United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
Nathaniel M. Gorton United States District Judge
pro se, alleges state and federal civil rights
violations arising out of an ongoing proceeding in the
Massachusetts Probate and Family Court in Suffolk County.
Specifically, Lawrence Watson (“plaintiff” or
“Watson”) alleges that defendants Justice Angela
Ordonez, Justice Paula Carey, Attorney Whitney Duvall and
Commissioner Michael Heffernan (collectively
“defendants”), in their individual and official
capacity, violated his civil rights by failing to compel
court employees to comply with state statutes regarding the
waiver of court fees for indigent parties and by attempting
to enforce child support payments through a civil contempt
before this Court are (1) plaintiff's motion for
injunctive relief and second motion for injunctive relief
(Docket Nos. 2 and 28), (2) defendants' motion to dismiss
(Docket No. 15) and (3) plaintiff's motion for a criminal
complaint of perjury against Judicial Case Manager Daniel
Gibson (Docket No. 24). For the reasons that follow,
defendants' motion to dismiss will be allowed and
plaintiffs' motions for injunctive relief and for a
criminal complaint will be denied as moot.
September, 2017, Watson initiated this action which relates
directly to proceedings in the Suffolk County Probate and
Family Court (“Suffolk Family Court”). He had
previously filed a complaint in that court against Sherry
Walker, the mother of his only child, in April 2003 for
visitation and custody rights. In July, 2003, Watson was
ordered to make weekly child support payments to Ms. Walker.
Watson claims that his unemployment benefits expired in May,
2004 and thereafter he did not “willingly” make
child support payments. That same year the Department of
Revenue (“DOR”) purportedly ordered the Registry
of Motor Vehicles to suspend Watson's license without
are all affiliated, in one way or another, with the Suffolk
Family Court and the Department of Revenue. Michael Heffernan
(“Heffernan”) is the former Commissioner of the
Department of Revenue and was responsible for supervising DOR
employees, including Attorney Whitney Duvall (“Attorney
Duvall”), who acted as counsel for the DOR. Justices
Angela Ordonez (“Justice Ordonez”) and Paula
Carey (“Justice Carey”) are judges who presided
over sessions in the Suffolk Family Court.
alleges that he wrote to Justice Carey 11 times between
September, 2008 and February, 2014 to inform her that
employees of the Suffolk Family Court had failed to comply
M.G.L. c. 261 §§ 27A-27D by refusing to accept
affidavits of indigency from Watson seeking fee waivers in
his proceeding. He claims that he subsequently informed
Justice Ordonez of the conduct of the employees on two
occasions in 2014. Watson asserts that neither judicial
officer took action to compel compliance with the state
April, 2016, Attorney Duvall, acting as counsel for the DOR,
filed a civil contempt action against Watson to enforce child
support payment obligations. Watson alleges that Attorney
Duvall held herself out as representing Ms. Walker, rather
than the DOR or the Commonwealth, in violation of M.G.L. c.
119A § 3. He claims that he informed Commissioner
Heffernan that Attorney Duvall purported to represent Ms.
Walker in October, 2016.
proceedings in Suffolk Family Court are ongoing. Lawrence
B. Watson v. Sherry A. Walker, No.
SU03W0810PA1, Suffolk Probate and Family Court.
Motion to Dismiss
United States Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized the
tensions inherent in parallel judicial proceedings at the
state and federal levels and has forewarned against the
possibility of “undue interference” with state
judicial proceedings by federal courts. See,
e.g., Sprint Commc'ns, Inc. v. Jacobs,
571 U.S. 69, 72 (2013). The Court has described the fervent
concern, making clear that
the restraining [of the state court] would entail an unseemly
failure to give effect to the principle that state courts
have the solemn responsibility, equally with the federal
courts to guard, enforce, and protect every right granted or
secured by the constitution of the United States.
Thompson, 415 U.S. 452,
460-61 (1974) (citation and internal quotations omitted);
see also Mass. Delivery Ass'nv.Coakley, 671 F.3d 33, 40 (1st Cir. 2012) (basic
notions of comity and federalism are foundational ...