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Guy v. Moynihan

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

June 20, 2017

ERIC A. GUY, Plaintiff,
BRIAN MOYNIHAN, et al., Defendants.


          Stefan R. Underhill United States District Judge

         Eric A. Guy, [1] pro se, has moved for an emergency stay of ejectment and for an injunction against foreclosure proceedings currently pending in Connecticut Superior Court. Various defendants have moved to dismiss on the basis of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, res judicata, the Anti-Injunction Act, the Eleventh Amendment, absolute judicial immunity, Younger abstention, insufficient service of process, and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Because, under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, I lack subject matter jurisdiction to review the state court judgment, I grant the defendants' motions and dismiss Guy's case.

         I. Standard of Review

         “A case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction . . . when the district court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it.” Makarova v. United States, 201 F.3d 110, 113 (2d Cir. 2000). A party who seeks to invoke a court's jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing that it exists by alleging facts to demonstrate that the legal basis for the dispute allows it to be adjudicated in federal court. Thompson v. Cnty. of Franklin, 15 F.3d 245, 249 (2d Cir. 1994) (citing Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 518 (1975)). Although I “accept as true all material allegations of the complaint, and . . . construe the complaint in favor of the complaining party, ” I may consider materials outside the record for the purpose of determining whether subject matter jurisdiction exists. Id. (quoting Warth, 522 U.S. at 501).

         II. Background

         Guy owned property in Windsor, Connecticut, which was the subject of a foreclosure action by Bank of America in Connecticut Superior Court. See Compl., Bank of America v. Guy, Doc. No. HHD-CV-14-6055975-S (Conn. Super. Ct. Dec. 11, 2014). On June 29, 2015, the state court entered a judgment of strict foreclosure against Guy's property. Judgment, Doc. No. 117.00, Bank of America v. Guy (June 29, 2015). Guy filed several motions to open the judgment, see Mot. Open Judgment, Doc. No. 129.00, Bank of America v. Guy (Nov. 20, 2015); Mot. Open Judgment, Doc. No. 133.00, Bank of America v. Guy (Jan. 4, 2016); Mot. Open Judgment, Doc. No. 139.00, Bank of America v. Guy (May 2, 2016); Mot. Open Judgment, Doc. No. 148.00 (Oct. 31, 2016), all of which were denied. See Order, Doc. No. 129.86, Bank of America v. Guy (Dec. 21, 2015); Order, Doc. No. 133.86, Bank of America v. Guy (June 2, 2016); Order, Doc. No. 139.86, Bank of America v. Guy (May 18, 2016); Order, Doc. No. 148.86, Bank of America v. Guy (Nov. 21, 2016). Guy also appealed to the Connecticut Appellate Court, see Doc. No. 146.00, Bank of America v. Guy (July 19, 2016), but his appeal was dismissed as moot. See Order, Doc. No. 147.00, Bank of America v. Guy (Oct. 21, 2016).

         The state court issued an execution of ejectment against Guy on December 29, 2016.[2]Doc. No. 154.00, Bank of America v. Guy (Dec. 29, 2016). On January 4, 2017, Guy filed a complaint in this court against various defendants, including Bank of America[3] and its CEO, Brian Moynihan; Bank of America's attorneys in the state court action; several judges of the Connecticut Superior Court; and the State of Connecticut. See Compl., Doc. No. 1, Guy v. Moynihan, 3:17-cv-00014 (SRU) (D. Conn. Jan. 4, 2017). Essentially, Guy alleges that the state court lacked jurisdiction and that the proceedings violated his rights protected by the Constitution of the United States, 28 U.S.C. § 1343(a)(3), and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Id. at 1-2, 8-9. Guy simultaneously filed a motion for an injunction to abate the state court proceedings (styled as a “motion to intervene”), Doc. No. 3; a motion for emergency stay of ejectment, Doc. No. 4; and a motion to vacate the state court judgment, Doc. No. 5.[4]

