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Liviz v. Howard

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

March 4, 2019

Ilya Liviz, Sr., I.L., Jr.
v.
Chief Judge Jeffrey R. Howard, U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit et al.

          Ilya Liviz Sr., Esq.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Paul J. Barbadoro United States District Judge.

         Pro se plaintiff Ilya Liviz, Sr., a licensed attorney in Massachusetts, filed an in forma pauperis complaint on behalf of himself and his minor son against five First Circuit judges and two District of Massachusetts judges.[1] His main claim is that the judges denied him access to the courts through adjudicative rulings in several cases that Liviz filed in federal court in connection with state custody proceedings. I dismiss the case pursuant to the in forma pauperis statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), because the complaint is legally and factually frivolous.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises from a child custody proceeding in the Massachusetts Juvenile Court involving Liviz and his minor son, I.L., Jr. In August 2016, the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (“DCF”) removed the child from his parents' custody. That same month, the Juvenile Court awarded temporary custody to the DCF and limited Liviz's contact with his son to supervised visits. Because judges act as factfinders in custody proceedings, the Juvenile Court also denied Liviz's motion for a jury trial. The Juvenile Court held a bench trial in 2018 and awarded permanent custody of Liviz's son to the DCF.

         In the interim, Liviz embarked on a long, litigious journey to regain his parental rights. He first challenged the Juvenile Court's denial of his motion for a jury trial by filing an interlocutory appeal with a single justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) in March 2017. After the single justice denied that petition, Liviz filed a certiorari petition in the Supreme Court of the United States, which was likewise denied. He also appealed the single justice's denial of his motion to file a late notice of appeal to the full SJC. In November 2017, that court affirmed the denial and noted that even if a late appeal had been authorized, Liviz “would have fared no better.” See Care and Protection of a Minor, 478 Mass. 1015, 1015 (2017). The court explained that Liviz failed to “articulate any clear arguments regarding a violation of a substantive right, or the absence of an adequate alternative remedy.” Id. at 1015-16. Liviz sought to challenge the SJC's decision in the Supreme Court, but his certiorari petition was not docketed because he failed to follow filing procedures.

         Undeterred, Liviz filed a complaint in the District of Massachusetts against the SJC and its justices in late November 2017, asserting a litany of constitutional claims.[2] Judge Denise Casper dismissed the case on Younger abstention grounds in light of the pendency of Liviz's custody proceedings in the Juvenile Court. See Liviz v. SCJ, No. 17-cv-12345, 2018 WL 1697125, at *2 (D. Mass. April 6, 2018). The First Circuit, in a panel consisting of Chief Judge Howard and Circuit Judges Kayatta and Barron, affirmed the dismissal. See Liviz v. SJC, No. 18-1340, 2018 WL 4998135, at *1 (1st Cir. Oct. 2, 2018). Liviz tried to appeal the First Circuit's decision to the Supreme Court, but this time his lack of admission to the Supreme Court bar stymied the effort.

         In the meantime, in August 2018, Liviz filed another federal lawsuit, on behalf of five unnamed parents who sued representatives of “all three branches of government of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts” in connection with their custody proceedings. See L. et al. v. Baker et al., No. 18-cv-11674 (D. Mass.) (“Parents' Class Action”). His 199-page complaint alleged that state-wide child welfare system deficiencies violated the parents' rights under federal and state law and sought sweeping injunctive relief. The case was assigned to Judge Sorokin. Liviz moved for an “expedited order for DCF to show cause why writ of habe[a]s corpus for child/ren should not issue.” See Doc. No. 4 at 71. After Judge Sorokin denied the motion, Liviz petitioned the First Circuit for a writ of mandamus. The First Circuit denied the petition in September 2018, in a panel decision by Chief Judge Howard and Circuit Judges Kayatta and Barron.

         Back in the district court, Judge Sorokin repeatedly ordered Liviz to identify the plaintiffs in the Parents' Class Action by name and address, but Liviz refused. On January 25, 2019, Judge Sorokin dismissed the complaint with prejudice on four grounds: (1) failure to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8; (2) lack of subject-matter jurisdiction because at least four of the five named plaintiffs did not authorize Liviz to serve as their attorney; (3) failure to comply with court orders; and (4) violation of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11. The next day, Liviz filed a notice of appeal to the First Circuit. That appeal is pending.

         Around the same time, Liviz filed an appeal to the First Circuit in another District of Massachusetts case, Amadi v. McManus, No. 16-cv-11901. The plaintiff in Amadi was a licensed Massachusetts attorney who sued state officials arising from the custody proceedings of his four minor children. He alleged that the defendants conspired to violate his constitutional rights, prevented him from seeing his children, and obstructed his access to the courts. Liviz sought to intervene in the Amadi case. He claims that this case was “‘made up' by a governmental investigation” and designed to “mirror” the facts of his custody proceedings in order to create precedent to dismiss his cases. See Compl. ¶¶ 92-100. Judge Gorton denied Liviz's motion to intervene and dismissed the case on Younger abstention grounds.[3]See Amadi v. McManus, No. 16-11901, 2018 WL 5555062, at *1 (D. Mass. Oct. 26, 2018). Liviz has filed a notice of appeal to the First Circuit from the denial of his motion to intervene, and Amadi has filed an appeal from the order dismissing the case. Both appeals are pending.

         In the instant complaint, Liviz has sued the federal judges who issued rulings in Amadi and the Parents' Class Action. He seeks unspecified injunctive relief and a declaration that the defendants breached their duty of judicial integrity, denied him access to the courts, and violated his constitutional rights.

         The allegations in the complaint are not cogent, and to the extent they are conclusory, I do not recount them here. The facts alleged relate the procedural history of the lawsuits summarized above. A generous reading of the complaint suggests that Liviz is challenging the merits of the decisions that the defendants reached in those cases.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The in forma pauperis statute permits indigent litigants to commence a federal action without paying filing fees. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). The law protects against abuses of this privilege by requiring courts to dismiss a complaint if it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim, or seeks damages against an immune defendant. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Section 1915 dismissals “are often made sua sponte prior to the issuance of process, so as to spare ...


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