United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
Andrew J. Smith, Plaintiff,
State of Rhode Island Family Court Judge Patricia K. Asquith Terryann Smith a/k/a Terryann Hodge Jesse Nason and Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
S. McElroy, United States District Judge.
Court has before it a Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 5) filed by
defendants Nason and Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum Attorneys
at Law, Inc. The Plaintiff has not filed an objection to that
Motion but has instead filed a document titled "Motion
for Emergency Injunctive Relief to be Granted" (ECF No.
12) which appears to also be an attempt to amend his
Complaint. Because the Plaintiff is pro se, and his
papers should be read with some flexibility, Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93, (2007), this Court will
consider the Plaintiffs most recent filing as both an
objection to the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and an
attempt to amend his Complaint.
claims in this case (in both his original Complaint and his
more recent filing) are similar to those claims made in
several cases previously filed in this Court, all of which
are related to his state court divorce proceedings. See
Smith v. State of Rhode Island, No. 1:17-cv-480-JJM,
Smith v. Smith, No. 1:18-cv092-JJM, Smith v.
State of Rhode Island Family Court, No. 1:18-cv370-WES
and Smith v. 39 Rhode Island Corporations, No.
1:19-cv-110-WES. Apart from the last case, which awaits
decision on a pending Motion to Dismiss, all have been
dismissed by Judges of this Court. In Smith v. State of
Rhode Island, 1:17-cv-480-JJM, Mr. Smith protested the
Rhode Island Family Court's distribution of assets in his
divorce, virtually the same complaint he lodges here. That
case was dismissed. In Smith v. Smith,
No.1:18-cv00092-JJM, the Court dismissed Plaintiffs Complaint
pursuant to the domestic relations exception to federal
subject matter jurisdiction because he was seeking to
relitigate his divorce proceedings in this Court. Finally, in
Smith v. State of Rhode Island Family Court, No.
1:18-cv370-WES, the Court dismissed Mr. Smith's attempt
to relitigate his divorce because it was not appropriately
brought in federal court due to the domestic relations
exception to federal jurisdiction as well as the
Rooker-Feldman abstention doctrine.
present filing Mr. Smith again seeks to relitigate certain
aspects of his divorce. He also claims violation of his
"Fifth Amendment property rights." All his claims
relate to the Rhode Island Family Court Judge's order
dissolving his marriage and transferring certain property to
his former spouse. The Defendants have filed a Motion to
Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure. In order to survive a motion to dismiss, the
complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations to
"state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007). The Complaint and subsequent filing do not
meet that standard.
Complaint is an improper attempt to have this Court review
and overturn rulings made by the Rhode Island Family Court
and the Rhode Island Supreme Court. Such an attempt is barred
in federal court by the RookerFeldman abstention doctrine.
See ExxonMobil 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 district court
proceedings commenced and inviting district court review and
rejection of those judgments."); and Edwards v. Ill.
Bd. of Admissions, 261 F.3d 723, 728 (7th Cir. 2001)
("Federal courts do not have subject matter jurisdiction
to review state court civil decisions. Plaintiff must instead
seek review through the state court system and, if necessary,
petition the United States Supreme Court for a writ of
certiorari."). This Court also lacks subject matter
jurisdiction over the Plaintiffs complaint because his
complaint alleges issues properly litigated in Family Court
and subject to the domestic relations exception to federal
jurisdiction. See Irish v. Irish, 842 F.3d 736, 740
(1st Cir. 2016).
the Rhode Island Family Court and Rhode Island Family Court
Judge Patricia K. Asquith are immune from suit. Mr. Smith has
pled only allegations concerning actions taken by judges in
their judicial capacities. "Only judicial actions taken
in the clear absence of all jurisdiction will deprive a judge
of absolute immunity." Cok v. Cosentino, 876
F.2d 1, 2 (1st Cir. 1989). Mr. Smith has not pled the absence
of jurisdiction or that any of the actions taken by Family
Court judges were not judicial in nature.
Smith's invocation of the Fifth Amendment is also
unavailing. The simple claim of a Fifth Amendment violation
is not enough for this court to assume jurisdiction. The
court looks beyond the labels attached to claims by the
litigants and instead determines the nature of the
substantive claim. "We look to the reality of what is
going on. The domestic relations exception 'governs
claims. . . even where they are cloaked in the 'trappings
of another type of claim."' Irish, 842 F.3d
at 742. In this case the constitutional claim is simply an
attempt to re-litigate his divorce and is barred by the
doctrines cited herein.
foregoing reasons, the defendants' Motion to Dismiss is
GRANTED, and the Complaint is DISMISSED.
 The Rooker-Feldman doctrine
stands for the principle that federal district courts lack
jurisdiction to hear cases seeking review of state court
judgments. See Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263
U.S. 413 (1923); District of Columbia ...