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Dodd v. O'sullivan

United States District Court, N.D. New York

January 14, 2020

PATRICK O'SULLIVAN, et al., Defendants.


          Lawrence E. Kahn Senior U.S. District Judge


         Pro se plaintiff Errol Richard Dodd brings this complaint against Judge Patrick O'Sullivan, Magistrate Todd Dexter, the State of New York, and the Madison County Family Court. Dkt. No. 1 (“Complaint”). After granting Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”), the Honorable Thérèse Wiley Dancks, U.S. Magistrate Judge, reviewed the Complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and recommended that the Court dismiss Plaintiff's claims without leave to amend. Dkt. No. 8 (“Report-Recommendation”) at 12. Plaintiff objected. Dkt. No. 9 (“Objections”).[1] For the reasons that follow, the Court adopts the Report-Recommendation in its entirety.


         As Judge Dancks noted, Plaintiff's Complaint “is not a model of clarity.” R. & R. at 2. While Plaintiff uses a pro se form designed for a civil case alleging negligence, Compl. at 1, he appears to assert claims stemming from a family court matter. Specifically, he asserts that his “civil rights have been violated” because he “was not proven to be an ‘unfit' parent before terminating [his] parental rights, without due process.” Id. at 2. Plaintiff also alleges that his “children are being denied appropriate counseling for injuries sustained by these actions by the court.” Id. He seeks monetary relief and the restoration of his parental rights. Id. at 4. Plaintiff also includes in his Complaint a single-spaced, sixteen-page document that in large part outlines his proposals to “correct the psychological injury that is occurring to the child and ensure each and every child is set on a course of health, wellness and prosperity, ” and he demands royalties or a payment of $6.66 billion should the program be implemented. Id. at 14-15.

         Judge Dancks recommended dismissing the Complaint for a lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine and the domestic relations exception. R. & R. at 12. She also recommended that, even if there were subject matter jurisdiction, the Complaint be dismissed under 1915(e)(2)(b)(iii) because all defendants are entitled to immunity. Id.


         When a plaintiff seeks to proceed IFP, “the court shall dismiss the case at any time” if the action: “(i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Thus, even if a plaintiff meets the financial criteria to commence an action IFP, it is the court's responsibility to determine whether the plaintiff may properly maintain the complaint before permitting the Plaintiff to proceed IFP. See id. The Court must review pro se complaints liberally, see Nance v. Kelly, 912 F.2d 605, 606 (2d Cir. 1990) (per curiam), and should exercise “extreme caution . . . in ordering sua sponte dismissal of a pro se complaint before the adverse party has been served and both parties (but particularly the plaintiff) have had an opportunity to respond.” Anderson v. Coughlin, 700 F.2d 37, 41 (2d Cir. 1983) (internal citations omitted).

         Within fourteen days after a party has been served with a copy of a magistrate judge's report-recommendation, the party “may serve and file specific, written objections to the proposed findings and recommendations.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); L.R. 72.1(c). If objections are timely filed, a court “shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). However, if no objections are made, or if an objection is general, conclusory, perfunctory, or a mere reiteration of an argument made to the magistrate judge, a district court need review that aspect of a report-recommendation only for clear error. Barnes v. Prack, No. 11-CV-857, 2013 WL 1121353, at *1 (N.D.N.Y. Mar. 18, 2013); Farid v. Bouey, 554 F.Supp.2d 301, 306-07, 306 n.2 (N.D.N.Y. 2008), abrogated on other grounds by Widomski v. State Univ. of N.Y. at Orange, 748 F.3d 471 (2d Cir. 2014). “Even 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.” Machicote v. Ercole, No. 06-CV-13320, 2011 WL 3809920, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 25, 2011). “A [district] judge . . . may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” § 636(b).


         Like his Complaint, Plaintiff's Objections are often difficult to follow, and at times stray from legal argumentation into something more akin to a manifesto. Liberally construing the filing, however, Plaintiff does raise specific objections to Judge Dancks' application of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine and sovereign immunity. Accordingly, the Court reviews these aspects of the Report-Recommendation de novo.

         The Court also addresses additional arguments that Plaintiff raises in the Objections but were not discussed in the Report-Recommendation.

         A. Rooker-Feldman

         The Rooker-Feldman doctrine precludes federal subject matter jurisdiction in “cases brought by state-court losers complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before the federal district court proceedings commenced and inviting district court review and rejection of those judgments.” Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic ...

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