585 F.3d 97 (2nd Cir. 2009), 08-4636-cv, Green v. Mattingly

Docket Nº:08-4636-cv.
Citation:585 F.3d 97
Opinion Judge:JOS
Party Name:Sharice GREEN, individually and on behalf of her minor child T.C., Plaintiff-Appellant, v. John B. MATTINGLY, individually and as Commissioner, Benjamin Williams, individually and as supervisor, Russell Banks, individually and as manager, Danielle Saladino, individually and as caseworker, City of New York, Defendants-Appellees.
Attorney:Carolyn A. Kubitschek, Lansner & Kubitschek, New York, NY, for plaintiff-appellant. Tahirih M. Sadrieh (Edward F.X. Hart, Elizabeth A. Wells, of counsel) for Michael A. Cardozo, Corporation Counsel of the City of New York, for defendants-appellees.
Judge Panel:Before: MINER and CABRANES, Circuit Judges, and RAKOFF, District Judge.[*]
Case Date:October 21, 2009
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
 
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Page 97

585 F.3d 97 (2nd Cir. 2009)

Sharice GREEN, individually and on behalf of her minor child T.C., Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

John B. MATTINGLY, individually and as Commissioner, Benjamin Williams, individually and as supervisor, Russell Banks, individually and as manager, Danielle Saladino, individually and as caseworker, City of New York, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 08-4636-cv.

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

October 21, 2009

Argued: Oct. 7, 2009.

Page 98

Carolyn A. Kubitschek, Lansner & Kubitschek, New York, NY, for plaintiff-appellant.

Tahirih M. Sadrieh (Edward F.X. Hart, Elizabeth A. Wells, of counsel) for Michael A. Cardozo, Corporation Counsel of the City of New York, for defendants-appellees.

Before: MINER and CABRANES, Circuit Judges, and RAKOFF, District Judge.[*]

Page 99

JOSÉA. CABRANES, Circuit Judge:

Plaintiff-appellant Sharice Green (" plaintiff" or " Green" ) brought this action on behalf of herself and her child claiming that defendants-appellees violated the United States Constitution and New York law when they successfully petitioned the Family Court of the State of New York (" Family Court" ) for an order temporarily removing plaintiff's child from her custody. The District Court dismissed the bulk of plaintiff's claims under the Rooker - Feldman doctrine on the ground that they complained of injuries caused by a state-court judgment.

We are once against presented with the task of defining the scope of the Rooker - Feldman doctrine, a bundle of rules named after the Supreme Court's decisions in Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 44 S.Ct. 149, 68 L.Ed. 362 (1923), and D.C. Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 103 S.Ct. 1303, 75 L.Ed.2d 206 (1983). We must determine here whether the Rooker - Feldman doctrine bars 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims based on allegations of injuries caused by an interlocutory order of the Family Court that temporarily removed plaintiff's child from her custody. Because the Family Court issued a superseding order returning plaintiff's child to her, and because the Family Court proceedings were ultimately dismissed, we conclude that plaintiff was not a " state-court loser[ ]" and, in addition, her § 1983 claims do not " invit[e] district court review and rejection" of a state court " judgment." Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284, 125 S.Ct. 1517, 161 L.Ed.2d 454 (2005); see Hoblock v. Albany County Bd. of Elections, 422 F.3d 77, 85 (2d Cir.2005). Accordingly, we hold that the Rooker - Feldman doctrine does not bar plaintiff's claims in this action.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are drawn from the complaint or from documents incorporated by reference in the complaint and are, at this stage of the litigation, presumed to be true. See Chambers v. Time Warner, Inc., 282 F.3d 147, 152-53 (2d Cir.2002).

Green lived with her infant child, T.C., in a shelter operated by the New York City Department of Homeless Services. Green and her husband, Alex Claiborne (" Claiborne" ), had some domestic disputes, but after his completion of various counseling programs, Claiborne also moved into the shelter with plaintiff and her child. After about three months of peaceful cohabitation, one day while Green was out, Claiborne slapped T.C. in the face. Upon returning to the shelter and learning of Claiborne's actions, Green called the police, and Claiborne was arrested.

Staff at the shelter reported the incident to the State Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment, and the report was transmitted to defendant John B. Mattingly, Commissioner of the New York City Administration for Children's Services (" ACS" ). Mattingly assigned defendant Danielle Saladino, a child protection specialist, and two supervisors, defendants Benjamin Williams and Russell Banks, to investigate. Following their investigation, ACS officials brought child neglect proceedings in the Family Court, on January 31, 2006, naming both Claiborne and Green as respondents.

On that same day, a hearing was held in Family Court in which the Legal Aid Society appeared as appointed law guardian for T.C. and Saladino appeared on behalf of ACS. Green did not attend the hearing. Saladino told the Family Court that she had left messages for Green at the shelter. Green says that she received no messages.

Page 100

Green alleges that Saladino made false statements in the neglect petition and at the Family Court hearing. Green also alleges that Saladino sought the removal of T.C. from her custody even though Saladino had no probable cause to believe that T.C. was in immediate danger. In any event, the Family Court issued an order temporarily removing T.C. from Green's custody and remanding T.C. to the custody of ACS.

Green immediately petitioned for the return of T.C. and, four days after the initial hearing, a second hearing was held at which Green appeared and testified on her own behalf. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Family Court found that " the child should be returned home because no imminent risk to the child's life or health has been demonstrated." The Family Court issued an order returning T.C. to Green, although the neglect proceedings remained open.

After Green moved, unsuccessfully, to dismiss the neglect petition, Green and ACS agreed to adjourn the Family Court proceedings for twelve months and, if Green followed certain conditions over the twelve-month period, to dismiss the neglect petition. The Family Court thus issued an order providing for " adjournment in contemplation of dismissal," and the petition was automatically dismissed twelve months later.

Green then brought this action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, claiming that defendants had violated the U.S. Constitution and New York law by making false statements to the Family...

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