United States District Court, N.D. New York
FRANCES AMATO; JOHN DOE, progeny minor child; ADRIENNE AUCHMOODY; TONI JEAN KULPINSKI; VLADIMIR KULPINSKI; MICHAELA KULPINSKI; MICHELLE ARZOLA; JANE DOE, minor child; and JOHN DOE, minor child of Michelle Arzola, Plaintiffs,
JUDGE ANTHONY MCGINTY, individually and as Ulster County Family Court Judge; ATTORNEY ANDREW GILDAY, individually and as a public defender of New York; AMY INGRAM, state attorney for the child; PATRICK V. BEESMER, individually; and PAMELA AUGUSTINE, individually, Defendants.
FRANCES AMATO Plaintiff, pro se
ADRIENNE AUCHMOODY; TONI JEAN KULPINSKI; VLADIMIR KULPINSKI;
MICHAELA KULPINSKI; MICHELLE ARZOLA; Plaintiffs, pro se
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
D'Agostino, U.S. District Judge
se Plaintiff Frances Amato ("Plaintiff Amato")
and various members of her family, also proceeding pro
se, commenced the instant action on May 26, 2017,
alleging various constitutional violations, a state law tort
claim, and also seeking injunctive relief. See
generally Dkt. No. 1. Currently before the Court is
Plaintiffs' request for a temporary restraining order
("TRO"). See Dkt. No. 8.
action arises out of Plaintiff Amato's involvement in
custody proceedings before the Ulster County Family Court
regarding Plaintiff Amato's child. See Dkt. No.
1 at 3. The other Plaintiffs in this action appear to all be
related to Plaintiff Amato and her child. See Id. at
2-3. Plaintiffs have sued five Defendants, including Family
Court Judge Anthony McGinty - the judge presiding over the
custody proceedings; Andrew Gilday - the public defender
assigned to the child's father in the custody
proceedings; Amy Ingram - the appointed attorney for the
child during the proceedings; Patrick Beesmer - the
child's father; and Pamela Augustine - Mr. Beesmer's
"paramour" as Plaintiff Amato describes her.
See Id. at 3-4. The crux of Plaintiff Amato's
claims is that Defendants violated her constitutional rights
when Mr. Beesmer was awarded custody of their child. The
complaint is full of general and conclusory allegations of
wrongdoing by Defendants. Of course, the Court has construed
Plaintiffs' claims liberally given their pro se
the allegations in Plaintiffs' complaint are somewhat
difficult to decipher, it appears that Plaintiff Amato
alleges that she was retaliated against during the custody
proceedings as a result of her outspoken criticism of Judge
McGinty prior to those proceedings. See Id. at 7. As
a result, during the custody proceedings, Plaintiff Amato
claims that Judge McGinty "denied [her] rights to proper
serving process, denied any evidence into the court for
purpose of record, [and] [d]enied the serious risk and harm
to [her] child." Id. Plaintiff Amata also
complains that Judge McGinty engaged in "[h]ighly
abusive treatment" and "[c]aused [e]xtreme pain and
suffering and trauma to all plaintiffs by violating our
constitutional rights." Id. at 6.
further allege that Ms. Ingram, the child's attorney,
violated Plaintiffs' constitutional rights when she
"never returned calls to [Plaintiff Amato] and ignored
all abuse to family and child." Id. at 11.
Plaintiffs alleges that Mr. Beesmer and Ms. Augustine
conspired with the other Defendants to deprive Plaintiffs of
their constitutional rights. See Id. at 4.
Plaintiffs do not appear to allege anything specific against
Mr. Gilday, but Plaintiffs generally allege that Mr. Gilday
effectively participated in the "kidnaping and
endangerment of a minor" and that he subjected
Plaintiffs to "cruel and unusual punishment, "
along with the other Defendants. Id. at 8, 11.
Plaintiffs purport to bring claims for First and Fourteenth
Amendment violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
("Section 1983"), and also claim that Defendants
are liable for "intentional and negligent emotional
distress." Id. at 4, 24.
restraining orders . . . and preliminary injunctions are
extraordinary and drastic remedies." Lawrence v.
