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Oxman v. Oxman

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 13, 2017

ELLEN OXMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN CRAIG OXMAN, DAVID CRAIG OXMAN, CATE KEENEY, PETER BRONSTEIN, DAVID TYPERMAAS, MICHAEL D. STUTMAN, ANGELA FLOREA, CARMELLA P. BUDKINS, JOHN DOES 1-20, and JANE DOES 1-20, Defendants.

          RULING ON MOTIONS

          DOMINIC J. SQUATRITO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The plaintiff, Ellen Oxman (“Oxman”), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against eight named defendants, [1] claiming that her constitutional rights were violated by these defendants on the basis of an “illegal ‘Judgment' (of Divorce)” entered by a New York state court and the ensuing “unlawful loss of her home and its contents at 9 Paddock Drive, Greenwich Connecticut.” (Doc. # 40, at 3-4, ¶ 6 and at 9, ¶ 14). Oxman also raises a Hobbs Act claim, a mail fraud claim, and various state law claims. Pending before the Court are motions to dismiss filed by seven of the defendants, motions to set aside default filed by the defendants John Craig Oxman (“John Oxman”), Carmella P. Budkins (“Budkins”), and David Typermaas (“Typermaas”), the plaintiff's motion for default judgment, and the plaintiff's motion to further amend her Complaint. For the reasons stated below, the defendants' motions to dismiss and to set aside default are granted and the plaintiff's motions for default judgment and to further amend her Complaint are denied.[2]

         A. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Oxman filed her original Complaint on August 1, 2016, requesting that the Court issue orders “vacating the illegal Quitclaim Deeds for the property [located at] 9 Paddock Drive, Greenwich, Ct.” and “vacating default judgment entered against Plaintiff [in New York state court] on or about 1 November 2006.” (Doc. # 1, at 1). The Court (Shea, J.) entered an Order on August 2, 2016, directing the plaintiff to show cause “why this case should not be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction” and to file an amended complaint that, among other things, contained “a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction .” (Doc. # 6).

         The plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on October 3, 2016. This Court dismissed the Amended Complaint without prejudice on October 12, 2016, and directed the plaintiff to file a further amended complaint that complied with the requirements of the Federal and Local Rules of Civil Procedure and to also file a document addressing the issue of jurisdiction. The plaintiff filed her Second Amended Complaint on November 7, 2016. On December 8, 2016, the Court, having concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over all of the plaintiffs's federal claims, dismissed the plaintiff's federal claims with prejudice and dismissed without prejudice her state law claims. Judgment entered in favor of the defendants against the plaintiff on December 8, 2016.

         At the time the Court dismissed the plaintiff's claims, two of the named defendants had filed motions to dismiss. The plaintiff had been granted an extension of time to February 13, 2017 to respond to one of the motions, and she had moved for an extension of time to respond to the second motion to dismiss. On December 19, 2016, the plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration in which she requested that the Court vacate the Judgment entered on December 8, 2016. In her motion for reconsideration, the plaintiff contended that was deprived of the opportunity to respond to the arguments and issues raised in the defendants' motions to dismiss, and that this gave the Court “the appearance of not being impartial.” (Doc. # 69, at 2).

         Although the Court's December 8, 2016 Ruling and Order was not a direct response to either of the two pending motions to dismiss, but related instead to the Order to Show Cause regarding jurisdiction issued by Judge Shea on August 2, 2016, the Court recognized that the issues discussed in the December 8, 2016 Ruling and Order were also raised in the defendants' motions to dismiss, and that, based upon the filing of those motions, the plaintiff might have concluded that she had additional time to respond to those issues. For that reason, the Court granted the plaintiff's motion for reconsideration and provided her with an opportunity to respond to all of the claims raised in the defendants' motions to dismiss. After the Court granted the plaintiff's motion for reconsideration, five additional defendants filed motions to dismiss. The plaintiff subsequently sought, and was granted, multiple extensions of time to respond to the seven pending motions to dismiss.

         In response to a motion for entry of default against seven of the defendants, an entry of default was entered in the record as to the defendants John Oxman, Angela Florea (“Florea”), Budkins, and Typermaas on January 27, 2017. In its Order granting in part the plaintiff's motion for entry of default, the Court noted that “[b]ecause there are serious questions as to whether the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this matter . . . and whether the allegations in the Complaint otherwise establish the liability of any [of] the named defendants, the Court hereby stays any further action relating to the entry of a default judgment against any of the defendants until such time as the Court has ruled on the pending motions to dismiss that raise these issues.” (Doc. # 86). The defendants John Oxman, Budkins, and Typermaas each subsequently filed a motion to set aside the default that had been entered against him or her.

         B. DISCUSSION

         I. MOTIONS TO DISMISS

         While they are not identical, all seven of the motions to dismiss raise similar issues, including the claim that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this action. “A plaintiff seeking to bring a lawsuit in federal court must establish that the court has subject matter jurisdiction over the action.” McNeill v. Lee's Toyota, 16-CV-02058 (NGG), 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 63556, at *5 (E.D.N.Y. May 13, 2016). Where subject matter jurisdiction is lacking, the suit must be dismissed. Id. A district court may “dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction -- even if a federal claim is asserted on the face of the complaint - - where the federal question is so plainly insubstantial as to be devoid of any merits and thus does not present any issue worthy of adjudication.” Nowak v. Ironworkers Local 6 Pension Fund, 81 F.3d 1182, 1189 (2d Cir. 1996) (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted). “Although courts are generally limited to examining the sufficiency of the pleadings on a motion to dismiss, on a challenge to a district court's subject matter jurisdiction, the court may also resolve disputed jurisdictional fact issues by reference to evidence outside the pleadings.” Licci v. Lebanese Canadian Bank, SAL, 834 F.3d 201, 211 (2d Cir. 2016).

         i. Rooker-Feldman

         Although the allegations contained in the plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint are couched in terms of fraud and violations of constitutional rights, it is apparent that the injuries the plaintiff claims she has sustained all relate back to the Judgment of the New York Supreme Court entered in the plaintiff's divorce case in 2006 and the consequences flowing from that Judgment, e.g., the transfer of the 9 Paddock Drive property to John Oxman.

         The record as it pertains to the New York divorce action demonstrates the following: The plaintiff initiated a divorce action against the defendant John Oxman in 2004. On November 1, 2006, a Judgment of Divorce was entered in the New York Supreme Court in the divorce action the plaintiff had initiated in 2004. The Judgment of Divorce, which indicated that the parties had entered into a written Stipulation of Settlement dated October 27, 2006, included the following provision:

ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the written Stipulation subscribed to by the parties hereto and acknowledged in the form required to entitle a deed to be recorded, a copy of which was submitted with the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, is hereby incorporated by reference herein, and such Stipulation shall survive as an independent contract and not be merged in this judgment, and the parties are hereby directed to comply with every legally enforceable term and provision of such Stipulation . . . .

(Doc. # 91-1, at 6).

         The Stipulation of Settlement referenced in the court's Judgment of Divorce ...


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