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Peggy Morris v. Sheldon J. Rosen

July 2, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John Gleeson, United States District Judge:


Plaintiff Peggy Morris filed this pro se civil rights action on July 25, 2011, alleging a conspiracy among the named defendants to unlawfully evict her from an apartment in Queens, New York. On September 4, 2011, I granted Morris's motion to proceed in forma pauperis and, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, dismissed sua sponte the claims against 18 of the 24 named defendants as well as the claims brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1985 and 1986. See Morris v. Katz, No. 11-CV-3556 (JG) (LB), 2011 WL 3918965, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 4, 2011). I allowed Morris's claim brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to proceed against the six remaining defendants -- Maribel Tejada Bolivar, Sheldon J. Rosen, Sheldon J. Rosen, P.C. (collectively, the "Rosen Defendants"), Rochdale Village, Inc. ("Rochdale"), Michael J. Motto and Lisa Peterson. See id.

The Rosen Defendants and Rochdale have moved to dismiss the remaining § 1983 claim against them. They have also moved for an order declaring Morris to be a vexatious litigant and enjoining her from instituting further actions against them or, in the alternative, the imposition of sanctions pursuant to Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set forth below, the case is dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction sua sponte and the Defendants' motions are denied insofar as they seek sanctions.


A. Factual Background

Rochdale Village is a federally-subsidized cooperative apartment complex for low-income families. Compl. ¶ III.E, ECF No. 1. Morris began residing at an apartment there in 2000. Id. ¶ III.F. She lived there with the apartment's shareholder of record, Osborne Miller. See id. Miller died on December 16, 2009. Id.

Morris's conflict with the Defendants arises from her eviction following Miller's death. Rochdale commenced a holdover proceeding against Morris in the Civil Court of the City of New York, Queens County, Rochdale Village, Inc. v. Miller, Index No. 57347/2010, asserting that she had no rights to the apartment. Rochdale retained Rosen and his firm, Sheldon J. Rosen, P.C., to prosecute the holdover proceeding. Bolivar was a legal secretary employed by Rosen's firm and, in that capacity, she notarized certain documents in connection with the proceeding.

On April 22, 2012, the civil court conducted a hearing with respect to the holdover proceeding. Because Morris had failed to appear, the court conducted an inquest, resulting in a default judgment of possession in Rochdale's favor. A warrant of eviction was issued on May 17, 2010.

On May 25, 2010, Morris moved by order to show cause to vacate the default judgment and stay her eviction. She argued that she had not been properly served with notice of the holdover proceeding. She also claimed that she had succession rights to the apartment. At a June 7, 2010 hearing, the civil court denied her motion. The court held that Morris had been properly served in the holdover proceeding and had "no rights to the apartment."

Morris appealed the June 7, 2010 decision to the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Term. Although the Appellate Term initially stayed Morris's eviction, it vacated the stay on October 19, 2010, after Morris failed to pay Rochdale for her use of the apartment as directed. Morris's appeal remains pending in the Appellate Term.

Morris again sought to vacate the default judgment and stay her eviction in the civil court. On October 22, 2010, the civil court denied the requested relief. Morris was evicted from the apartment on July 25, 2011.

B. Other Litigation in State Court

Morris commenced three cases in the Supreme Court of New York, Queens County, all relating to her eviction. In late summer 2010, she commenced a civil action, Morris v. Sheldon J. Rosen, P.C., Index No. 22934/2010, in which she alleged, inter alia, that the Rosen Defendants had violated New York Judiciary Law§ 487 in commencing and prosecuting the holdover proceeding. Morris filed a notice of discontinuance of the case on December 20, 2010.

In November 2010, Morris commenced a proceeding under Article 78 of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules, Morris v. Katz, Index No. 29202/2010, against the Rosen Defendants -- as well as judges, court clerks and police officers involved in her eviction. The Court dismissed Morris's petition in an order dated May 31, 2011.

Finally, on December 15, 2010, Morris again filed a civil action, Morris v. Rochdale Village, Inc., Index No. 30831/2010, naming the Rosen Defendants, Rochdale and others as defendants. On July 11, 2011, the ...

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