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ALLEYNE v. CITY OF NEW YORK

United States District Court, Southern District of New York


January 15, 2003

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: Marrero, District Judge.

DECISION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Derrell Alleyne ("Alleyne") originally filed this action in this Court on July 19, 2002, seeking relief for various civil rights violations, on his own behalf and on behalf of his natural children, Keyshawna Alleyne, Kibin Alleyne and Edward Alleyne (collectively, the Children) Alleyne amended The complaint: on August 15, 2002 (the "Complaint"). On September 30, 2002, the Court dismissed this action, sua sponte, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction "upon such terms and conditions as it deem[ed] proper," 211 F.3d 697, 700 (2d Cir. 2000) ("Failure of subject matter jurisdiction is not waivable and may be raised at any time by a party or by the court sua sponte"). Oddly, the City, which argued just months ago that this Court lacked jurisdiction over Alleyne's claim and urged dismissal in favor of consideration of the underlying issues in a state proceeding involving the same parties and operative events, has now decided to remove the same case to this Court from state court.

The factual background of this case was explained fully in Alleyne I, but the Court repeats the most relevant facts briefly. 225 F. Supp.2d at 392-393. The Complaint concerns a proceeding before the New York State Family Court, Bronx County (the "State Proceeding"). 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 Alleyne Children, No. NA-11131-33/98, Slip. op. at 1 (N.Y. Fain. Ct. July 5, 2001). Proceedings to terminate Alleyne's parental rights were commenced. In September of 2001, Alleyne surrendered his children for adoption.

In the instant case, as in Alleyne I, Alleyne seeks injunctive relief that effectively would end the State Proceeding and return full custody of his children. Alleyne also seeks compensatory damages, costs and fees. Alleyne argues that the actions of Defendants, which were already considered by the State Proceeding, violated his rights to family integrity. Alleyne also argues that the State Proceeding violated Alleyne's right to family integrity because custody decisions are made on the basis of the "best interests of the child." Further, he alleges that the State Proceeding violated due process because at various times he was not afforded an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, and various City officials exceeded authority in unspecified ways. (See Compl. ¶ 17, 19.) Finally, Alleyne asserts that the Family Court "terrorize[d] and harass[ed]" him in a manner that compelled him to surrender two of his children for adoption. (Compl. ¶ 18.)

In Alleyne I, the court found that the Rooker-Feldman*fn1 doctrine barred direct review of the State Proceeding by this Court.*fn2 225 F. Supp.2d at 393-394. The reasoning that led the Court to dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction previously on Rooker-Feldman grounds applies equally here on removal. Therefore, the Court has already determined that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this case.*fn3

The Rooker-Feldman doctrine "rests on the principle that a United States District Court has no authority to review final judgments of a state court in judicial proceedings." Doctor's Associates, Inc. v. Distajo, 107 F.3d 126, 137 (2d Cir. 1997) (citations omitted). Since only the Supreme Court can entertain an appeal to reverse or modify a state court judgment, "to the extent that the plaintiff's claims [are] `inextricably intertwined' with the state court's determinations, the federal district court [does] not have jurisdiction." Moccio v. New York State Office of Court Admin., 95 F.3d 195, 198 (2d Cir. 1996) (citing Feldman, 460 U.S. at 482-84 n. 16). Furthermore, as explained in Alleyne I, "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." Alleyne I, 225 F. Supp.2d at 394 (citing Murray v. Administration of Children's Services, No. 98 Civ. 7356, 1999 WL 33869, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 25, 1999)).

In essence, what Alleyne seeks in the action the City has now removed to this Court is a finding that the State Proceeding was legally flawed; however, this Court is not the appropriate forum for such judicial review. Alleyne's § 1983 claim constitutes a direct challenge to the validity of the Family Court's interlocutory orders and judgments; and therefore, under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, this court lacks jurisdiction over Alleyne's claims for damages and injunctive relief. See Murray, 1999 WL 33869, at * 2 plaintiff's claims were barred to the extent they represented a direct challenge to the validity of the one or more of the Family Court's decisions); Phifer v. City of New York, 289 F.3d 49, 55-56 (2d Cir. 2002) (district court barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine from reviewing Family court's determinations).

Accordingly, further to the decision already rendered by this court in Alleyne I, which decision should be entirely familiar to the City which removed this case from state court, this case is remanded to the Supreme Court of New York, Bronx County, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.*fn4

ORDER

For the foregoing reasons, it is hereby

ORDERED that this action is remanded to the New York Supreme Court, Bronx County, for lack of this Court's subject matter jurisdiction.

The Clerk of the Court is directed to close this case.

SO ORDERED.


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