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Sims v. Nichols

United States District Court, Second Circuit

June 24, 2013

JOHN R. SIMS, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
SUE NICHOLS, individually, in her capacity as administrator of the estate of John R. Sims and in her capacity as executor of the estate of Doris Nichols, ESTATE OF DORIS NICHOLS, SUSAN ENGLISH, ESQ., KRISTEN K. LUCE, ESQ., MARK GORGOS, ESQ., COUGHLIN AND GERHART, LLP, EUGENE PECKHAM, in his capacity as former Broome County Surrogate's Court Judge, and REBECCA MALMQUIST, in her capacity as Broome County Surrogate's Court Chief Clerk, Defendants.

DECISION & ORDER

THOMAS J. McAVOY, Senior District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This pro se action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1985(3) was referred to the Hon. David E. Peebles, United States Magistrate Judge, for a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 72.3(c).

In his Report, Recommendation and Order (dkt. # 3), Magistrate Judge Peebles ordered that Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis (dkt. # 2) be granted and recommended that Plaintiff's complaint be dismissed in its entirety, without leave to amend. Dkt. # 3. Plaintiff has filed objections to the report. Dkt. # 5.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

When objections to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation are lodged, the district court makes a " de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see also United States v. Male Juvenile , 121 F.3d 34, 38 (2d Cir.1997)(The Court must make a de novo determination to the extent that a party makes specific objections to a magistrate's findings.). "[E]ven a pro se party's objections to a Report and Recommendation must be specific and clearly aimed at particular findings in the magistrate's proposal, such that no party be allowed a second bite at the apple by simply relitigating a prior argument." Machicote v. Ercole , 2011 WL 3809920, at *2 (S.D.N.Y., Aug. 25, 2011)(citations and interior quotation marks omitted); DiPilato v. 7-Eleven, Inc. , 662 F.Supp.2d 333, 340 (S.D.N.Y. 2009)(same).

General or conclusory objections, or objections which merely recite the same arguments presented to the magistrate judge, are reviewed for clear error. Farid v. Bouey , 554 F.Supp.2d 301, 306 n. 2 (N.D.N.Y. 2008); see Frankel v. N.Y.C. , 2009 WL 465645 at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 25, 2009). After reviewing the report and recommendation, the Court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. The judge may also receive further evidence or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

III. DISCUSSION

With respect to Plaintiff's first, second, sixth, seventh and ninth objections, Plaintiff has reargued the positions he took before Magistrate Judge Peebles. In doing so, he failed to pinpoint specific erroneous determinations by Judge Peebles and, instead, merely voiced his disapproval of the report in general and conclusory terms. Accordingly, the Court reviews the Report, Recommendation and Order for clear error in respect to these objections, and finds none. Moreover, on de novo review the Court rejects each of these objections.

Plaintiff's third objection concedes that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars his Section 1985(3) claim as it stands, [1] but contends that he should be allowed to amend his complaint to bring the Section 1985(3) claim against the Defendants in their individual capacities. This, Plaintiff asserts, would demonstrate that his injuries are "not directly caused by the state court judgment...." Dkt. # 5 at 18. However, as Judge Peebles' Report, Recommendation and Order correctly concluded:

[I]n the case at bar plaintiff complains of a far-reaching conspiracy involving his step-sister, the lawyers representing her, and the surrogate's court and court personnel to deprive him of his inheritance. By his own allegations, it is clear that plaintiff fully participated in the surrogate's court proceeding, both by filing various submissions and by personal appearances over the six-year course of that matter. It is also apparent that plaintiff's assertions of fraud, conspiracy, and criminal conduct in connection with the surrogate's court proceeding were raised but not entertained by that court, and the relief sought by him - his appointment as administrator of his father's estate and the rejection of defendant Nichols' accounting, among other things - was denied by the court. The injury of which plaintiff complains, in the form of discrimination and denial of due process, results directly from that court's decisions.

Dkt. # 3 at 20 (emphasis added).

Thus, Plaintiff could not amend his complaint to render it anything but a direct challenge to the state court judgment because, even if he brings his complaint against the Defendants in their individual capacities, his alleged injuries are still a product of the Surrogate's Court's decision. Accordingly, the Section 1985(3) claim, as alleged and as Plaintiff desires to amend it, is barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.

Plaintiff makes a similar argument in his eighth objection. He concedes that Defendant Malmquist "sued in her official capacity is immune from civil liability, " but claims he can overcome this immunity by amending the complaint to sue Ms. Malmquist "in her individual capacity...." Dkt. # 5 at 23. However, as correctly pointed out by Magistrate Judge Peebles, "[e]ven assuming plaintiff had commenced this action against [Ms. Malmquist] in her individual capacity, quasi-judicial immunity would protect defendant Malmquist from personal liability." Dkt. # 3 at 24. Plaintiff fails to pinpoint specific erroneous determinations by Magistrate Judge Peebles that undermine this conclusion, but rather merely reargues the same points ...


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