United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
Talwani United States District Judge
the court is Defendant Attorney General Maura Healey's
Motion to Dismiss [#41]. For the reasons set forth
below, the motion is ALLOWED.
Laurence Brown brings this action against Massachusetts
Attorney General Maura Healey. Pl.'s Am. Compl. [#26]. He
alleges that Massachusetts' firearms licensing laws
violate the Second Amendment of the United States
Constitution, that Bridgewater Chief of Police Christopher
Delmonte improperly used sealed and expunged records in
violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment when denying Plaintiff's firearm license
renewal application, and that the denial of Plaintiff's
license renewal violated the Second Amendment and the Equal
Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Id.
¶¶ 9-11, 144 n.1, 147. Defendant seeks dismissal on
multiple grounds, including that Plaintiff's claims are
barred by res judicata.
defeat a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must
allege sufficient facts “to state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In passing on a
motion to dismiss, the court first “distinguish[es] the
complaint's factual allegations (which must be accepted
as true) from its conclusory legal allegations (which need
not be credited).” Saldivar v. Racine, 818
F.3d 14, 18 (1st Cir. 2016) (quoting Cardigan Mtn. Sch.
v. N.H. Ins. Co., 787 F.3d 82, 84 (1st Cir. 2015)).
Next, the court “determine[s] whether the factual
allegations are sufficient to support the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable.” Id.
(quoting Cardigan Mtn. Sch., 787 F.3d at 84)).
defenses may be grounds for a motion to dismiss only when the
facts establishing the defense are “definitively
ascertainable from the allegations of the complaint, the
documents (if any) incorporated therein, matters of public
record, and other matters of which the court may take
judicial notice” and if those facts conclusively
establish the affirmative defense. In re Colonial Mortg.
Bankers Corp., 324 F.3d 12, 16 (1st Cir. 2003).
considering the preclusive effect of prior state court
judgments for res judicata purposes, a federal court must
apply the preclusion principles dictated by that state's
laws. Goldstein v. Galvin, 719 F.3d 16, 22 (1st Cir.
2013). Under Massachusetts law, res judicata is comprised of
both claim preclusion, which prevents the re-litigation of
claims that have been, or should have been, previously
litigated, and issue preclusion, which prevents re-litigation
of previously decided issues. Kobrin v. Bd. of
Registration in Med., 832 N.E.2d 628, 634 (Mass. 2005).
support of the Motion to Dismiss [#41], Defendant
has submitted copies of documents from the record of
proceedings in a prior state court proceeding initiated by
Plaintiff. The court records show that Plaintiff
previously appealed Delmonte's denial of Plaintiff's
request for renewal of his license in Brockton District
Court, where Plaintiff argued that he was a suitable
candidate for a Class A License to Carry, that Delmonte's
decision was arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of
discretion and improperly considered sealed records, and that
denial of his application was a Second Amendment violation.
Ex. A at 2-10 [#42-1] (Plaintiff's Supplemental
Memorandum filed in Brockton District Court). The Brockton
District Court affirmed Delmonte's decision, Ex. B
[#42-2] (Brockton District Court Memorandum of Decision), and
Plaintiff appealed to the Superior Court, Ex. C at 8 [#42-3]
(Plymouth County Superior Court Memorandum of Decision),
where Defendant intervened, Ex. F at 2 [#42-6] (Plymouth
County Superior Court Record). The Superior Court concluded
that Delmonte's decision was not arbitrary or capricious,
that he was entitled to consider Plaintiff's sealed and
expunged records, and that Plaintiff's Second Amendment
rights were not violated. Ex. C at 6-8. The Superior Court
then affirmed and dismissed Plaintiff's appeal on the
merits, and Plaintiff appealed to the Massachusetts Appeals
Court. Ex. D at 1 [#42-4] (Massachusetts Appeals Court
Decision). The Appeals Court affirmed, concluding that
Delmonte had reasonable grounds to deny Plaintiff's
application, that Plaintiff had not demonstrated that the
decision was not arbitrary and capricious, and
Plaintiff's Second Amendment argument had been considered
and rejected by the Supreme Judicial Court in Chief of
Police of Worcester v. Holden, 26 N.E.3d 715, 715 (Mass.
2015). Ex. D at 2. Plaintiff sought review by the Supreme
Judicial Court, but review was denied. Ex. E [#42-5]
(Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Denial of Further
order for claim preclusion to operate, “three elements
are required . . . ‘(1) the identity or privity of the
parties to the present and prior actions; (2) identity of the
cause of action; and (3) prior final judgment on the
merits.'” RFF Family P'ship, LP v.
Ross, 814 F.3d 520, 531-32 (1st Cir. 2016) (quoting
TLT Constr. Corp. v. A. Anthony Tappe & Assocs.,
Inc., 716 N.E.2d 1044, 1049 (Mass. App. Ct. 1999)).
Here, the parties to the current litigation are the same as
the parties in the previous state court action.
Compare Pl.'s Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1-2
(naming Defendant as the defendant and Plaintiff as the
plaintiff in the present action) with Ex. D
(identifying Defendant as an intervening defendant and
Plaintiff as the plaintiff in the previous action). In the
state court, Plaintiff also raised causes of action based on
Massachusetts' firearms licensing laws violating the
Second Amendment, improper use of sealed records, and
Delmonte's decision violating the Second Amendment. Ex. A
at 2-10; Ex. C at 7.
only argument that Plaintiff presents here that was not
litigated in state court is his claim that Massachusetts'
gun licensing scheme violates the Equal Protection Clause of
the Fourteenth Amendment by allowing, as he alleges,
licensing decisions “solely determined by venue.”
Pl.'s Am. Compl. ¶ 130. However, Plaintiff's
Equal Protection claim qualifies as an identical cause of
action because it arises out of the same act, and seeks
redress for the same wrong, as his prior state court action.
Andrew Robinson, 547 F.3d at 52. Finally, the state
court litigation proceeded to a final judgment on the merits
once the Superior Court dismissed Plaintiff's appeal.
See Fustolo v. 50 Thomas Patton Drive, LLC, 816 F.3d
1, 6 n.3 (1st Cir. 2016) (“[A] trial court judgment is
final and has preclusive effect ...