Mcknight v. Middleton, No. 08-CV-3896 (SLT)(LB).

CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of New York
Writing for the CourtTOWNES
Citation699 F.Supp.2d 507
PartiesAnthony Jerome McKNIGHT, Plaintiff,v.Dawn Marie MIDDLETON, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date29 March 2010
Docket NumberNo. 08-CV-3896 (SLT)(LB).

699 F.Supp.2d 507

Anthony Jerome McKNIGHT, Plaintiff,
v.
Dawn Marie MIDDLETON, et al., Defendants.

No. 08-CV-3896 (SLT)(LB).

United States District Court,
E.D. New York.

March 29, 2010.


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Anthony Jerome McKnight, Philadelphia, PA, pro se.

Dawn Marie Middleton, Brooklyn, NY, pro se.

Charles Fernando Sanders, Monica Anne Connell, Office of the New York State Attorney General, Dennis John Dozis, Jonathan David Rubin, Kaufman Borgeest & Ryan LLP, New York, NY, Lisa L. Shrewsberry, Traub Lieberman Straus & Shrewsberry LLP, Hawthorne, NY, Janet Neustaetter, Brooklyn, NY, for Defendants.
MEMORANDUM and ORDER
TOWNES, District Judge:

On September 23, 2008, Anthony Jerome McKnight (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, commenced this action against sixteen defendants involved in a protracted child custody dispute over Plaintiff's ten-year-old daughter, Elena. For sake of ease, the Court has grouped Defendants into six categories. First, the lead defendant, Dawn Marie Middleton, is the mother and current custodian of Elena. Second, the “Mayerson Defendants” are defendants Harold A. Mayerson, Sophie Jacobi and Mayerson, Stutman, Abramowitz, Royer L.L.P., who represented Dawn Middleton in the child custody dispute. Third, the “State Defendants” include defendants State of New York; County of Kings Family Court; the Honorable Paula J. Hepner, Family Court Judge; Robert Ratanski, Clerk of the Family Court; and other unknown employees of the Family Court. Fourth, the “CLC Defendants” constitute defendants Children's Law Center, Carol Sherman, and Martha Schneiderman, who served as Elena's court-appointed law guardians. Fifth, “Lauro and Montrose” consists of defendants Louis Lauro, Ph.D, and Eileen Montrose, L.C.S.W., who were a court-appointed evaluator and social worker, respectively. Sixth, “Middleton Relatives” encompass Ilona T. Middleton, Carl J. Middleton, and Kirsten L. Middleton, relatives of Dawn Middleton.

Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint, a model of prolixity at 130 pages, asserts seventy-two causes of action, including claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985(3), 1986, and 1988, alleging violations

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of the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, Ninth, Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments; the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”); and claims under state statutory and common law. Dawn Middleton, the Mayerson Defendants, the State Defendants, the CLC Defendants, and Lauro and Montrose moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 12(b)(6).

For the following reasons, the Court dismisses the Amended Complaint in its entirety against all Defendants.

BACKGROUND

This suit arises out of a County of Kings Family Court (“Family Court”) custody dispute between pro se Plaintiff and Dawn Middleton, regarding their daughter, Elena. This matter was transferred from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, where Plaintiff resides, to the Family Court where Dawn Middleton and Elena reside. During the pendency of this federal court litigation, the custody dispute remains ongoing in Family Court.

On September 23, 2008, Plaintiff filed his Complaint raising numerous claims against Defendants for violations of his constitutional and federal statutory rights as well as rights under state law in connection with the child custody proceedings. Plaintiff also sought injunctive relief holding various sections of the N.Y. Domestic Relations law unconstitutional. Plaintiff's complaint also named as plaintiffs “a Class of Pro Se Litigants Similarly Situated in the County of Kings Family Court,” “a Class of African-American Fathers Similarly Situated in the County of Kings Family Court,” and a class of Plaintiff's “African-American Relatives Similarly Situated” (collectively, the “Class Plaintiffs”). On November 12, 2008, the Court directed Plaintiff to either retain counsel for the Class Plaintiffs or show cause why the Class Plaintiffs should not be dismissed from the action.

