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Boyce v. Busch

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Western Division

June 3, 2014

Andrew R. Boyce, Plaintiff,
v.
Judge Kevin Busch, Judge Judith Brawka Judge Robert Spence, Vincent Zingarelli, Daniel Fisher, Psy. D., Michael T. Navigato, and Victoria Zingarelli Boyce Defendants.

ORDER

PHILIP G. REINHARD, District Judge.

For the reasons below, defendants' motions to dismiss [12], [14], & [16] are granted. Plaintiff's federal claims are dismissed with prejudice. To the extent plaintiff has asserted any state law claims, those are dismissed without prejudice. Plaintiff is on notice that any future attempts to assert frivolous claims in federal court will result in sanctions. All pending motions [34] are denied. This case is closed.

STATEMENT - OPINION

Pro se plaintiff, Andrew R. Boyce, brings this action against defendants Judge Kevin Busch, Judge Judith Brawka, Judge Robert Spence, Victoria Zingarelli, Michael T. Navigato, Daniel Fisher Psy. D., and Vincent Zingarelli (collectively "defendants"). In his complaint, plaintiff attempts to allege various federal and state law causes of action against all defendants. All of plaintiff's claims stem from his divorce and child custody proceedings that occurred in the Circuit Court of Kane County. While the specific causes of action are not entirely clear, it appears that plaintiff alleges defendants are liable under 18 U.S.C. § 241, 18 U.S.C. § 242, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as well as a number of Illinois statutes. See [1] at 2-8. The crux of the complaint is that each of the defendants performed illegal acts during plaintiff's divorce and child custody proceedings.

Defendants Judge Busch, Judge Brawka, Judge Spence, Michael Navigato, and Daniel Fisher have filed three separate motions to dismiss. See [12], [14], [16].[1] All three motions assert that this entire case is barred by the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel because plaintiff filed a nearly identical case in January 2013 before the Honorable Frederick J. Kapala. See Boyce v. Zingarelli, No. 13-C-50011 (N.D. Ill. March 6, 2013); [34]. In that case, Judge Kapala dismissed plaintiff's federal claims with prejudice after he determined that plaintiff failed to state a federal claim. See id. Defendants contend the instant complaint has identical allegations to the January 2013 complaint and this case is therefore barred by res judicata. Additionally, each group of defendants argue that dismissal is also appropriate pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

Plaintiff has filed an "amended answer" which purports to respond to all three motions. See [25]. He claims the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel are inapplicable because he has unique allegations in this complaint and has named new defendants. In his response, plaintiff also disputes the specific reasons each group of defendants has set forth regarding Rule 12(b)(6).

"To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12 (b)(6), the complaint must state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Yeftich v. Navistar, 722 F.3d 911, 915 (7th Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). "Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief." Id. (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). In cases such as these, the inference of liability is only "speculative." Id.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) allows a party to raise as a defense, by motion, a federal court's lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Similar to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the district court must "accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff." St. John's United Church of Christ v. City of Chicago, 502 F.3d 616, 625 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Long v. Shorebank Dev. Corp., 182 F.3d 548, 554 (7th Cir.1999)). However, surviving a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss is more difficult than a 12(b)(6) motion because unlike a 12(b)(6) motion, in a 12(b)(1) motion, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing jurisdiction. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992). To survive dismissal, a plaintiff must support their allegations with competent proof of jurisdictional facts. Kontos v. United States Dep't of Labor, 826 F.2d 573, 576 (7th Cir.1987). If necessary, a district court is permitted to look beyond the jurisdictional allegations and examine evidence outside of the pleadings to determine whether federal subject-matter jurisdiction exists. St. John's, 502 F.3d at 616.

