United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
ORDER ON MOTIONS TO DISMISS (DOCS. NO. 9, 22, 32,
Sorokin United States District Judge
and Mary Bishay filed a pro se complaint against the seven
justices of the Supreme Judicial Court of the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts (“SJC”), Merrill Lynch Credit Corp
(“Merrill Lynch”), Real Estate Growth Fund, LLC
(“the Fund”), and three other individuals. Doc.
No. 1. The complaint seeks declaratory and monetary relief
for alleged violations of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments
arising out of a decision rendered by the SJC in December
2018. I. BACKGROUND Only a few facts are relevant to
the resolution of this matter. The Court recites all facts in
accordance with the standard applicable to a motion to
dismiss, accepting as true all well-plead facts in the
complaint. Watterson v. Page, 987 F.2d 1, 3 (1st
2010, the Bishays commenced an action in Massachusetts Land
Court concerning the title to their property in Nantucket.
Doc. No. 1 ¶ 19. After prolonged litigation involving
multiple appeals and an additional lawsuit, the Bishays
received a final judgment from the SJC, which “declined
to grant the relief sought” by the Bishayson December
3, 2018. Id. ¶ 48. The Bishays commenced this
action on December 19, 2018 by filing a complaint. The
complaint seeks a
Declaratory Judgment holding that the Defendants indeed
violated the 5th and 14thAmendments to
the U.S. Constitution; Articles I, V, X, XI and XV of the
Massachusetts Constitution; and that the Defendants abridged
the Plaintiff's unfettered right to freely amend their
Answer and Counterclaim pursuant to Rule 13 and Rule 15 of
the Mass. and Fed. R. Civ. P., in the action brought in
Nantucket District Court, No. 1288SU000029.
Id. ¶ 49. Additionally, the complaint seeks
“[m]onetary relief including, without limitation, the
payment of all damages the Plaintiffs sustained to
date.” Id. ¶ 50.
Lynch, the Fund, and the three individual defendants (Jon
Freeman, Michael Guinta, and Peter Kyburg) moved to dismiss.
Docs. No. 9, 22, 32, 44. The Bishays opposed each of the
motions. Docs. No. 38, 39, 40, 46. The remaining defendants
sought and received an extension of time until April 1, 2019
to file an answer or motion to dismiss. Docs. No. 29, 35.
district courts lack subject-matter jurisdiction to review
final determinations of a state court judicial proceeding.
Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544
U.S. 280, 284 (2005); see also Lance v. Dennis, 546
U.S. 459, 463 (2006) (“[U]nder what has come to be
known as the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, lower federal
courts are precluded from exercising appellate jurisdiction
over final state-court judgments.”). The Supreme Court
has held that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine applies to
“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.”
Id. “Rooker-Feldman squarely applies
when a plaintiff insists that [a federal court] must review
and reject a final state court judgment, ” even when
the complaint avoids explicitly asking the district court to
do so. Davison v. Gov't of Puerto Rico-Puerto Rico
Firefighters Corps., 471 F.3d 220, 223 (1st Cir. 2006).
That is, a plaintiff cannot “evade the reach of the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine by artful pleading.”
Klimowicz v. Deutsche Bank Nat'l Tr. Co., 907
F.3d 61, 65 (1st Cir. 2018).
case, the harm alleged by the Bishays in the complaint
derives from the final decision rendered by the SJC in
December 2018. Though the Bishays attempt to avoid the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine by stylizing their harm as
§ 1983 claims, such artful pleading is not sufficient to
confer subject-matter jurisdiction on this Court. The alleged
constitutional violations all stem from decisions made by
Massachusetts state courts, which were made final by the SJC
in December 2018. Essentially, the Bishays assert that the
SJC's decision, which declined further review of lower
state court decisions, violated their right to due process
under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, the Massachusetts
Constitution, and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In
order to resolve such claims in favor of the Bishays, this
Court would be required to review and reject the decision
rendered by the SJC. Such action falls squarely within the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Accordingly, this Court
does not have subject-matter jurisdiction to hear this
action. The motions to dismiss are therefore ALLOWED, and the
complaint is DISMISSED in its entirety, even as against those
defendants who have not yet answered or moved to dismiss.
See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3) (“If the court
determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.”).
additional and independent grounds, the motions to dismiss
are ALLOWED for the reasons expressed in each of the
defendants' motions and accompanying memoranda.
defendants' motions to dismiss, Docs. No. 9, 22, 32, and
44, are ALLOWED. The complaint is DISMISSED as against all
defendants. The plaintiffs' motion for default judgment,
Doc. No. 42, is DENIED as moot. Judgment shall enter in favor
of all defendants, and ...