United States District Court, D. Connecticut
ORDER REMANDING CASE
R. UNDERHILL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Smith Grohs removed her family court case to this court after
the Connecticut Superior Court awarded sole custody of her
children to her former husband, William Grohs. See
Pet. Removal, Doc. No. 1. After examining the petition for
removal, I conclude that the case was improperly removed, and
that any claims stated in Ms. Grohs' petition would be
barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine and
the domestic relations exception to subject-matter
jurisdiction. Therefore, I order Ms. Grohs' case remanded
to Connecticut Superior Court.
Standard of Review
to the federal removal statute, “any civil action
brought in a State court of which the district courts of the
United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by
the defendant . . . to the district court of the United
States for the district and division embracing the place
where such action is pending.” 28 U.S.C. §
1441(a). Thus, whether a civil action may be removed from
state court turns on whether “the district court has
original jurisdiction, ” Aetna Health v.
Kirshner, 415 F.Supp.2d 109, 112 (D. Conn. 2006), as
determined “by looking to the complaint as it existed
at the time the petition for removal was filed.”
Moscovitch v. Danbury Hosp., 25 F.Supp.2d 74, 79 (D.
burden of establishing the existence of federal subject
matter jurisdiction rests on the removing party, ”
Kirshner, 415 F.Supp. at 112, and “courts may
raise jurisdictional defects in removal cases sua
sponte.” Stark v. Tyron, 171 F.Supp.3d
35, 39 (D. Conn. 2016) (citing Barbara v. N.Y. Stock
Exch., 99 F.3d 49, 53 (2d Cir. 1996)). “If it
appears before final judgment that a case was not properly
removed, because it was not within the original jurisdiction
of the United States district courts, the district court must
remand it to the state court from which it was
removed.” Franchise Tax Bd. v. Constr. Laborers
Vacation Tr., 463 U.S. 1, 8 (1983).
Smith Grohs and William J. Grohs were divorced on July 26,
2011. See Judgment of Dissolution, Grohs v.
Grohs, No. UWY-FA10-4022991-S, Doc. No. 169.00 (Conn.
Super. Ct. July 26, 2011). In connection with their divorce,
they entered into a Parenting Agreement that was
“attached to and made a part of” the
Dissolution of Marriage Settlement Agreement. See Ex.
L to Pet. Removal, Doc. No. 1-11, at 3. Ms. Grohs alleges
that Mr. Grohs subsequently violated the terms of the
Parenting Agreement and conspired with judges of the
Connecticut Superior Court to obtain sole custody of the
children. See Pet. Removal, Doc. No. 1, at 5-6.
September 25, 2017, after the Superior Court awarded sole
custody of the children to Mr. Grohs, Ms. Grohs removed the
family court action to this court under 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1441(a) & 1443. She asserts a slew of bases
for federal jurisdiction, including 18 U.S.C. §§
228 (the Child Support and Recovery Act) and 1346 (the Child
Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act); 28 U.S.C. §§
1331 (Federal question jurisdiction), 1361 (Action to compel
an officer of the United States to perform his duty), 1391
(Venue), 1491 (the Tucker Act), 1651 (the All Writs Act),
1738A (Full faith and credit given to child custody
determinations), & 2283 (the Anti-Injunction Act); 29
U.S.C. § 701 (the Rehabilitation Act); 42 U.S.C.
§§ 1983 (the Civil Rights Act of 1866), 12133,
& 12188 (the Americans with Disabilities Act); Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure 5.1, 15, & 65; the First,
Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth,
Fourteenth, and Nineteenth Amendments to the United States
Constitution; and Article I, Section 10, Clause 1, Article
IV, Section 2, Clause 1, and Article VI of the United States
Constitution. In addition, Ms. Grohs has moved to proceed
in forma pauperis and to appoint counsel.
See Docs. 2 & 3.
October 6, 2017, Mr. Grohs appeared through counsel and moved
to remand the case to state court on grounds of untimely
removal and lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under the
domestic relations exception or the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine. See Mot.
Remand, Doc. No. 10; Mem. Supp. Mot. Remand, Doc. No. 11. He
also seeks attorneys' fees and costs incurred as a result
of the removal. Ms. Grohs filed several motions in response,
see Docs. Nos. 13-20, including, on October 13,
2017, an objection to Mr. Grohs' motion to remand.
See Doc. No. 18.
allegations by pro se parties are “h[e]ld to
less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers, ” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520
(1972) (per curiam), I am “required to read [Ms.
Grohs'] pro se submissions liberally.”
See Newman & Cahn, LLP v. Sharp, 288 F.Supp.2d
115, 116 (E.D.N.Y. 2005) (citing Hughes v. Rowe, 449
U.S. 5, 9 (1980)). Even affording Ms. Grohs'
“pro se petition for removal the close and
sympathetic reading to which it is entitled, ” however,
I conclude that “it reveals no basis for the exercise
of subject matter jurisdiction over the underlying
suit.” See Vill. of Milbrook v. Forrest, 903
F.Supp. 599, 600 (S.D.N.Y. 1995). For the reasons set forth
below, I grand Mr. Grohs' motion to remand, and order
that the case be remanded to Connecticut Superior Court.
Grohs asserts two statutory bases for removal of the case
from state court: (1) section 1441(a), removal on the basis
of federal question jurisdiction; and (2) section 1443,
removal on the basis of civil rights violations. Neither
statute entitles her to remove the case to this court.