United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION
TO DISMISS AND PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO EXPAND THE RECORD
AND/OR LEAVE TO AMEND COMPLAINT TO INCLUDE ATTACHED AFFIDAVIT
L. Cabell, U.S.M.J.
matter arises from an ongoing Middlesex County Probate and
Family Court (“Probate Court”) proceeding
involving plaintiff Karen Beckley and her ex-husband.
Beckley's ex-husband has asked the court to modify his
alimony based in part on Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act of
2011 (the “Act”). Although the court has not yet
acted on the request and, as explained below, will not rule
on the request, Beckley has brought a pro se action
challenging the constitutionality of the Act, naming as
defendants the Commonwealth, its governor and the state
defendants move to dismiss on various grounds. (D. 40). The
plaintiff opposes the motion and has also moved to expand the
record or for leave to amend her complaint (D. 45-46). Both
motions have been referred to this court for a Report and
Recommendation (D. 14).
significance, the court has learned that since filing this
federal action, Beckley and her ex-husband have reached an
agreement to resolve the Probate Court matter. According to
the Probate Court docket, a copy of which this court has
obtained and takes judicial notice of, Beckley and her
ex-husband filed a “Stipulation for Judgment on
Complaint for Modification” with the Probate Court on
February 15, 2019. Beckley agrees in that filing that she
will “forthwith dismiss her pending case in the United
States District Court District of Massachusetts (Case #:
1:18-CV-10848).” Consistent with this development, the
docket reflects that the status of the ex-husband's
request for modification is “Closed.”
recently, on February 27, 2019, the plaintiff confirmed in a
voicemail message to this court's Clerk's office that
the parties have reached an agreement resolving the Probate
Court matter. The plaintiff indicated that she intended to
dismiss the federal matter as soon as her ex-husband
deposited a certain amount of funds into her account, as
agreed to in their stipulation for judgment.
court's view, the settlement of the Probate Court matter
unquestionably moots the present federal matter.
“Simply stated, a case is moot when the issues
presented are no longer ‘live' or the parties lack
a legally cognizable interest in the outcome.”
Powell v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486, 496 (1969). In
light of the new information made available to the court,
there is simply no “live” issue for the court to
adjudicate. On the contrary, it is clear that the Probate
Court does not intend to and will not proceed to act on the
ex-husband's claim for modification of alimony, and
therefore will not take any action implicating the
constitutional concerns raised by the plaintiff in her
federal complaint. In short, there is no live case or
controversy over which the federal court may exercise
jurisdiction. See Quincy Oil, Inc. v. Fed. Energy
Admin., 472 F.Supp. 1233, 1236 (D. Mass. 1979).
Accordingly, the complaint should be dismissed on mootness
the plaintiff's federal claim should be dismissed because
it is not yet ripe. Pertinent here, the Act permits a party
to seek to terminate or lower their alimony payments if the
marriage at issue lasted less than 20 years. Although the
plaintiff's ex-husband requested relief under the Act
based on the duration of the couple's marriage, he also
requested relief on other grounds, and the Probate Court
could just as plausibly choose to grant (or deny) his request
without ever considering or applying the Act. Given the
possibility that the Probate Court thus might not even deign
to consider the Act, this court finds that the claim is
simply not ripe and therefore should not be considered.
Reddy v. Foster, 845 F.3d 493, 501 (1st Cir. 2017)
(“[R]ipeness doctrine seeks to prevent the adjudication
of claims relating to ‘contingent future events that
may not occur as anticipated, or indeed may not occur at
all.'” (quoting Texas v. United States,
523 U.S. 296, 300 (1998))); see also Provost v. Mass.
Dep't of Corr., 284 F.Supp.3d 117, 122 (D. Mass.
2018) (finding plaintiff's § 1983 claims unripe
where dependent on ruling of state court proceeding).
because the plaintiff's federal claim is both moot and
unripe, it would be futile to grant the plaintiff leave to
expand the federal record or amend her complaint to include
“affidavits and exhibits” illustrating the
Probate Court's purported refusal to allow her to raise
the same constitutional challenge she raises here.
Resolution Trust Corp. v. Gold, 30 F.3d 251, 253
(1st Cir. 1994) (stating that a motion for leave to amend
must be denied if amendment would be futile).
the foregoing reasons, the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
(Dkt. No. 40) should be ALLOWED with respect to all named
defendants, including the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,
Governor Charles Baker, and Attorney General Maura Healey.
The court further recommends that the plaintiff's motion
for leave to amend (Dkt. No. 46) be DENIED.
 Beckley did not list the attorney
general as a defendant in the case caption, but she did list
her as one in the complaint (Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 5). The
defendants have made it clear that their motion to dismiss is
filed on behalf of all defendants, including the attorney
general. (D. 49).
 For example, Beckley's ex-husband
also asked for relief on the ground that he had reached full
retirement age, a basis outside the scope of the Act.
 The parties are hereby advised that
under the provisions of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
72(b), any party who objects to this recommendation must file
specific written objections thereto with the Clerk of this
Court within 14 days of the party's receipt of this
Report and Recommendation. The written objections must
specifically identify the portion of the proposed findings,
recommendations, or report to which objection is made and the
basis for such objections. The parties are further advised
that the United States Court of Appeals for this Circuit has
repeatedly indicated that failure to comply with Rule 72(b)
will preclude further appellate review of the District
Court's order based on this Report and Recommendation.
See Keating v. Secretary of Health and Human Servs.,
848 F.2d 271 (1st Cir. 1988); United States v. Emiliano
Valencia-Copete, 792 F.2d 4 (1st Cir. 1986); Park