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Davis ex rel. Brown v. Baldwin

United States District Court, Second Circuit

December 31, 2013

TYREEK DAVIS, on behalf of N. BROWN, S. BROWN, I. DAVIS and A. DAVIS, Plaintiff,
CHINI BALDWIN (in her official and individual capacity as Caseworker), AMANDA E. WHITE (in her individual and official capacity as Justice of the Superior Court of Kings County), JOHN MATTINGLY (in his individual and official capacity as Commissioner of ACS), Defendants.


EDGARDO RAMOS, District Judge.

Plaintiff Tyreek Davis ("Plaintiff"), appearing pro se, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 against Defendants Chini Baldwin ("Baldwin") and John Mattingly ("Mattingly") (collectively, "Defendants"), [1] alleging violations of his Fourth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Complaint ("Compl.") (Doc. 1.) The Court previously deemed this case as related to another action initiated by Plaintiff and his wife, Tasha O. Licorish-Davis, et al. v. Dr. Millicent Mitchell, et al., 12 Civ. 601 (the "Related Case"), which the Court dismissed on May 20, 2013 ("May 20, 2013 Opinion and Order").

Currently pending before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss the instant action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), as well as for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Doc. 23. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED.

I. Factual Background

As the factual background of the instant action and the Related Case are substantially similar, the parties' familiarity with the facts - which are set forth in this Court's May 20, 2013 Opinion and Order - is presumed. The Court has set forth below only those facts alleged by Plaintiff in support of the instant action that were not set forth in the prior Opinion.

Plaintiff alleges that after his daughter, Aaliyah's, admission to the hospital following a "scald accident, " a case was initiated by the New York City Administration for Children's Services ("ACS") against his wife, Tasha Licorish-Davis, in June 2011, pursuant to which Aaliyah was removed from the custody of Ms. Licorish-Davis, remanded to the custody of ACS, and placed in foster care. Compl. at III; see also Declaration of Jeffrey S. Dantowitz ("Dantowitz Decl.") (Doc. 24), Ex. A (June 13, 2011 Order of Removal).[2] Plaintiff claims that he was never served or subpoenaed by the Family Court, as it did not have his correct address. Compl. at III. As Plaintiff explained to Defendant Baldwin, Plaintiff never resided at Ms. Licorish-Davis's mother's apartment in Brooklyn, where the accident occurred, as he was "abiding by a two year order [of protection], " which expired on July 28, 2012. Id. ; see also Dantowitz Decl., Ex. B (July 28, 2010 Order of Protection). Plaintiff claims that he was not given any notice of the pendency of the Family Court action, nor did he consent to personal jurisdiction in the Family Court. Compl. at III. He alleges that this "defective service has affected all [his] children... forcing them illegally into the custody of the City of N.Y." Id. Plaintiff further claims that Defendant Baldwin defamed his character in court in order to have his children removed from his wife's custody, as well as "unlawfully" added Plaintiff's name to the Family Court petition in order to prevent him from gaining custody of Aaliyah, who was not included in the 2010 Order of Protection. Id. Plaintiff alleges that Baldwin "lied about [Plaintiff's] address [in order] to have [his] name improperly added to the petition in family court." Id. Plaintiff claims that he has never appeared in Family Court, was never served with process, and was not aware of the court action. Id.

On August 4, 2011, the Family Court issued an Ex Parte Temporary Order of Protection against Plaintiff, directing him not to interfere with the care and custody of his children. Dantowitz Decl., Ex. C. Plaintiff alleges that he was first informed of the Order of Protection on September 30, 2011, Compl. at III, but that he was never served with the Order. Id. Thereafter, on November 21, 2011, the Family Court issued another Temporary Order of Protection against Plaintiff. Dantowitz Decl., Ex. D. The Order indicates that Plaintiff was "present in Court" on the date of its issuance. Id.

Plaintiff claims that his family "has been sabotaged and conspired against" by the Defendants, "who placed restraining orders [against him] without [him] being present in court and without [his] knowledge." Compl. at III.

II. Legal Standard on a Rule 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) requires that an action be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction when the district court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate the case. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). The party asserting subject matter jurisdiction carries the burden of establishing, by a preponderance of the evidence, that jurisdiction exists. Morrison v. Nat'l Australia Bank Ltd., 547 F.3d 167, 170 (2d Cir. 2008) (citing Makarova v. United States, 201 F.3d 110, 113 (2d Cir. 2000)). On a Rule 12(b)(1) motion challenging the district court's subject matter jurisdiction, evidence outside of the pleadings, such as affidavits, may be considered by the court to resolve the disputed jurisdictional fact issues. Zappia Middle E. Constr. Co., 215 F.3d at 253; see also Morrison, 547 F.3d at 170. When evaluating a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the court accepts all material factual allegations in the complaint as true, but does not draw inferences from the complaint favorable to the plaintiff. J.S. ex rel. N.S. v. Attica Cent. Sch., 386 F.3d 107, 110 (2d Cir. 2004).

Where, as here, a party also seeks dismissal on Rule 12(b)(6) grounds, the court must consider the Rule 12(b)(1) motion first. Baldessarre v. Monroe-Woodbury Cent. Sch. Dist., 820 F.Supp.2d 490, 499 (S.D.N.Y. 2011), aff'd sub nom. Baldessarre ex rel. Baldessarre v. Monroe-Woodbury Cent. Sch. Dist., 496 F.Appx. 131 (2d Cir. 2012).

III. Plaintiff's Claims are Barred by the Rooker-Feldman Doctrine

Defendants argue that Plaintiff's action is an impermissible collateral attack of a state Family Court Order, and is therefore barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.[3]

The Rooker-Feldman doctrine stands for the principle that federal district courts lack jurisdiction over suits that are, in substance, appeals from state court judgments. Hoblock v. Albany Cnty. Bd. of Elections, 422 F.3d 77, 84 (2d Cir. 2005). The doctrine precludes cases brought in lower federal courts "by state-court losers complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings commenced and inviting district court review and rejection of those judgments." Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005). In ...

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