Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

LA MAINA v. BRANNON

August 27, 1992

STEPHANIE N. LA MAINA, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES J. BRANNON, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JEROME B. SIMANDLE

 SIMANDLE, DISTRICT JUDGE:

 Defendant James J. Brannon, pro se, removed this matter from the Superior Court of New Jersey and seeks a declaratory judgment that the state courts of Deleware are the proper forum to determine the custody and child support issues raised by the underlying complaint. Plaintiff Stephenie La Maina has moved to remand the matter to the Superior Court of New Jersey and for sanctions pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 11. For the following reasons, defendant's motion shall be denied, and plaintiff's motion to remand shall be granted, while plaintiff's motion for Rule 11 sanctions shall be denied.

 I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

 On January 31, 1992, plaintiff Stephenie N. La Maina ("La Maina"), gave birth to Kayleigh Josephine La Maina at the Christiana Hospital in Newark, Delaware. On February 2, 1992, defendant James J. Brannon ("Brannon"), filed a Petition for Custody of the infant in the Family Court of the State of Delaware, New Castle County. Following her release from the hospital on February 3, 1992, La Maina traveled with the infant to Westmont, New Jersey to live with her parents.

 On March 13, 1992, plaintiff La Maina filed suit for custody of the infant in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Camden County, Chancery Division, Family Part. The Superior Court established April 22, 1992 as the date for a hearing on the custody issue. On March 16, 1992, Ms. La Maina moved in the Family Court of the State of Delaware to dismiss Mr. Brannon's Delaware complaint for custody on the basis of lack of jurisdiction, improper venue, and insufficiency of service of process. Ms. La Maina received a copy of the complaint on March 24, 1992. On March 30, 1992, the Honorable Peggy L. Ableman dismissed Mr. Brannon's Delaware complaint as Brannon had failed to file a response to La Maina's motion to dismiss within the time permitted by the Delaware rules of court.

 On April 20, 1992, defendant Brannon filed a Notice and Motion for Removal of Plaintiff's New Jersey custody action with the Clerk of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey and, allegedly based upon diversity of citizenship. Defendant served a copy of the notice on the Clerk of the Superior Court of New Jersey on that same day. Having received no notice of this removal, *fn1" Plaintiff La Maina and her counsel attended the custody hearing on April 22, 1992. Defendant Brannon failed to appear, and the New Jersey Superior Court of Camden County, Chancery Division, Family Part convened the duly noticed custody hearing and awarded custody to plaintiff, without prejudice to the right of the defendant to move to set aside the Order or for other relief. Plaintiff was not served with the defendant's notice of removal until two days later on April 24, 1992.

 Defendant's notice of removal indicates that he seeks the "permanent removal" of this matter. Defendant's Motion For Removal at 1. On May 26, 1992, defendant followed his notice of removal with a motion for a declaratory judgment, whereby he requests this court to enter a judgment that:

 1) declares the jurisdiction to determine custody of the minor child rests under the provisions of the PKPA, 28 U.S.C. [§ ] 1738A within the State of Delaware, and not in the State of New Jersey;

 2) That the jurisdiction to determine the paternity of the minor child rests within the state of Delaware and not in the State of New Jersey; and

 3) That jurisdiction to determine child support for the aforesaid minor child rests within the State of Delaware and not in the State of New Jersey except that the State of New Jersey may be an initiating state under the provisions of URESA; and

 . . . That defendant is not personally subject to the jurisdiction of the state of New Jersey and is entitled to a dismissal of all [of] plaintiff's claims made in the State of New Jersey for lack of in personam jurisdiction; and

 . . . That plaintiff be permanently enjoined from bringing any further action with respect to these same proceedings except that they be brought in defendant's home County and State, being the County of New Castle, State of Delaware . . .

 Defendant's Motion for Declaratory Judgment at 4.

 Plaintiff filed a motion to remand this matter to the Superior Court of New Jersey on June 12, 1992, alleging that defendant has failed to establish a basis for federal court jurisdiction over this child custody and support dispute.

 II. DISCUSSION

 A. The Motions for Declaratory Judgment and Remand

 It is axiomatic that the federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. As the Supreme Court long ago stated with respect to the power of the federal courts, "the first and fundamental question is that of jurisdiction . . . This question the court is bound to ask and answer for itself, even when not otherwise suggested, and without respect to the relation of the parties to it." Mansfield C. & L. M. R. Co. v. Swan, 111 U.S. 379, 382, 28 L. Ed. 462, 4 S. Ct. 510 (1884), quoted in Bender v. Williamsport Area School District, 475 U.S. 534, 546, 89 L. Ed. 2d 501, 106 S. Ct. 1326 (1985).

 Defendant's papers are contradictory on the relief which he seeks. In his initial notice of removal he requests that this custody and child support matter be permanently removed to this federal court. In his subsequent motion for a declaratory judgment, however, defendant seeks an order from this court pursuant to the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act ("PKPA"), 28 U.S.C. § 1738A, concerning the appropriate state jurisdiction in which this matter should be heard. Defendant reiterated this latter contention in a letter to this court dated June 2, 1992, *fn2" ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.