On January 8, 2009, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. There, Plaintiff added two defendants to the State Defendants and raised several additional claims. Nevertheless, like the original complaint, Plaintiff's amended pleading purported to be brought on behalf of the Class Plaintiffs. Plaintiff failed to retain counsel for Class Plaintiffs or to show cause why the Class Plaintiffs should not be dismissed from the action. On February 11, 2009, the Court dismissed the Class Plaintiffs from the action and directed the Clerk to strike Class Plaintiffs from the caption. The Amended Complaint's sixty-ninth cause of action for class certification was consequently dismissed as well.

In March 2009, the Court granted Dawn Middleton, the Mayerson Defendants, State Defendants, the CLC Defendants, and Lauro and Montrose leave to move to dismiss the Amended Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). The Court now considers those motions.

DISCUSSION
I. Rule 12(b)(6) Standard of Review

Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for dismissal of a complaint that fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). To withstand a motion to dismiss, a complaint's “factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the

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speculative level.” Id. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955. It must plead facts sufficient “to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955.

“A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S. ----, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (reversing the Second Circuit's decision in Iqbal v. Hasty, 490 F.3d 143 (2d Cir.2007)). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,’ but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. Thus, “[w]here a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). Examining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 1950. “But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct,” a complaint fails to state a claim. Id. In short, the plaintiff's factual allegations, must show that the plaintiff's claim is “plausible,” not merely “conceivable.” Id. at 1951.

In applying the plausibility standard set forth in Twombly and Iqbal, a court “assume[s] the veracity” only of “well-pleaded factual allegations,” and draws all reasonable inferences from such allegations in the plaintiff's favor. Argeropoulos v. Exide Technologies, No. 08-CV-3760, 2009 WL 2132443, at *3 (E.D.N.Y. July 8, 2009) (citing Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950). Pleadings that are no more than “legal conclusions,” or “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements” are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949.


II Rooker-Feldman Doctrine

Several Defendants argue that Plaintiff's action must be dismissed based on the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Indeed, “[w]here a federal suit follows a state suit, the former may be prohibited by the so-called Rooker-Feldman doctrine in certain circumstances.” Hoblock v. Albany County Bd. of Elections, 422 F.3d 77, 83 (2d Cir.2005) (citing 18B Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Edward H. Cooper, Federal Practice & Procedure: Jurisdiction 2d § 4469.1 (2002)). “Underlying the Rooker-Feldman doctrine is the principle, expressed by Congress in 28 U.S.C. § 1257, that within the federal judicial system, only the Supreme Court may review state-court decisions.” Id. at 85. The Supreme Court has recently reined in the use of the doctrine, cautioning that it was meant to occupy a “narrow ground.” Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284, 125 S.Ct. 1517, 161 L.Ed.2d 454 (2005). The Court held that Rooker-Feldman “is confined to cases of the kind from which the doctrine acquired its name: cases brought 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.” Id.

In the wake of Exxon Mobil, the Second Circuit revisited its prior precedents and limited the application of Rooker-Feldman to cases satisfying four “requirements”:

First, the federal-court plaintiff must have lost in state court. Second, the plaintiff must “complain [ ] of injuries caused by [a] state-court judgment [.]” Third, the plaintiff must “invite district court review and rejection of [that] judgment [ ].” Fourth, the state-court judgment
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must have been “rendered before the district court proceedings commenced”-i.e., Rooker-Feldman has no application to federal-court suits proceeding in parallel with ongoing state-court litigation.

Hoblock, 422 F.3d at 85 (alterations in original) (quoting Exxon Mobil, 544 U.S. at 284, 125 S.Ct. 1517). The first and fourth requirements are procedural, while the second and third are substantive. Id.

