In the second motion to amend the complaint, Fariello moves to elucidate the allegations against Hearing Examiner Ekadis and Judge Freundlich. With respect to Hearing Examiner Ekadis, Fariello seeks permission to include the allegation that Ekadis acted in a willful, wanton, reckless and grossly negligent manner by refusing to perform two alleged ministerial duties with the intent to deprive Fariello of his civil rights. According to Fariello, the two alleged duties that Ekadis' refused to perform are (1) his duty to refer to a judge the issue of Fariello's "visitation defense," pursuant to Family Court Act § 439(c) and Domestic Relations Law § 241, and (2) his duty to provide Fariello with a written determination and finding of facts as required by Family Court Act § 439(e).
With respect to Judge Freundlich, Fariello seeks permission to include the allegation that Freundlich acted in a willful, wanton, reckless and grossly negligent manner by (1) refusing to afford Fariello the proper appellate process for contesting the Hearing Examiner's findings on contempt, as allegedly provided by Family Court Act § 439(e), and (2) refusing to permit Fariello to raise his "visitation defense." Fariello contends that Judge Freundlich had a ministerial duty to provide Fariello an opportunity to object to the Hearing Examiner's findings, as well as to raise defenses to the contempt findings, and that Judge Freundlich refused to do so in order to deprive Fariello of his civil rights.
Fariello's third motion to amend the complaint is entitled a "Motion to Supplement Pleadings Based on New Evidence." In this motion, Fariello moves to include the allegation that Judge Freundlich "acted in clear absence of all jurisdiction over the subject matter when he caused plaintiff to be incarcerated." The new evidence that Fariello apparently relies on consists of (i) an "Order of Disposition (Violation of Support Order)" issued by a Hearing Examiner at the Family Court, Suffolk County in another, unrelated case, (ii) a memorandum sent out by the Family Court explaining how to file objections to the findings of a hearing examiner, and (iii) the order issued by Family Court Judge Abrams on December 11, 1991 denying Fariello's objections to Hearing Examiner Rodriguez's findings of September 24, 1991 on the grounds that Hearing Examiner Rodriguez had not yet entered a final order in the matter. According to Fariello, these three documents are proof that a hearing examiner's findings of violation of a support order require the matter to be referred to a judge in order to hear objections and any evidence in opposition to the finding.
Rule 12(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states in relevant part that a motion to dismiss made pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) shall be converted to one for summary judgment and disposed of pursuant to Rule 56, if matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, and the parties have a reasonable opportunity to present all the material made pertinent to such a motion.
Here, the defendants' alternative relief is for summary judgment dismissing the complaint. Both sides have presented material outside the pleadings addressing this relief, and the Court has not excluded it in considering the merits of the motions before it. The parties have also had a reasonable opportunity to present all the material relevant to the motions. Accordingly, the plaintiff's motion to dismiss shall be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56.
Summary Judgment Standard
A court may grant summary judgment "only if the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion, presents no genuine issue of material fact," Cable Science Corp. v. Rochdale Village, Inc., 920 F.2d 147, 151 (2d Cir. 1990), and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The Court must, however, resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. See Liscio v. Warren, 901 F.2d 274, 276 (2d Cir. 1990); Twin Laboratories, Inc. v. Weider Health & Fitness, 900 F.2d 566, 568 (2d Cir. 1990); Knight v. U.S. Fire Ins. Co., 804 F.2d 9, 11 (2d Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 480 U.S. 932, 94 L. Ed. 2d 762, 107 S. Ct. 1570 (1987).
Once a party moves for summary judgment, in order to avoid the granting of the motion, the non-movant must come forward with specific facts showing that a genuine issue for trial exists. Western World Ins. Co. v. Stack Oil, Inc., 922 F.2d 118, 121 (2d Cir. 1990) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)); National Union Fire Ins. Co. v. Turtur, 892 F.2d 199, 203 (2d Cir. 1989). A genuine issue of material fact exists if "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S. Ct. at 2510; Converse v. General Motors Corp., 893 F.2d 513, 514 (2d Cir. 1990). If there is evidence in the record as to any material fact from which an inference could be drawn in favor of the non-movant, summary judgment is unavailable. Rattner v. Netburn, 930 F.2d 204 (2d Cir. 1991).
However, mere conclusory allegations, speculation or conjecture will not avail a party resisting summary judgment. Western World, 922 F.2d at 121. Although the non-moving party need not produce evidence in a form that would be admissible at trial in order to avoid summary judgment, Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c) and (e) provide that the non-moving party cannot rest on the pleadings but must set forth specific facts in the affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions on file showing there is a genuine issue for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 (1986).
