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Galtieri v. Kelly

June 19, 2006

JOHN F. GALTIERI, MARILYN J. GALTIERI, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
RAYMOND KELLY, PERSONALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS POLICE COMMISSIONER OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK, AND AS CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE POLICE PENSION FUND, ARTICLE II; THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE POLICE PENSION FUND, ARTICLE II, MICHAEL D. WELSOME, PERSONALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR POLICE PENSION FUND OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK; R HONDA C AVAGNARO, PERSONALLY AND IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS GENERAL COUNSEL FOR THE NEW YORK CITY POLICE PENSION FUND; JEANNE M. KANE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joseph F. Bianco, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

John F. Galtieri and Marilyn J. Galtieri, plaintiffs pro se, filed the instant action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 seeking damages for the garnishment of John Galtieri's accident disability pension to his ex-wife, pursuant to a New Jersey court order. The defendants move to dismiss the action under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Finding that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the complaint based on the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the Court dismisses the instant case, with prejudice.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff John Galtieri was formerly married to defendant Jeanne Kane. (Compl. ¶ 7.) During their marriage, John Galtieri was employed as an officer with the New York City Police Department (NYPD).*fn1 John Galtieri retired on February 24, 1980, because of injuries that he assumed in the line of duty. See NY Opinion at 1-2. Based on these circumstances, John Galtieri was awarded accidental disability retirement benefits from the New York City Police Pension Fund (hereinafter the "Police Pension Fund"). (Compl. ¶ 4.)

A. New Jersey Divorce Proceedings

John Galtieri filed for a divorce from Kane in Superior Court Chancery Division, Family Part, Monmouth County, New Jersey on or about December 20, 1999. See NY Opinion at 2. At the time of filing, John Galtieri and Kane had been residing in New Jersey for over a year, rendering it the proper venue for the divorce proceeding. See id. On May 19, 2003, the New Jersey Superior Court entered a Final Judgment of Divorce. See id. The Final Judgment of Divorce directed that John Galtieri:

shall pay permanent alimony to [Kane] . . . based on the evidence presented regarding [Galtieri's] income and ability to pay, [Kane's] need and inability to work, the fault of [Galtieri] for the demise of the marriage . . . . Alimony shall be paid via wage garnishment, from the Plaintiff's [Galtieri's] social security disability income . . .

Id. (quoting paragraph 4 of the Final Judgement of Divorce). This decree did not reference John Galtieri's NYPD disability pension. See id. at 3.

On December 12, 2003, the New Jersey Superior Court issued an amended order, which directed that Kane's monthly alimony should be paid directly to her from John Galtieri's NYPD disability pension and from his social security disability pension. See id.*fn2 John Galtieri appealed the December 12, 2003 order, based on an argument that the Police Pension Fund was immune from claims for alimony because the disability pension was the equivalent of an award for personal injuries. See Galtieri, 2005 WL 2757230, at *2. The Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court denied John Galtieri's appeal as lacking merit on August 19, 2004. See id.

While the appeal of the December 12, 2003 order was pending, John Galtieri filed a motion with the New Jersey Superior Court to set aside the judgment of divorce on grounds of fraud and the statute of limitations. See id. The motion was denied following a hearing on June 4, 2004. See id. John Galtieri proceeded to appeal that decision, arguing that "the Superior Court of New Jersey lacked jurisdiction to enforce an order against plaintiff's [NYPD disability pension], and that his disability pension is an asset that is immune from the garnishment order." See id. The Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court affirmed the lower court decision by opinion dated May 25, 2005, finding that neither of plaintiff's arguments had been raised below. See id. Additionally, with regards to his argument that his NYPD disability pension was immune from garnishment, the Appellate Division found that "plaintiff had his day in court at both the trial and appellate levels on December 12, 2003 and August 3, 2004, and on August 19, 2004, [where] we affirmed the trial court's order of garnishment from his [NYPD disability pension] and his social security pension." Id. (citation omitted).

After the New Jersey Superior Court issued the December 12, 2003 order (which directed garnishment of his NYPD disability pension), the Police Pension Fund's legal department informed Kane that she needed a Domestic Relations Order (DRO) in order to give effect to the garnishment order. See id. Kane subsequently retained a law firm to draft a DRO which was submitted to the Police Pension Fund for approval. See id. On June 30, 2004, Kane appeared before a New Jersey Superior Court judge, Judge Daniel Waldman, to request that the court sign the DRO that was drafted and pre-approved by the Police Pension Fund. See id. at *3. Although Judge Waldman signed the DRO, he told Kane that there was an error in the document in its reference to the pension garnishment as equitable distribution rather than alimony. See id. Kane subsequently took the DRO back to her attorneys to have it corrected. See id.

On December 23, 2004, another New Jersey Superior Court judge, Judge James J. McGann, vacated the DRO, issued on June 30, 2004, because insufficient notice was given to John Galtieri. See id.

On January 7, 2005, Judge McGann ordered that a sum of $1,500 per month be garnished from John Galtieri's NYPD disability pension. See id. Kane prepared an Amended DRO that reflected the amount of funds to be garnished that was contained in Judge McGann's order, and submitted it to Judge McGann and the Police Pension Fund for approval. See id. The Police Pension Fund approved the Amended DRO by letter dated January 19, 2005. See id.

On March 4, 2005, Michael Welsome, the Executive Director of the Fund and one of the defendants in the instant action, sent a letter to John Galtieri, informing him that the Police Pension Fund was not making any payments to Kane despite Judge McGann's garnishment order of January 7, 2005. See id. The letter informed John Galtieri that it had notified Judge McGann that, unless he determined that the pension was not subject to equitable distribution, a DRO was the preferred method of making distributions. See ...


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