United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION FOR SUMMARY DISMISSAL
PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)
Lincoln D. Almond United States Magistrate Judge.
D. Almond, United States Magistrate Judge Pending before me
for determination are Plaintiff's Applications to Proceed
In forma Pauperis (“IFP”) (ECF Nos. 2 and 5)
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 without being required to
prepay costs or fees, including the $400.00 civil case filing
fee. After reviewing Plaintiff's Applications signed
under penalty of perjury, I conclude that Plaintiff is unable
to pay fees and costs in this matter and thus,
Plaintiff's Applications to Proceed IFP (ECF Nos. 2 and
5) are GRANTED.
granted IFP status, this Court is required by statute to
further review Plaintiff's Complaints sua sponte
under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and to dismiss this suit
if it is “frivolous or malicious, ” “fails
to state a claim on which relief may be granted” or
“seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is
immune from such relief.” For the reasons discussed
below, I recommend that Plaintiff's Complaints be
DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
1915 of Title 28 requires a federal court to dismiss an
action brought thereunder if the court determines that the
action is frivolous, fails to state a claim or seeks damages
from a defendant with immunity. 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B). The standard for dismissal of an action taken
IFP is identical to the standard for dismissal on a motion to
dismiss brought under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). See Fridman
v. City of N.Y., 195 F.Supp.2d 534, 538 (S.D.N.Y. 2002).
In other words, the court “should not grant the motion
unless it appears to a certainty that the plaintiff would be
unable to recover under any set of facts.” Roma
Constr. Co. v. aRusso, 96 F.3d 566, 569 (1st
Cir. 1996). Section 1915 also requires dismissal if the court
is satisfied that the action is “frivolous.” 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i). A claim “is frivolous
where it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in
fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325
(1989). The First Circuit has held that the affirmative
defense of the statute of limitations may justify dismissal
under Section 1915, see Street v. Vose, 936 F.2d 38,
39 (1st Cir. 1991), and other courts have upheld
dismissals under Section 1915 because of other affirmative
defenses appearing on the face of a complaint. See
e.g., Kimble v. Beckner, 806 F.2d 1256, 1257
(5th Cir. 1986).
recommend that Plaintiff's Complaints be summarily
dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). In
making this recommendation, I have taken all of the
allegations in Plaintiff's Complaints as true and have
drawn all reasonable inferences in his favor. Estelle v.
Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976). In addition, I have
liberally reviewed Plaintiff's allegations and legal
claims since they have been put forth by a pro se
litigant. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519,
520-521 (1972). However, even applying these liberal
standards of review to Plaintiff's Complaints, dismissal
a New Jersey resident, initiated this pro se action
against his ex-wife, a Rhode Island resident, on October 7,
2019. Since that time, Plaintiff has filed an initial and two
amended Complaints. (ECF Nos. 1, 4 and 7).
following facts are claimed by Plaintiff. He alleges that he
and Defendant divorced in June 2015. See Bursztyn v.
Bursztyn, 228 N.J. 472, 158 A.3d 567 (N.J. S.Ct. Jan.
17, 2017). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant “stole my
half of the home, ” owes him half of the money he
borrowed for student loans, owes him a “big part of her
salary” because he paid for Defendant's college
degrees, has “fraudulently” claimed he owes child
support, is “illegally restraining [his] children from
[him]” and is in “contempt of the rule of court,
” and owes him $55, 000.00 pursuant to some
unidentified contract. (ECF No. 7 at p. 4).
allegations are plainly an attempt by Plaintiff to relitigate
or challenge divorce, alimony and custody matters that were
or should have been adjudicated in the New Jersey Family
Court. This Court has no subject matter jurisdiction over
these claims pursuant to the domestic relations exception,
and they must be dismissed. See Behroozi v.
Behroozi, C.A. No. 15-00536-WES, 2016 WL 8461181, at *2
(D.R.I. Nov. 22, 2016), adopted, 2017 WL 933059
(D.R.I. Mar. 8, 2017). As the First Circuit recently held in
Irish v. Irish, the domestic relations exception is
“in line with the traditional reluctance of federal
courts to sanction federal interference with matters thought
to be distinctively local, ” and is based on the
long-settled notion that it “is certain that the
Constitution…confers no power whatever upon the
government of the United States to regulate marriage in the
States or its dissolution.” 842 F.3d 736, 740
(1st Cir. 2016) (citing Andrews v.
Andrews, 188 U.S. 14, 32 (1903)). Based on these
principles, the domestic relations exception divests federal
courts of jurisdiction over “[cases implicating]
domestic relations issues” that would otherwise meet
the requirements for federal diversity jurisdiction under 28
U.S.C. § 1332(a). Marshall v. Marshall, 547
U.S. 293, 307 (2006) (quoting Ankenbrandt v.
Richards, 504 U.S. 689, 701 (1992)). When, as here, the
claim at issue seeks “to obtain, alter or end a
divorce…decree, ” and is based on “the
allocation of property incident to a divorce, ” the
case falls into the exception and must be dismissed for want
of subject matter jurisdiction. Irish, 842 F.3d at
case also does not survive screening because it is improper
for this Court to interfere with any judicial proceedings
that may be underway in the state courts of New Jersey.
See Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). If
Plaintiff's divorce proceeding remains pending, the
Younger abstention doctrine dictates a “strong
federal policy against federal-court interference with
pending state judicial proceedings absent extraordinary
circumstances.” Middlesex Cty. Ethics Comm'n v.
Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 431 (1982).
even if the New Jersey state divorce proceedings have now
concluded, Plaintiff's Complaints appear to be an
improper attempt to have this Court review and overturn
rulings made by the New Jersey Family Court. Such an attempt
is barred in federal court by the Rooker-Feldman
abstention doctrine. See Exxon Mobile Corp. v. Saudi
Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005) (holding
that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars federal courts
from entertaining “cases brought by state court-losers
complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments
rendered before the federal district court proceedings
commenced and inviting district court review and rejection of
those judgments.”); and Edwards v. Ill. Bd. of
Admission, 261 F.3d 723, 728 (7th Cir. 2001)
(“federal courts do not have subject matter
jurisdiction to review state court civil decisions.
Plaintiffs must instead seek review through the state court
system and, if necessary, petition the United States Supreme
Court for a writ of certiorari.”).
reasons stated, Plaintiff's Motions to Proceed In Forma
Pauperis (Doc. Nos. 2 and 5) are GRANTED. However, pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), I further recommend that
Plaintiff's Complaints ...