United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO
ALLISON D. BURROUGHS, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
and Marcieli Bauersachs (“Plaintiffs”) assert
various claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged
violations of their due process rights by Associate Justices
of the Massachusetts Appeals Court Gregory I. Massing, John
C. Englander, and Eric Neyman (“Defendants”).
[ECF No. 1 (“Complaint” or
“Compl.”)]. Defendants have moved to dismiss the
Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(1) on the grounds that the Court lacks jurisdiction to
hear the claims under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine
and that any claims for damages are barred by the Eleventh
Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. [ECF No. 11]. For the
reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion to dismiss
[ECF No. 11] is GRANTED.
following facts are drawn from the Complaint, which the Court
construes liberally, “treating all well-pleaded facts
as true and indulging all reasonable inferences in favor of
the plaintiff.” Aversa v. United States, 99 F.3d
1200, 1210 (1st Cir. 1996). As it may on a motion to dismiss
under Rule 12(b)(1), the Court has also considered documents
outside the pleadings, such as exhibits and affidavits
attached to the motion to dismiss, Gonzalez v. United
States, 284 F.3d 281, 288 (1st Cir. 2002), and takes
judicial notice of the relevant state court
were defendants in two no-fault summary process eviction
actions that were consolidated and resolved through a jury
trial held in the Salem session of the Massachusetts Housing
Court (“Housing Court”) on October 23, 2017.
[Compl. ¶ 1]. On October 24, 2017, the Housing Court
entered judgment against Plaintiffs. [Id. ¶ 2].
Plaintiffs filed post-trial motions on October 31, 2017 and
filed a notice of appeal on November 2, 2017. [ECF No. 12-1
at 3; Compl. ¶ 2]. The Housing Court denied
Plaintiffs' post-trial motions on November 16, 2017. [ECF
No. 12-1 at 3]. On November 20, 2018, a panel of the
Massachusetts Appeals Court (“Appeals Court”),
dismissed the appeal without a hearing because “the
tenants did not file a timely notice of appeal.”
[Compl. ¶ 3; ECF No. 12-1 at 3]. Defendants were the
Associates Justices who comprised that Appeals Court panel.
[Compl. ¶ 3].
filed the instant Complaint on February 15, 2019 alleging
that the dismissal of their appeal violated their
constitutionally-guaranteed due process rights and seeking
injunctive and declaratory relief. See [Compl.
¶¶ 3, 7]. Defendants moved to dismiss the claims
against them on April 11, 2019 after requesting and receiving
an extension of time to answer or otherwise respond to the
Complaint. [ECF Nos. 5, 7, 11]. Plaintiffs did not object to
the extension but responded on March 29, 2019 by filing a
counter-motion for a temporary restraining order
(“TRO”) requesting that the Court enjoin
dismissal of the underlying appeal pending the outcome of
this action. [ECF No. 9]. The Court denied as moot the
request for a TRO on April 10, 2019 as the appeal had already
been dismissed and the case already closed by the Appeals
Court. [ECF No. 10]. On April 25, 2019,
Plaintiffs opposed the motion to dismiss. [ECF No. 13].
considering a motion to dismiss under subsection 12(b)(1) of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court should apply
a standard of review ‘similar to that accorded a
dismissal for failure to state a claim' under subsection
12(b)(6).” Rodriguez v. Mass. Parole Bd., No.
16-cv-11113-ADB, 2017 WL 706597, at *2 (D. Mass. Feb. 22,
2017) (citing Menge v. N. Am. Specialty Ins. Co.,
905 F.Supp.2d 414, 416 (D.R.I. 2012)). A motion to dismiss
under Rule 12(b)(1) “is appropriate only when the facts
adumbrated in the plaintiff's complaint, taken at face
value, fail to bring the case within the court's
subject-matter jurisdiction.” Gordo-González
v. United States, 873 F.3d 32, 35 (1st Cir. 2017). Where
subject-matter jurisdiction is challenged, the plaintiff
bears the burden of proving jurisdiction. Johansen v.
United States, 506 F.3d 65, 68 (1st Cir. 2007).
have moved to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1)
on the ground that the Court lacks jurisdiction to hear the
claims under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. [ECF No.
12 at 4-5]. Under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine,
federal district courts lack jurisdiction over “federal
complaints . . . [that] essentially invite federal courts
of first instance to review and reverse unfavorable
state-court judgments.” Federación de
Maestros de P.R. v. Junta de Relaciones del Trabajo de
P.R., 410 F.3d 17, 20 (1st Cir. 2005) (quoting Exxon
Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280,
283 (2005)). “[T]he proper forum for challenging an
unlawful state court ruling is the United States Supreme
Court, on appeal of the highest state court's final
judgment.” Davison v. Gov't of P.R.-P.R.
Firefighters Corps., 471 F.3d 220, 223 (1st Cir. 2006).
Rooker-Feldman doctrine “applies only when
‘the losing party in state court filed suit in federal
court after the state proceedings ended, complaining of an
injury caused by the state-court judgment and seeking review
and rejection of that judgment.'” Riley v.
Decoulos (In re Am. Bridge Prods., Inc.), 599 F.3d 1, 4
(1st Cir. 2010) (quoting Exxon Mobil, 544 U.S. at
291). Application of the doctrine does not depend on what
issues were actually litigated in the state court; rather,
“it is enough that granting [plaintiff the relief] he
seeks would effectively overturn the state court's
decision.” Maymó-Meléndez v.
Álvarez-Ramírez, 364 F.3d 27, 33 (1st Cir.
is a condition precedent to the application of the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine that, at the time the
federal-court suit is commenced, the state-court proceedings
have ended.” Coggeshall v. Mass. Bd. of Reg. of
Psychologists, 604 F.3d 658, 663-64 (1st Cir. 2010)
(citing Federaciónde Maestros de
P.R., 410 F.3d at 24-29). The First Circuit has