United States District Court, D. Connecticut
CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR. Senior United States District Judge
David Abrahams ("Plaintiff" or
"Abrahams"),  proceeding pro se, in
forma pauperis, and currently incarcerated in a
Connecticut correctional institution, brought this suit for
money damages under 28 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants
Department of Social Services and Support Enforcement
Services (collectively, "Defendants" or "the
State Agencies"). Defendants are agencies of,
respectively, the executive and judicial branches of the
government of the State of Connecticut. Defendants have filed
a Motion to Dismiss [Doc 24], putting forth a variety of
grounds on which they propose the Court should dismiss
Plaintiff's Amended Complaint [Doc. 15]. This Ruling
resolves that Motion, as well as Plaintiff's pending
Motions for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint [Docs.
32, 34, 35] and Motion for Injunction [Doc. 38].
facts herein are taken from Plaintiff's Amended Complaint
[Doc. 15], and accepted as true only for the purposes of this
Ruling. Paragraph references are to the Amended Complaint.
9, 1993, Plaintiff's late son, David Anderson, was born
to Cheryl Anderson ("Anderson"). ¶ 2.
Plaintiff and Anderson cohabited at the time of their
son's birth, and continued to do so until April 1995.
July, 1995, Plaintiff was notified by mail that he owed the
Department of Social Services $6, 800.00, as a result of
Anderson's receipt of state assistance for their
child's support. Id. Plaintiff learned, from
subsequent communications with Investigation Supervisor
Colleen Michelson ("Michelson"), that Anderson had
been claiming state support for their child, while failing to
identify her son's paternity. Id. At some point
Anderson called Michelson, "out of the blue, " and
identified Plaintiff as the father. Id.
Consequently, the state agency was endeavoring to recover
from Plaintiff the state funds paid to Anderson prior to her
identification of Plaintiff as the father. Plaintiff
protested to Michelson that he had been living with the child
and contributing to the child's support. Id.
Michelson instructed him to collect evidence of those facts.
¶ 3. Plaintiff provided such evidence to Michelson in
August, 1995. Id. At that time Michelson informed
Plaintiff that an investigation would be conducted to
determine whether Anderson defrauded the state, and that
Plaintiff would remain liable for the balance of the support
fees, pending resolution of that investigation. Id.
1997, Plaintiff made approximately twelve temporary payments,
of $30.00 each, towards the child support debt. ¶ 4. At
a court date in February, 1998, Plaintiff was ordered to pay
$550.00 towards the child support debt or face incarceration.
Id. Plaintiff paid this lump sum. Id.
Subsequently, $10.00 per week was garnished from
Plaintiff's paychecks. Id. Additionally, his
federal and state income returns were attached. Id.
Money was taken from Plaintiff towards this debt up until his
November, 2000 incarceration, which incarceration continues
throughout this date. ¶ 5.
about April 1998, Anderson was arrested for welfare fraud.
¶ 5. Plaintiff called the Department of Support Services
and inquired about his debt. Id. He was told by a
female employee (possibly Michelson) that he would not be
reimbursed until Anderson herself reimbursed "almost all
of the balance" to the state. Id.
was convicted of welfare fraud in or about the summer of 1998
and ordered to repay a $7, 781.00 balance. ¶ 6. Anderson
repaid the entire balance on or about January 2003. ¶ 8.
April, 2006, Plaintiff began receiving billing notices of
$10.00 per week from the Support Enforcement Department.
¶ 10. Plaintiff corresponded with Supervisor Paula
Piccirillo ("Piccirillo"), who provided him with a
payment history showing $3, 662.80 in payment towards the
child support debt. Id. This figure omits the
$550.00 lump sum payment Plaintiff made in February, 1998.
Piccirillo informed Plaintiff that he still owed $3, 481.00
on the child support debt, and referred him to Sardis
Khazarian ("Khazarian") of the Social Services
Department. Id. When contacted, Khazarian did not
provide any assistance. ¶ 11.
filed a civil suit in state court to recoup the $4, 212.80
collected from him towards payment of a debt Anderson had
satisfied in full. ¶¶ 12-13. This suit was
dismissed in June 2009, without prejudice, and with
instructions to file a claim with the Claims Commissioner.
filed a notice of claim with the Claims Commissioner on
November 12, 2009. ¶ 15. That claim was dismissed on
April 21, 2010, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
4, 2010, Plaintiff requested in writing that the Connecticut
General Assembly review the Claims Commissioner's
decision. ¶ 18. This request for review was submitted to
the next regular Assembly session in January, 2011, and the
Claims Commissioner's decision was upheld. ¶ 19.