Here, the Rooker-Fel...

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  • Miller v. D.C. Water & Sewer Auth., No. 17-cv-0840 (KBJ)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • October 2, 2018
    ...[defendants] are [her] conclusory statements that she was 'terminated . . .based on [her] race' and 'color'"); McKnight v. Middleton, 699 F. Supp. 2d 507, 530-31 (E.D.N.Y. 2010) (dismissing claims under Sections 1981 and 1982 because plaintiff "failed to plead any non-speculative facts supp......
  • Sonnick v. Budlong, 5:20-CV-0410 (TJM/ML)
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    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of New York
    • June 4, 2020
    ...are shielded from liability for civil damages for judicial acts performed in their judicial capacities."); McKnight v. Middleton, 699 F. Supp. 2d 507, 523 (E.D.N.Y. 2010) ("It is well settled that judges generally have absolute immunity from suits for money damages for their judicial action......
  • Aron v. Becker, 3:13-CV-0883
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of New York
    • September 22, 2014
    ...Martinez v. Queens Cnty. Dist. Attorney, No. 12-CV-06262, 2014 WL 1011054, at *8 n.8 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 17, 2014); McKnight v. Middleton, 699 F. Supp.2d 507, 521-25 (E.D.N.Y. 2010), aff'd, 434 F. App'x 32 (2d Cir. 2011). [T]he Eleventh Amendment, on the other hand, shields judges from suit to t......
  • Aron v. Becker, No. 3:13–CV–0883.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of New York
    • September 22, 2014
    ...Martinez v. Queens Cnty. Dist. Attorney, No. 12–CV–06262, 2014 WL 1011054, at *8 n. 8 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 17, 2014); McKnight v. Middleton, 699 F.Supp.2d 507, 521–25 (E.D.N.Y.2010), aff'd, 434 F.App'x [Fed.Appx.] 32 (2d Cir.2011). [T]he Eleventh Amendment, on the other hand, shields judges from ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
124 cases
  • Miller v. D.C. Water & Sewer Auth., No. 17-cv-0840 (KBJ)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • October 2, 2018
    ...[defendants] are [her] conclusory statements that she was 'terminated . . .based on [her] race' and 'color'"); McKnight v. Middleton, 699 F. Supp. 2d 507, 530-31 (E.D.N.Y. 2010) (dismissing claims under Sections 1981 and 1982 because plaintiff "failed to plead any non-speculative facts supp......
  • Sonnick v. Budlong, 5:20-CV-0410 (TJM/ML)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of New York
    • June 4, 2020
    ...are shielded from liability for civil damages for judicial acts performed in their judicial capacities."); McKnight v. Middleton, 699 F. Supp. 2d 507, 523 (E.D.N.Y. 2010) ("It is well settled that judges generally have absolute immunity from suits for money damages for their judicial action......
  • Aron v. Becker, 3:13-CV-0883
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of New York
    • September 22, 2014
    ...Martinez v. Queens Cnty. Dist. Attorney, No. 12-CV-06262, 2014 WL 1011054, at *8 n.8 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 17, 2014); McKnight v. Middleton, 699 F. Supp.2d 507, 521-25 (E.D.N.Y. 2010), aff'd, 434 F. App'x 32 (2d Cir. 2011). [T]he Eleventh Amendment, on the other hand, shields judges from suit to t......
  • Aron v. Becker, No. 3:13–CV–0883.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of New York
    • September 22, 2014
    ...Martinez v. Queens Cnty. Dist. Attorney, No. 12–CV–06262, 2014 WL 1011054, at *8 n. 8 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 17, 2014); McKnight v. Middleton, 699 F.Supp.2d 507, 521–25 (E.D.N.Y.2010), aff'd, 434 F.App'x [Fed.Appx.] 32 (2d Cir.2011). [T]he Eleventh Amendment, on the other hand, shields judges from ......
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