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ALLEYNE v. CITY OF NEW YORK

September 30, 2002

DARRELL ALLEYNE, FOR HIMSELF AND AS NATURAL PARENT OF KEYSHAWNA ALLEYNE AN INFANT, KIBIN ALLEYNE AN INFANT, AND EDWARD ALLEYNE, AN INFANT, PLAINTIFFS,
V.
CITY OF NEW YORK, ADMINISTRATION OF CHILDREN SERVICES, THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES JEWISH CHILD CARE ASSOCIATION OF NEW YORK, DIANA STEPHEN, IN HER NAME AND AS THE FOSTER PARENT OF KEYSHAWNA ALLEYNE, VELMA ALLEYNE ONLY AS THE GUARDIAN OF KIBIN ALLEYNE & EDWARD ALLEYNE, SHAWANNA HATCHETT FOR HERSELF AND AS NATURAL PARENT OF KEYSHAWNA ALLEYNE, KIBIN ALLEYNE AND EDWARD ALLEYNE ALL INFANTS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: VICTOR Marrero, United States District Judge.

DECISION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Derrell Alleyne ("Alleyne") filed this action on his own behalf and on behalf of his natural children, Keyshawna Alleyne, Kibin Alleyne and Edward Alleyne (collectively, "Children") on July 19, 2002 and amended the complaint on August 15, 2002 (the Complaint). Defendants City of New York and the Jewish Child Care Association of New York (collectively, "Defendants") filed motions to dismiss the Complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. At the conference on September 20, 2002 (the "September Conference"), the Court granted Alleyne an opportunity to address jurisdictional issues through oral argument and further briefing. After the conference, Alleyne sought to voluntarily dismiss the action without prejudice or costs. Defendants would not agree to the dismissal. Thus, the Court issues the following order of dismissal "upon such terms and conditions as it deems proper." Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b).

The Complaint concerns matters currently pending before the New York State Family Court, Bronx County (the "State Proceeding"). Earlier this year, Alleyne sought to remove the State Proceeding to this Court. The Court remanded the State Proceeding as untimely, noting also that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction. See Alleyne v. City of New York, No. 02 Civ. 5614, slip op. (S.D.N.Y. August 14, 2002).

The State Proceeding was commenced in response to a report that the Children had been abused. During the State Proceeding, the Children were placed in foster care. In April of 1999 the Family Court found that Alleyne and defendant Shawana Hatchett abused the Children directly and derivatively. See In the Matter of Alleyene Children, No. NA-11131-33/98, Slip. op. at 1 (N.Y. Fan. Ct. July 5, 2001). Proceedings to terminate Alleyne's parental rights were commenced. In September of 2001, Alleyne surrendered his Children for adoption. The next conference in the State Proceeding is scheduled to occur in October, and no appeals have been taken. See Bronx Administration for Children's Services v. Hatchett, No. N-11131/98, slip. op. at 1 (N.Y. Fam. Ct. July 3, 2002).

As a matter of law, Alleyne took the position on that the court in the State Proceeding is incapable of adjudicating his federal claims and that if a matter pending state court implicates the federal constitution, a federal court has jurisdiction to adjudicate the federal constitutional issue immediately.

Because federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, courts must police subject matter delineations on their own initiative. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h); Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 583 (1999) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)); Lyndonville Savinos Bank & Trust Co. v. Lussier, 211 F.3d 697, 700 (2d Cir. 2011) ("[F]ailure of subject matter jurisdiction is not waivable and may be raised at any time by a party or by the court sua sponte.") Creaciones Con Idea, S.A. de C.V. v. Confecciones, S.A. de C.V., 75 F. Supp.2d 279, 280-81 (S.D.N.Y. 1999) (sua sponte dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332).

On a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1)*fn1 for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, it is the Court's duty to resolve disputed jurisdictional facts. See Cargill International S.A. v. M/T Pavel Dybenko, 991 F.2d 1012, 1019 (2d Cir. 1993); see also Ruhrgas, 526 U.S. at 583; Lyndonville Savings, 211 F.3d at 700. The Court may fulfill its duty by reference to evidence outside the pleadings. See Phifer v. City of New York, 289 F.3d 49, 55 (2d Cir. 2002). Furthermore, in resolving a challenge to subject matter jurisdiction, the Court does not draw inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Newsom-Lang v. Warren International, 129 F. Supp.2d 662, 663-64 (S.D.N.Y. 2001).

Out of concern for federal-state comity, Congress enacted the anti-injunction statute, 28 U.S.C. § 2283, which provides that:

A court of the United States may not grant an injunction to stay proceedings in a State court except as expressly authorized by Act of Congress, or where necessary in aid of its jurisdiction, or to protect or effectuate its judgments.

See also Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). Furthermore, the Supreme Court is the exclusive forum for appellate review of state court decisions concerning federal laws. See 28 U.S.C. § 1257; Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 416 (1923); District of Columbia v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 482-83 (1983). The Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars direct review in the lower federal courts of a state court decision, even if the state decision is based on an erroneous reading or application of federal law. See ASARCO Inc. v. Kadish, 490 U.S. 605, 522 (1989); Moccio v. New York State Office of Court Adm'n, 95 F.3d 195, 197 (2d Cir. 1996); see also Harris v. New York State Dept of Health, 202 F. Supp.2d 143 (S.D.N.Y. 2002).

The Second Circuit recently visited these rules and principles in its Phifer decision. It instructed that where the precise claims were raised in state court and in a subsequent federal proceeding, Rooker-Feldman applies to bar the federal proceeding. If the claims were never presented at the state proceeding, they are not inextricably intertwined" with it and thus not barred by Rooker-Feldman. Phifer, 289 F.3d at 55-56 (citing Moccio, 95 F.3d at 198).

In addition, under the doctrine of abstention, federal courts should abstain from granting injunctive relief to restrain pending state judicial proceeding in civil actions if such injunction would disturb federal-state comity and the state forum provides an adequate forum for the claim. See Younger, 401 U.S. at 44-46.

A party may not evade these rules and principles of federalism by recasting his claims pending in state court as a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Murray v. Administration of Childrens Services, No. 98 Civ. 7356, 1999 WL 33869, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 25, 1999). In Murray, the court considered a complaint for damages, as well as declaratory and injunctive relief, arising out of the defendant's seizure of the plaintiff's daughter and commencement of child protective custody proceedings. The plaintiff's claims for damages were barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine because they sought "reversal of a state court judgment simply by recasting [the] complaint in the form of a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983." Id. at *1 (internal quotations and citations ...


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