December, 2012, Plaintiff filed a second civil lawsuit in
state court, this time against Michelson, Piccirillo, and
Khazarian, in their official capacities. ¶ 20. This
complaint was dismissed on the grounds of sovereign immunity
in October, 2013. Id. An appeal of this decision was
dismissed by the state appellate court in April, 2014.
Plaintiff received, as recently as November, 2015, a billing
statement indicating that Plaintiff still owed $3, 481.49 on
the child support debt. ¶ 28.
initiated this action by the Complaint [Doc. 1] filed on
April 7, 2016. That initial Complaint named as Defendants
Michelson, Khazarian, and Piccirillo, all of whom have since
been terminated and are no longer parties to this action. On
December 9, 2016, the Court granted Plaintiff leave to amend
his Complaint, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
15(a)(1), which allows for a single amendment, as of right,
within 21 days of service or responsive
pleading. See Doc. 14.
Amended Complaint [Doc. 15] was filed with this Court on
December 22, 2016, naming the two State Agencies as
Defendants, and terminating the three individual Defendants.
Receipts for service of process, including Certified Mail
receipts dated January 3, 2017, were filed by Plaintiff on
February 17, 2017 [Doc. 16]. Those receipts indicate that
Defendants did not waive service of process. Doc. 16 at 1, 3.
Defendants' default was entered on May 1, 2017 [Doc. 18],
pursuant to Plaintiff's Motion for Default Entry [Doc.
17] and Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). On May 24, 2017, Defendants filed
a Motion to Vacate [Doc. 21] the entry of their default.
Familiarity with the Court's Ruling [Doc. 27] granting
Defendants' Motion and vacating the entry of default is
the filing of the instant Motion to Dismiss [Doc. 24],
Plaintiff has filed a number of additional motions, namely,
three Motions for Leave to Amend the Amended Complaint [Docs.
32, 34, 35] and a Motion for Injunction [Doc. 38]. In the
interest of judicial economy, the Court stayed consideration
of the Motions for Leave to Amend, pending resolution of the
instant Motion to Dismiss. See Doc. 36.
DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS
move to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under
Rule 12(b)(1)), lack of personal jurisdiction under Rule
12(b)(2), insufficient service of process under Rule
12(b)(5), and failure to state a claim upon which relief can
be granted under Rule 12(b)(6). See Fed. R. Civ. P.
Where, as here, the defendant moves for dismissal under Rule
12(b)(1), as well as on other grounds, the court should
consider the Rule 12(b)(1) challenge first since if it must
dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction, the accompanying defenses and objections become
moot and do not need to be determined.
U.S. ex rel. Kreindler & Kreindler v. United Techs.
Corp., 985 F.2d 1148, 1155-56 (2d Cir. 1993) (citation
and internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Rhulen v.
Alabama Ins. Guar. Ass'n, 896 F.2d 674, 678 (2d Cir.
contend that both the Eleventh Amendment and the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine deprive the Court of subject
matter jurisdiction. Def. Br. 12. The Court will now consider
those two theories.
The Rooker-Feldman Doctrine
Rooker-Feldman doctrine divests federal courts of
jurisdiction "over cases that essentially amount to
appeals of state court judgments." Vossbrinck v.
Accredited Home Lenders, Inc., 773 F.3d 423,
426 (2d Cir. 2014) (per curiam). "The doctrine is rooted
in the principle that 'appellate jurisdiction to reverse
or modify a state-court judgment is lodged . . . exclusively
in [the Supreme] Court.'" Id. (quoting
Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544
U.S. 280, 283-84 (2005)). To apply the doctrine, four
circumstances must exist: (1) the federal-court plaintiff
must have lost litigation before a state court, (2) the
federal-court plaintiff must now complain of an injury from
the adverse state court judgment, (3) the federal-court
plaintiff invites the federal court to review and reject that
adverse judgment of the state court, and (4) the state court
judgment was rendered before the federal court action.
prosecuted two separate state court actions in relation to
this matter. Defendants, citing to the Complaint, summarize
the state court actions thus:
[Plaintiff] lost in state court when he filed a civil suit in
the Connecticut superior court for reimbursement in November
2007. That suit was dismissed without prejudice in June
2009. . . . He then filed a notice of claim with
the Claims Commissioner on November 12, 2009 . . . . The
Claims Commissioner dismissed plaintiff's claim citing
lack of subject matter jurisdiction. . . . His request for
review of the decision of the Claims Commissioner was
submitted to the next regular session of the General Assembly
in January 2011 and the Claims Commissioner's decision
was upheld. In December 2012, plaintiff then filed suit
against the three state investigators and supervisors in
their official capacity in Connecticut [superior court]. The
State filed a Motion to Dismiss ...