Finally, when determining a motion for summary judgment, the Court is charged with the function of "issue finding", not "issue resolution." Eye Assocs., P.C. v. Incomrx Sys. Ltd. Partnership, 912 F.2d 23, 27 (2d Cir. 1990).
1. The Court's Subject Matter Jurisdiction.
In District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 103 S. Ct. 1303, 75 L. Ed. 2d 206 (1983), the United States Supreme Court held that federal district courts do not have jurisdiction "over challenges to state-court decisions in particular cases arising out of judicial proceedings even if those challenges allege that the state court's action was unconstitutional." Id., 103 S. Ct. at 1317 (emphasis supplied). Rather, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1257(a), federal appellate review of state court judicial decisions may only be had in the Supreme Court. Feldman, 103 S. Ct. at 1317. See also Atlantic Coast Line R. Co. v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, 398 U.S. 281, 90 S. Ct. 1739, 1742-43, 26 L. Ed. 2d 234 (1970) (lower federal courts do not have the power to directly review cases from state courts); Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 44 S. Ct. 149, 150, 68 L. Ed. 362 (1923) (the district court does not possess appellate jurisdiction over decisions of the state courts); Texaco, Inc. v. Pennzoil, 784 F.2d 1133, 1141-42 (2d Cir. 1986), rev'd on other grounds, 481 U.S. 1, 107 S. Ct. 1519, 95 L. Ed. 2d 1 (1987).
In Feldman, the respondents sought admission to the District of Columbia Bar, and petitioned the District of Columbia Court of Appeals -- the functional equivalent of a state's highest court in that jurisdiction -- for the waiver of a bar admission rule which required applicants to have graduated from an accredited law school. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals denied the petition. The respondents filed suit in the federal district court, alleging that by not waiving the bar admission requirement, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals violated their Fifth Amendment due process rights. They also attacked the bar rule as facially unconstitutional. The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, on the ground that to do otherwise would place it in the position of reviewing an order of the District of Columbia's highest court. See 103 S. Ct. at 1308. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed, holding there was jurisdiction.
The Supreme Court vacated the Circuit Court's decision and remanded the case to the district court. In the course of its decision, the Supreme Court distinguished between constitutional challenges to the judicial proceedings of the D.C. Court of Appeals, which the district court did not have subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate, and constitutional challenges to a bar application rule made by the D.C. Court of Appeals in its legislative capacity of overseeing the entry of attorneys to the local bar, which the district court did have subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate. The Supreme Court held:
[A] United States district court has no authority to review final judgments of a state court in judicial proceedings. Review of such judgments may only be had in this Court. . . . To the extent that [the respondents] mounted a general challenge to the constitutionality of [the bar application rule], however, the District Court did have subject-matter jurisdiction over their complaints.
Feldman, 103 S. Ct. at 1315-1316.
The only exception to what has become known as the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, is where a federal statute authorizes federal appellate review of final state court decisions. One such statute is the habeas corpus statute governing challenges to state sentences, 28 U.S.C. § 2254. See Pennzoil, 784 F.2d at 1142, n.6; Ritter v. Ross, 992 F.2d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 1993) (Rooker-Feldman forbids federal district court appellate review of state court judgments in the guise of collateral attacks when no federal statute authorizes review), reh'g en banc denied, (7th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 126 L. Ed. 2d 661, 114 S. Ct. 694 (1994).
Furthermore, a plaintiff may not seek a reversal of a state court judgment simply by recasting his complaint in the form of a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Ritter, 992 F.2d at 754 (citing cases); Tang v. Appellate Division of New York Supreme Court, First Department, 487 F.2d 138, 142 (2d Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 416 U.S. 906, 40 L. Ed. 2d 111, 94 S. Ct. 1611 (1974). In discussing whether constitutional claims raised in a section 1983 action that collaterally attacks a state court judgment, but where the constitutional claims were not raised in the state court proceedings, would confer federal subject matter jurisdiction, the Supreme Court in Feldman held that there was no such jurisdiction if the section 1983 claims were "inextricably intertwined" with the state court judgment:
If the constitutional claims presented to a United States district court are inextricably intertwined with the state court's denial in a judicial proceeding of a particular plaintiff's application for admission to the state bar, then the district court is in essence being called upon to review the state-court decision. This the district court may not do.