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Stevens v. Malloy

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

October 28, 2016

ERIC STEVENS, Plaintiff,
v.
DANNEL MALLOY et al., Defendants.

          RULING RE: DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS (DOC. NOS. 63, 65, 67 & 68)

          Janet C. Hall United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This action was first filed in June 2015 by plaintiff Eric Stevens (“Mr. Stevens”) against the following defendants (collectively, “the defendants”): Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy (“Governor Malloy”), Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court Chase T. Rogers (“Chief Justice Rogers”), Attorney Mary Bergamini (“Attorney Bergamini”), Tiffany Khalily[1] (“Tiffany”), [2] Edward Khalily (“Edward”), Shahram[3] Rabbani (“Shahram”), Diana Rabbani (“Diana”), and police officer Scott Segar (“Officer Segar”). See Compl. (“Original Complaint”) (Doc. No. 1) ¶¶ 4-12. The Original Complaint alleged that the defendants committed various unconstitutional, illegal, and tortious acts, both individually and collectively, that destroyed Mr. Stevens's relationship with his minor daughter. See id. ¶ 1. Mr. Stevens demanded declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as money damages. See id. at 14. Seven of the defendants[4] moved to dismiss Mr. Stevens's Original Complaint, and the court granted Governor Malloy's and Chief Justice Rogers's Motion to Dismiss, while also dismissing Mr. Stevens's claims against Officer Segar because he was not properly served. See Ruling (June 7, 2016) (“First Ruling”) (Doc. No. 52) at 2.[5] The court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining, state law claims and terminated the remaining motions as moot. See id. at 2-3.

         Noting that it was conceivable that Mr. Stevens could remedy the defects in his Original Complaint, the court granted him leave to file an Amended Complaint. Id. at 28. Mr. Stevens subsequently filed an Amended Complaint with very minor modifications. See generally Am. Compl. (Doc. No. 55). All the allegations against Attorney Bergamini, Tiffany, Edward, Shahram, Diana, and Officer Segar are identical; with respect to his allegations against Governor Malloy and Chief Justice Rogers (the “State Defendants”), Mr. Stevens removed his demand for injunctive relief and made a handful of additions, see Mem. of Law in Opp'n to the Mots. to Dismiss of Defs. Malloy, Rogers, Bergamini, and the Rabbanis (“Opposition”) (Doc. No. 75) at 3 (noting the “modest amendments to [the] complaint . . . in paragraphs 36, 37, 40, 42 and 45”).

         The seven defendants who filed Motions to Dismiss the Original Complaint have now filed Motions to Dismiss the Amended Complaint. See generally Attorney Bergamini's Mot. to Dismiss (Doc. No. 63); Defs. Sharam and Diana Rabbani's, Mot. to Dismiss Pl.'s Am. Compl. (Doc. No. 65); State Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss Am. Compl. (Doc. No. 67); Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss (Doc. No. 68) (asking court to dismiss claims against Tiffany and Edward). Those motions are now pending before the court. Mr. Stevens filed a Memorandum of Law in Opposition to the Motions, see generally Opposition, and the State Defendants timely replied, see Reply Mem. of Law in Supp. of the State Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss Am. Compl. (“Reply”) (Doc. No. 76).

         For the reasons set forth below, the court again concludes that Mr. Stevens lacks standing to pursue declaratory relief or damages from the State Defendants. The State Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 67) is therefore GRANTED. Furthermore, Mr. Stevens has made clear he does not consider Officer Segar to be part of the case, notwithstanding his inclusion in the Amended Complaint. See Oral Arg., Oct. 14, 2016, Tr. at 28. The court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining claims, all of which are state law claims. It TERMINATES AS MOOT the remaining Motions to Dismiss.

         II. FACTS[6]

         A. Background

         Mr. Stevens and Tiffany were formerly married; they had a daughter together in 2005. See Am. Compl. ¶ 7. In May 2009, Mr. Stevens filed for divorce in Connecticut. Id. ¶ 13. More than two years later, the divorce proceedings ended, resolved by agreement after an uncontested hearing; the agreement gave Tiffany sole custody of the couple's daughter and afforded Mr. Stevens visitation rights. See id. ¶ 20. The couple remained in extensive post-judgment litigation, even after the marriage was dissolved. Id. ¶ 21.

         In April 2012, Tiffany offered a handyman $5, 000 to kill Mr. Stevens. Id. ¶ 23. The handyman told Mr. Stevens of the offer, Mr. Stevens notified the police, and Tiffany was arrested and charged with attempted murder. Id. Notwithstanding the pendency of criminal charges, Tiffany retained custody of the couple's daughter and moved to New York State. Id. ¶ 26. Mr. Stevens has not seen his daughter in approximately four years and has not spoken with her in the last eighteen months. Id. ¶ 30.

         After he learned of Tiffany's efforts to have him killed, Mr. Stevens filed many motions in Connecticut's family courts. See id. ¶ 37. He filed these motions pro se because he had already exhausted his financial resources in the course of the previous litigation with Tiffany, id. ¶ 36, and because the State of Connecticut does not appoint counsel for indigent parties in family law proceedings, see id. ¶ 35. Though he requested that counsel be appointed for him, the Superior Court denied Mr. Stevens's entreaties. Id. ¶ 40. Tiffany, on the other hand, retained experienced counsel and made her own motions. Id. ¶ 38.