         Moynihan and Bank of America (collectively, “Bank of America”) appeared in the action on March 31, 2017. Doc. No. 11. Judge Anthony Avallone of the Connecticut Superior Court and the State of Connecticut (collectively, “the State”) appeared on April 28, 2017. Doc. No. 17. Bank of America moved to dismiss pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) on April 20, 2017, arguing that Guy's claims “are barred by the Rooker-Feldman and res judicata doctrines, as well as the Anti-Injunction Act, ” and that Guy “fails to . . . plead[] a cognizable legal basis for relief.” Bank of America's Mot. Dismiss, Doc. No. 16, at 1. The State moved to dismiss pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1), 12(b)(5), and 12(b)(6) on April 28, 2017, contending that Guy's claims “are barred in their entirety by (1) the Eleventh Amendment; (2) absolute judicial immunity; (3) the Younger abstention doctrine; (4) the Anti-Injunction Act; (5) improper and insufficient service of process; and (6) failure to state a claim.” State's Mot. Dismiss, Doc. No. 19, at 1.

         Guy responded to the motions to dismiss and filed a petition for writ of mandamus on May 2. 2017.[5] Doc. No. 20. Neither he nor the defendants requested oral argument.

         III. Discussion

         Bank of America and the State have raised numerous grounds for dismissing Guy's lawsuit. Because I conclude that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine is sufficient to dispose of Guy's case in its entirety, I will address only that basis for dismissal.

         “Where 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 Cnty. Bd. of Elections, 422 F.3d 77, 83-84 (2d Cir. 2005). Named for two Supreme Court cases-Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923), and D.C. Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983)- the doctrine “established the clear principle that federal district courts lack jurisdiction over suits that are, in substance, appeals from state court judgments.” See Hoblock, 422 F.3d at 84. Because a federal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1257, “vests authority to review a state court's judgment solely in th[e] [Supreme] Court, ” Rooker and Feldman held that federal district courts “lacked subject-matter jurisdiction” to hear cases seeking to “overturn an injurious state-court judgment.” See Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 291-92 (2005).

         For the Rooker-Feldman doctrine to apply, “four requirements” must be satisfied. McKithen v. Brown, 626 F.3d 143, 154 (2d Cir. 2010). First, the plaintiff must have “lost in state court.” Id. Second, the plaintiff must “complain[] of injuries caused by the state court judgment.” Id. Third, the plaintiff must “invite[] district court review of that judgment. Id. And fourth, “the state court judgment [must have been] entered before the plaintiff's federal suit commenced.” Id. In the absence of those criteria, Rooker-Feldman “does not deprive a district court of subject-matter jurisdiction ‘simply because a party attempts to litigate in federal court a matter previously litigated in state court.'” Hoblock, 422 F.3d at 85 (quoting Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. at 293). Rather, the federal plaintiff must “complain[] of injuries caused by state-court judgments . . . and invit[e] district court review and rejection of those documents.” Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. at 284 (emphasis added). If a plaintiff raises “independent claims, ” even if those claims “involve the identical subject matter and parties as previous state-court suits, ” then the case is not barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Id. at 293; Hoblock, 422 F.3d at 85.

         “Courts in this Circuit have consistently held that any attack on a judgment of foreclosure is clearly barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, ” and Guy's claims are no exception. See Gonzalez v. Ocwen Home Loan Serv., 74 F.Supp.3d 504, 517-18 (D. Conn. 2015), aff'd, 632 F. App'x 32 (2d Cir. 2016) (summary order). Guy “lost in the state foreclosure action, and the foreclosure judgment was entered before [Guy] filed his . . . federal complaint.” Vossbrinck v. Accredited Home Lenders, 773 F.3d 423, 426 (2d Cir. 2014) (per curiam). Moreover, Guy explicitly “complain[s] of injury from a state-court judgment.” Hoblock, 422 F.3d at 85. In his complaint, Guy alleges that he “never had the rights to a fair hearing[] or trial” because “the opposing party [never] had to . . . appear to testify in Superior Court.” Compl., Doc. No. 1, at 9. He also contends that the state court lacked jurisdiction, with the result that the judgment against him “deprived [him] of life, liberty, property, and due process of law.” Id. Guy's claimed injuries “were caused by the Foreclosure Judgment because the foreclosure would not have ...

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