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Lindsay v. Tierney

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 7, 2019

HEATHER LINDSAY, Plaintiff
v.
KEVIN TIERNEY, Defendant.

          RULING ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS (DOC. NO. 17)

          JANET C. HALL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Defendant, the Honorable Kevin Tierney, a Connecticut Superior Court Judge (“Judge Tierney”) moved to dismiss in their entirety all claims asserted against him in the Complaint. Memorandum in Support of Motion to Dismiss (Mem. in Supp.) (Doc. No. 17-1) at 1. The plaintiff, Heather Lindsay (“Lindsay”), objects. See Plaintiff's Opposition to Mot. to Dismiss (Pl.'s Opp.) (Doc. No. 29).[1]

         For the reasons set forth below, the Motion to Dismiss is granted.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         To withstand a motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. The plausibility standard is not a probability requirement; the pleading must show, not merely allege, that the pleader is entitled to relief. Id. Legal conclusions and “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, ” are not entitled to a presumption of truth. Id. However, when reviewing a motion to dismiss, the court must accept the factual allegations in the operative complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor. See Graziano v. Pataki, 689 F.3d 110, 114 (2d Cir. 2012).

         In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a district court must limit itself to facts stated in the complaint or in documents attached to the complaint as exhibits or incorporated in the complaint by reference. “Of course, it may also consider matters of which judicial notice may be taken under Fed.R.Evid. 201.” Kramer v. Time Warner Inc., 937 F.2d 767, 773 (2d Cir. 1991). Such matters include facts that “can be accurately and readily determined from sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned.” Fed.R.Evid. 201.

         III. FACTS[2]

         Lindsay was granted conservatorship of a defendant in a Connecticut State foreclosure case, on June 29, 2017. Complaint (Doc. No. 1) (“Compl.”) at 3. Judge Tierney presided over the foreclosure matter. Id. at 3-4. Lindsay first moved to intervene in the foreclosure proceedings, on or about April 4, 2016. Judge Tierney denied the motion on April 28, 2016, and then “retroactively denied [it] two years later[, ] on January 11, 2018.” Id. at 4. A Judgment of Strict Foreclosure was entered, most recently, on January 11, 2018. See Superior Court Case Lookup, FST-CV08-5006978-S, (“Docket Sheet”) Entry No. 267.00, available at http://civilinquiry.jud.ct.gov/Case Detail/PublicCaseDetail.aspx?DocketNo=FSTCV085006978S. The Connecticut Superior Court last reset the law days on August 6, 2018, though the Order makes no reference as to when the days are set to expire. See id. at Entry No. 321.00. An appeal to the Connecticut Appellate Court was filed on or about August 20, 2018, and an amended appeal was docketed on September 18, 2018. Id. at Entry Nos. 324.00- 325.00. A Notice of Voluntary Petition of Bankruptcy was filed on September 25, 2018, see id. at Entry No. 328.00, and an Affidavit of Bankruptcy was docketed on November 19, 2018, see id. at Entry No. 329.00. The last entry in the case to date notes that an automatic stay is in effect. Id. at Entry No. 329.00.[3]

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         The party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing that [subject matter] jurisdiction exists.” Sharkey v. Quarantillo, 541 F.3d 75, 82 (2d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). A claim is 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.” Cortland St. Recovery Corp. v. Hellas Telecomms., S.A.R.L., 790 F.3d 411, 416-17 (2d Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Judge Tierney argues that this court lacks jurisdiction to hear this case, pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. The Rooker-Feldman doctrine “bars a losing party in state court from seeking what in substance would be appellate review of the state judgment in a United States district court, based on the losing party's claim that the state judgment itself violates the loser's federal rights.” Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 287 (2005) (citation omitted). The Second Circuit, in analyzing the Supreme Court's decision in Exxon Mobil, defined four requirements for the application of Rooker-Feldman:

First, the federal-court plaintiff must have lost in state court. Second, the plaintiff must “complain[ ] of injuries caused by [a] state-court judgment[.]” Third, the plaintiff must “invit[e] district court review and rejection of [that] judgment[ ].”4 Fourth, the state-court judgment must have been “rendered before the district court proceedings ...

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