§ 12(d); In re Estate of Dicosimo,
687 N.Y.S.2d 592, 593 (N.Y.Sur. 1999) ("if the proceeding falls within
its area of specialization, the [Surrogate's Court] has broad
jurisdiction to resolve all of the issues raised.") (citing Matter of
Piccione's Estate, 57 N.Y.2d 278 (N.Y. 1982)); see also Matter of
Antoinette, 2002 N.Y. Slip Op. 01553 (3rd Dept. Feb. 22, 2002)
(demonstrating that Surrogate's Courts entertain questions under Banking
Law § 675); Matter of Stalter, 703 N.Y.S.2d 600 (3rd Dept. 2000)
(same). Questions concerning the accounts challenged here have already
been presented to that court. Moreover, in considering the objections to
probate, that court will adjudicate the question of Roger Goodman's
influence over the decedent.
The Court should also consider "whether necessary parties have been
joined" and "whether such parties are amenable to process in that
proceeding." 515 U.S. at 283 (quoting Brillhart, 316 U.S. at 495).
Although Gwen Goodman does not appear to be a party to the Surrogate's
Court proceeding, the plaintiff has not argued that the Surrogate's Court
could not exercise jurisdiction over the accounts in question. Roger
Goodman is before the Surrogate's Court because he is named as Executor
of Doris Goodman's will.
This case is similar to Fay v. Fitzgerald, 478 F.2d 181 (2d Cir.
1973), where the Second Circuit applied Brillhart to an action which
sought to determine plaintiff's rights to an estate while a separate
action was pending in the Surrogate's Court. In Fay, the Court found that
federal courts may properly abstain from exercising jurisdiction where:
"The questions are not federal; preparations to determine them have gone
forward in the Surrogate's Court; the trial is even now impending there
. . .; the state tribunal has jurisdiction of the rival claimants . . .
while the federal court does not." Id. at 183. As was the case in Fay,
the legal questions here are not federal in nature. The action in the
Surrogate's Court is well underway, and that court can exercise
jurisdiction over the defendants named here. It would be "`uneconomical
as well as vexatious' for the federal court to proceed in this
declaratory judgment suit raising precisely the same issue which will
necessarily be decided by the Surrogate's Court." Fay, 478 F.2d at 183;
see also see also Matter of Thomas and Agnes Carvel Foundation,
36 F. Supp.2d 144, 152-154 (S.D.N.Y. 1999) (Applying Brillhart and Fay,
and determining that Surrogate's Court best suited to resolve claims to
the estate). Because the Court has abstained from exercising its
jurisdiction here, it will not consider the parties' motions for summary
Defendants' motion to dismiss or to transfer (Dkt #4) is granted in
part and denied in part. Plaintiff's cross motion for summary judgment
(Dkt #10) and defendants' cross motion for summary judgment (Dkt #15) are
denied. The Court will stay this action pending the outcome of the
proceedings in Surrogate's Court. The parties are directed to inform this
court in writing of the resolution of those proceeding, within 10 days of
the conclusion of that action.
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