Zee, No. 16-CV-1515, 2016 WL 1690669, *1 (E.D.N.Y. Apr.
26, 2016) (citation omitted). The standards for granting
either a TRO or a preliminary injunction require the moving
party to demonstrate "(1) irreparable harm in the
absence of the injunction and (2) either (a) a likelihood of
success on the merits or (b) sufficiently serious questions
going to the merits to make them a fair ground for litigation
and a balance of hardships tipping decidedly in the
movant's favor." Id. (quoting County of
Nassau, N.Y. v. Leavitt, 524 F.3d 408, 414 (2d Cir.
2008)). Moreover, "[t]he movant must carry the burden of
persuasion by a clear showing[.]" Id.
present matter, Plaintiffs fall well short of establishing
the standards for a TRO. At the outset, it appears that the
custody proceedings have concluded. If the proceedings have
concluded, Plaintiff's claim for a TRO restoring custody
of her child is barred by the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine. "Under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, a
district court lacks 'subject matter jurisdiction over
claims that effectively challenge state court
judgments.'" Arena v. Dep't of Soc. Servs.
of Nassau Cty., 216 F.Supp.2d 146, 151 (E.D.N.Y. 2002)
(quoting Kropelnicki v. Siegel, 290 F.3d 118, 128
(2d Cir.2002)). "The Second Circuit has recently stated
that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars a district
court from reviewing a family court's determinations
regarding custody, neglect and visitation where those issues
have been decided after providing the plaintiff a full and
fair opportunity to litigate those issues." Id.
at 152 (citing Phifer v. City of New York, 289 F.3d
49, 57 (2d Cir.2002)). In this case, Plaintiffs merely seek
review of the family court's determination regarding
custody in the requested TRO. Although Plaintiffs make
conclusory allegations that Judge McGinty acted with bias,
Plaintiff Amato has completely failed to demonstrate that she
was deprived of a full and fair opportunity to litigate the
custody issues in family court. Every indication is that
Plaintiff Amato is merely upset about the result of the
custody proceedings. Accordingly, the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine prevents the Court from issuing the requested TRO,
which would require the Court to review a state court
the other hand, the proceedings are still ongoing,
Younger abstention is appropriate and the Court will
not grant the requested injunctive relief. See Younger v.
Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). "Younger
requires federal courts to abstain from exercising
jurisdiction over claims that implicate ongoing state
proceedings." Torres v. Gaines, 130 F.Supp.3d
630, 635 (D. Conn. 2015). This doctrine "applies if the
federal action involves ongoing: (1) 'state criminal
prosecutions'; (2) 'civil proceedings that are akin
to criminal prosecutions'; or (3) civil proceedings that
'implicate a State's interest in enforcing the orders
and judgments of its courts.'" Id. at 636
(quoting Sprint Commc'ns, Inc. v. Jacobs, 134
S.Ct. 584, 588 (2013)). "If the federal action falls
into one of these three categories, a Court may then consider
the additional factors described in Middlesex Cnty.
Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S.
423, 102 S.Ct. 2515, 73 L.Ed.2d 116 (1982)."
Id. Since the Supreme Court's decision in
Sprint, several courts in this Circuit have held
that Younger abstention applies in similar
circumstances as this case. See id.; see also
Graham v. N.Y. Ctr. for Interpersonal Dev., No.
15-CV-00459, 2015 WL 1120120, *2-3 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 12, 2015)
(holding that the plaintiff's claims for injunctive
relief were barred by Younger where the plaintiff
sought to challenge ongoing family court proceedings
regarding the loss of custody of her son). Moreover, like in
Graham, the Middlesex factors weigh in favor of
invoking Younger abstention in this case.
the Court had the authority to grant the requested TRO, the
Court would decline to do so since Plaintiffs have not
established a likelihood of success on the merits or
sufficiently serious questions going to the merits. Since
most, if not all, of Plaintiffs' claims arise out of the
underlying custody proceedings, it is likely that all of
their claims are barred by the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine. Moreover, generally speaking, ...