         Mr. Stevens moved the court for custody of and visitation with his daughter, as well as for contempt orders against Tiffany and her attorney. Id. ¶ 37. However, the Superior Court judge “failed, refused and neglected” to hold hearings and rule on his motions, though it responded to those filed by Tiffany. Id. ¶ 39.

         B. Governor Malloy and Chief Justice Rogers

         Both Governor Malloy and Chief Justice Rogers are aware of the consequential role in family law proceedings played by disparities between the parties' financial resources. Id. ¶¶ 42, 45. Chief Justice Rogers acquired this knowledge “as a result of broad public criticism by aggrieved litigants in the form of letters to court officers, testimony at legislative hearings, litigation in other cases, and commentary in local media.” Id. ¶ 42. When she became Chief Justice, Chief Justice Rogers “made a priority of improving public confidence in the courts”; through those efforts, she became aware that pro se litigants frequently complained that they were denied an opportunity to be heard. Id. Chief Justice Rogers also is responsible for ensuring state court judges are appropriately trained. Id. ¶ 50. She is aware that trial court judges often “refuse[ ] to calendar for adjudication or otherwise ignore[ ]” motions filed by pro se litigants in family court. Id. ¶ 49.

         Similarly, Governor Malloy knows “of the controversial role of finances in family law cases as a result of the testimony at legislative hearings, commentary in local media, and reporting to him by senior staff who monitored [Chief Justice Rogers's] efforts to improve public confidence in the courts.” Id. ¶ 45.

         Despite their knowledge of these problems, neither Governor Malloy nor Chief Justice Rogers made money from Executive Branch and Judicial Branch discretionary funds available to provide pro se litigants representation in family court proceedings. See id. ¶¶ 44, 47-48.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Claims are properly dismissed “under [Federal Rule of Civil Procedure] 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction if the court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it, such as when . . . the plaintiff lacks constitutional standing to bring the action.” Cortland St. Recovery Corp. v. Hellas Telecomms., S.À.R.L., 790 F.3d 411, 416-17 (2d Cir. 2015) (quotation marks and citations omitted).

         “A Rule 12(b)(1) motion challenging subject matter jurisdiction may be either facial or fact-based.” Carter v. Healthport Techs., LLC, 822 F.3d 47, 56 (2d Cir. 2016). When ruling on a facial Rule 12(b)(1) motion-one that relies on the facts alleged in the Complaint-the court accepts as true the allegations in the Complaint and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Id. at 56-57. Nevertheless, the burden is on the plaintiff to “plausibly allege” facts that establish federal subject matter jurisdiction. Id. at 56 (citing Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992)). In other words, “[t]he task of the district court is to determine whether the [Complaint] allege[s] facts that affirmatively and plausibly suggest that [the plaintiff] has standing to sue.” Id. (quotation marks omitted) (quoting Lujan, 504 U.S. at 561).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         Mr. Stevens grounds his damages claims against Governor Malloy, Chief Justice Rogers, and Officer Segar in section 1983 of title 42 of the United States Code. See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 2-3. He also asks for a declaratory judgment that various aspects of Connecticut's family court procedures violate his constitutional rights. Apart from these claims, Mr. Stevens brings state law claims against the other defendants, none of whom are state actors. See id. ¶ 2; Opposition at 2 (relying on Docket Number 33, “prior memorandum in opposition to” non-state defendants' Motions to Dismiss); Nunc Pro Tunc Mem. in Opp'n to the Rabbani Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss (Doc. No. 66) at 2 (same); Pl.'s Mem. in Opp'n to the Defs.' Various Mots. to Dismiss (Doc. No. 33) at 2 (conceding that if court dismisses claims against State Defendants, “state law claims only” would remain).

         For the reasons set forth below, the court holds that Mr. Stevens lacks standing to pursue either damages or declaratory relief from Governor Malloy and Chief Justice Rogers. Mr. Stevens made clear during Oral Argument held on October 14, 2016 that, notwithstanding Officer Segar's inclusion in the Amended Complaint, he does not consider Officer Segar to be a party in this case. See Oral Arg., Oct. 14, 2016, Tr. at 28.

         After dismissing Mr. Stevens's claims against the State Defendants, only state law claims remain. See Pl.'s Mem. in Opp'n to the Defs.' Various Mots. to Dismiss (Doc. No. 33) at 2. The court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over these claims, see 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3), and therefore dismisses the Amended Complaint in its entirety.

         A. Rule 12(b)(1): Standing

         Governor Malloy and Chief Justice Rogers offer several grounds for dismissal of the claims against them: lack of standing, 11th Amendment immunity, lack of the state defendants' personal involvement in the alleged constitutional violations, qualified immunity, and failure to state a claim. See Mem. of Law in Supp. of State Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss Am. Compl. (“State Defendants' Memorandum” or “State Defs.' Mem.”) (Doc. No. 67-1) at 1-2. Mr. Stevens objects to the State Defendants' arguments. Most importantly for the purposes of this Ruling, he asserts that his “[c]laim [f]or [e]quitable [r]elief [i]s [n]ot [s]peculative” and that he has sufficiently alleged the direct involvement of Governor Malloy and Chief Justice Rogers so as to proceed to discovery. Opposition at 3, 5. As set forth below, the court again concludes that Mr. Stevens lacks standing to pursue his claims against Governor ...


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