A. Rooker-Feldman

Prior to addressing the specific arguments in each of the motions to dismiss, the court finds it necessary to point out that a substantial portion of the relief plaintiff seeks is unattainable in federal court. In his prayer for relief, plaintiff asks this court to dismiss his divorce case in Kane County and vacate all orders from that case. [1] at 9. He then requests that this court grant him a change in venue for the divorce case. Additionally, plaintiff seeks to have this court enter an order directing the Winnebago States Attorney's office to investigate defendant Victoria Zingarelli, issue an injunction to prevent Victoria Zingarelli from keeping plaintiff's children, and enter an order directing Victoria Zingarelli to return the children to plaintiff. Id. Finally, plaintiff seeks monetary relief for the damages he incurred to his "credit [and] character..." as a result of the divorce and child custody proceedings. Id. at 9-10.

The Rooker-Feldman doctrine limits a district court's jurisdiction regarding claims "brought by state-court losers complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments... [.]" Exxon Mobile Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005). The doctrine prevents a district court from reversing or modifying a state court judgment even when the "judgment might be erroneous or even unconstitutional." Gilbert v. Ill. State Bd. Of Educ., 591 F.3d 896, 900 (7th Cir. 2010). However, there are limits as to how far the Rooker-Feldman doctrine reaches. "Claims that directly seek to set aside a state court judgment are de facto appeals and are barred without additional inquiry." Taylor v. Fed. Nat. Mortgage Ass'n, 374 F.3d 529, 532-33 (7th Cir. 2004). On the other hand, claims that are independent of state court proceedings and are not "inextricably intertwined" with a state court judgment are within a district court's jurisdiction. Id. If a court determines that a plaintiff's claim is "inextricably intertwined, " that does not end the inquiry. The Seventh Circuit instructs courts to then determine whether the plaintiff had a "reasonable opportunity to raise the issue in the state court proceedings." Id. If he did, the claim is barred. If, however, the plaintiff claims he did not and "point[s] to some factor independent of the actions of the opposing party that precluded the [plaintiff] from raising [his] [] claims[, ]" Rooker-Feldman does not apply. Id. (citing Long v. Shorebank Development Corp., 182 F.3d 548, 558 (7th Cir. 1999)).

After reviewing the instant complaint, the court finds that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars most, if not all, of plaintiff's claims. While many of plaintiff's allegations are convoluted and disjointed, it appears that the majority of his claims relate to injuries he allegedly suffered as a result of the state court decisions in his divorce proceedings. See [1] at 2-8. These claims are undoubtedly "inextricably intertwined" with the state court proceedings and in fact plaintiff has gone so far as to ask this court to dismiss the state court judgment. See [1] at 9. This is a de facto appeal and is barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. See Davit v. Davit, 366 F.Supp.2d 641, 651 (N.D. Ill. 2004) (concluding that a plaintiff's RICO claim stemming from his state court divorce proceedings should be dismissed because it was, among other reasons, barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine); Alpern v. Lieb, 38 F.3d 933, 934 (7th Cir. 1994) (holding that a plaintiff's suit against his former wife, her attorney, and the state court judge who presided over the divorce proceedings was barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine as well as other reasons); Hass v. Rico Enter., No. 03-8695, 2004 WL 1385837 at *1 (N.D. Ill. Jun. 18, 2004) (finding that a plaintiff's attempt to challenge the dissolution of his marriage and his child custody proceedings under RICO and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in federal court was barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine). Accordingly, the court concludes that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over plaintiff's claims under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. As explained in greater detail below, to the extent that a generous construction of plaintiff's complaint may find that there are putative claims that are not reached by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the court finds that defendants' motions to dismiss should be granted under Rule 12(b)(6) for multiple, independent reasons.

B. Defendants Judge Kevin Busch, Judge Judith Brawka, and Judge Robert Spence's Motion to Dismiss [14]

Judges Kevin Busch, Judith Brawka, and Robert Spence have filed a joint motion to dismiss. See [14]. In it, they argue that plaintiff's entire complaint is barred by the doctrines of res judicata, collateral estoppel, and Rooker-Feldman. Alternatively, Judges Busch, Brawka, and Spence contend plaintiff's claims against them fail ...


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