family
court act as judges and are entitled to absolute immunity).
Plaintiff alleges that the State Defendants improperly dismissed his claims for lack
of jurisdiction. Plaintiff does not assert, however, that, in determining whether they had
jurisdiction over his claims, the State Defendants were acting outside their judicial
responsibilities. “In deciding whether absolute judicial immunity applies a court should
Plaintiff’s com plaint also asserts unconstitutional conduct by attorney Jerry D. Hyde for
intentionally and in bad faith defending Social Services from Plaintiff’s petitions. Apart from falling outside
the applicable statute of lim itations, this claim can also be dism issed as lacking any factual specificity
sufficient for this Court to find a constitutional violation. Conclusory allegations like those in Plaintiff’s
com plaint, without m ore, fail to state a claim for which relief can be granted. See Barr v. Abram s, 810
F.2d 358, 363 (2d Cir. 1987). Additionally, Mr. Hyde was never personally served with a sum m ons and
com plaint in this m atter, nor did he receive process by m ail, and this Court finds that dism issal of the claim
would also be warranted on this basis. (Hyde Aff. ¶ 3, Docket No. 4-3.)
consider the nature of the act taken, namely whether it is a function normally performed
by a judge, and the expectations of the parties, namely whether they dealt with the judge
in his judicial capacity.” Arena v. Dep’t of Social Servs. of Nassau Cnty., 216 F. Supp. 2d
146, 153 (E.D.N.Y. 2002). Clearly, deciding whether or not it has jurisdiction, is a
fundamental duty of a court that falls well within the scope of its judicial responsibilities.
Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356-57, 98 S. Ct. 1099, 55 L. Ed. 2d 331 (1978)
(quoting Bradley, 80 U.S. at 351) (“Because some of the most difficult and embarrassing
questions which a judicial officer is called upon to consider and determine relate to his
jurisdiction . . . the scope of the judge’s jurisdiction must be constructed broadly where the
issue is the immunity of the judge” (internal quotations and citations omitted)). Indeed,
because New York’s Family Court is a court of limited jurisdiction, it is necessary that, in
carrying out this responsibility, the court first determines whether it is empowered to hear
a matter. See Matter of Suffolk Cnty. Dep’t of Social Servs. v. Spinale, 57 A.D. 3d 681,
682-83, 870 N.Y.S.2d 70, 71 (2d Dep’t 2008) (noting that family court jurisdiction is limited
to those powers specifically enumerated in state constitution and state statutes). In making
this determination, Family Court judges do not relinquish judicial immunity. See King v.
Rell, No. 3:06-cv-1703(VLB), 2008 WL 793207, at *4 (D. Conn. Mar. 24, 2008) (appellate
court’s finding that probate court did not have jurisdiction “is not identical to a finding that
there was a clear absence of all jurisdiction, the judicial immunity standard”); Gross v. Rell,
485 F. Supp. 2d 72, 79 (D. Conn. 2007) (“A finding of no jurisdiction is quite different from
a finding of a clear absence of all jurisdiction.”). Plaintiff has provided nothing else to
persuade this Court that the State Defendants were acting in the clear absence of all
jurisdiction. Moreover, the State Defendants had jurisdiction over the underlying family law
Plaintiff’s claims against the State Defendants will therefore be dismissed.11
Claims against Ms. Williams
After the other defendants’ motions to dismiss are granted, the only remaining
Defendant will be Ms. Kellie Williams. Plaintiff’s complaint seeks the imposition of criminal
penalties and restitution for property lost. Defendant alleges no constitutional violations
or other grounds on which to base federal jurisdiction. Having determined that all of
Plaintiff’s other claims should be dismissed, this Court declines to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over the remaining state law claim against Ms. Williams. See Marcus v. AT&T
Corp., 138 F.3d 46, 57 (2d Cir. 1998) (“In general, where the federal claims are dismissed
before trial, the state claims should be dismissed as well”); Borrelli v. Sec’y of Treasury,
343 F. Supp. 2d 249, 256 (S.D.N.Y. 2004) (dismissing claims against federal defendants
for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction
over claims against municipal defendants).
For the foregoing reasons, the State Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss is granted. The
Chautauqua Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss is also granted. Finally, this Court will not
exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the claims against Ms. Williams.
To the extent Plaintiff seeks non-m onetary relief, such claim s would also be barred under
judicial im m unity because Plaintiff has alleged no violation of a declaratory decree or that declaratory relief
was unavailable. See Arena, 216 F. Supp. 2d at 154.
IT HEREBY IS ORDERED, that the Chautauqua Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss
(Docket No. 4) is GRANTED.
FURTHER, that the State Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (Docket No. 6) is
FURTHER, that this Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over
Plaintiff’s state law claim, which is hereby dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3).
FURTHER, that the Clerk of the Court is directed to close this case.
February 20, 2012
Buffalo, New York
/s/William M. Skretny
WILLIAM M. SKRETNY
United States District Court
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