United States District Court, D. New Jersey
August 8, 2005.
MAREK A. KWASNIK, individually, and on behalf of his minor son, Robert T. Kwas Plaintiff,
HONORABLE VINCENT LEBLON, et al. Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: STANLEY CHESLER, Magistrate Judge
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This case is unpublished as indicated by the issuing court.] OPINION
This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), (2), and (6)
[docket # 45]. The Court, having considered the papers submitted
by the parties, for the reasons set forth below and for good
cause shown, will grant Defendants' Motion for lack of subject
Plaintiff Marek A. Kwasnik ("Plaintiff"), has filed a complaint
against Hon. Alan B. Handler, Hon. Daniel J. O'Hern, Hon. James
J. Ciancia, Hon. James M. Havey, Hon. Lorraine C. Parker, Hon.
Vincent Leblon, Hon. Bradley Ferencz, Jeffrey A. Newman, Edward
J. Dauber, Esq., Lois Knego, Richard J. Codey, Albio Sires, and
Joseph J. Roberts, Jr. (hereinafter "the State defendants") under
42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985(3) on behalf of himself and his minor
son. Plaintiff alleges that N.J.S.A. 9:2-4c deprived him of his Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal
protection and is therefore unconstitutional. He claims that
N.J.S.A. 9:2-4c has yielded preferential treatment for women and
in-state parties in custody cases such as his. Plaintiff also
alleges violation of the Supremacy Clause and the Seventh
On July 30, 2001, defendant Judge Vincent Leblon granted sole
custody to Plaintiff's former wife with no visitation. (Complaint
attached to Certification of Joseph Ives Picillo (hereafter
"Picillo Cert.") as Exhibit "A," at 12-13). On July 8, 2003,
Plaintiff sought review from the Superior Court of New Jersey,
Appellate Division as to the constitutionality of N.J.S.A.
9:2-4c. (Picillo Cert., Exhibit "A" at 16). The request was
denied on August 11, 2003. (Id.) There is no indication that
Plaintiff sought review by the Supreme Court of New Jersey.
Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages for himself and his son in
the amount of fifty thousand dollars per month for every month
that he and his son continue to be separated under the state
court rulings, for alleged deprivation of his right to
participate in his son's upbringing.
Plaintiff filed actions similar to these in the United States
District Court for the District of Maine against the State Court
of Maine, agencies and officers of the state of Maine, and his
former wife. Each of these were dismissed for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction between September and November of 2001. See
Picillo Cert., Exhibit "A," at 23-24.
II. DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS
The State defendants moved to dismiss based on the
Rooker-Feldman Doctrine, the domestic relations exception to federal jurisdiction,
judicial immunity, quasi-judicial immunity, legislative immunity,
Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity, and because the defendants
are not persons as defined by 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants also
assert that Plaintiff, Marek A. Kwasnik, lacks standing to sue on
behalf of his minor son.
The Rooker-Feldman Doctrine bars a state court losing party
from seeking appellate review in the federal courts and
circumscribes the appellate jurisdiction of the lower federal
courts. The Doctrine is based on "the well settled understanding
that the Supreme Court of the United States, and not the lower
federal courts, has jurisdiction to review a state court
decision." Parkview Assocs. Pshp. v. City of Lebanon,
225 F.3d 321, 324 (3d Cir. 2000). Rooker-Feldman bars a federal proceeding
when "entertaining the federal court claim would be the
equivalent of an appellate review" of the state judgment. FOCUS
v. Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, 75 F.3d 834, 840 (3d
In short, "Rooker-Feldman applies . . . when in order to grant
the federal plaintiff the relief sought, the federal court must
determine that the state court judgment was erroneously entered
or must take action that would render that judgment ineffectual."
Id. In application, the Court must decline to hear a cause of
action "if the claim was `actually litigated' in state court
prior to the filing of the federal action . . . or if the claim
is inextricably intertwined with [the] state adjudication,
meaning that federal relief can only be predicated upon a
conviction that the state court was wrong." Desi's Pizza,
321 F.3d at 419 (citations omitted). Furthermore, Rooker-Feldman
applies even when a claim involves constitutional issues.
Guarino v. Larsen, 11 F.3d 1151 (3d Cir. 1993).
Plaintiff's complaint consists of a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim and
a 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) claim. The Court will first examine the section 1983
claim. In order to determine whether the claim falls under the
Rooker-Feldman Doctrine, the Court must first determine whether
Plaintiff's claim was actually litigated in State court. It was
not. The State court ruled on who should have custody over Robert
Kwas Marek A. Kwasnik or his former wife. Mr. Kwasnik's current
claim is that the method and statute used to determine this were
Next, the Court must determine whether Plaintiff's claim is
inextricably intertwined with the State ruling, where a decision
here for the Plaintiff would necessarily mean that the State
judgment was erroneous. Plaintiff's claim asserts that the State
court's ruling deprived him of his right to custody of his son,
and he seeks damages of fifty thousand dollars per month, for
both himself and his son, for every month that the State upholds
its ruling. A decision in favor of the Plaintiff would rest upon
the acknowledgment that his rights were indeed violated by the
State judgment, warranting a reversal of that ruling. Therefore,
Plaintiff's claim is indeed inextricably intertwined with the
State adjudication and it thus barred for lack of jurisdiction as
per the Rooker-Feldman Doctrine.
Regarding the section 1985(3) claim, the Court again must first
determine whether it was actually litigated in State court. Like
the section 1983 claim, this was not litigated in the State
court, rather this claim asserts unconstitutional action by State
officials in conjunction with the State's ruling. Next, the Court
must determine whether the claim is inextricably intertwined with
the State ruling. Plaintiff claims that judges, judicial
employees, and State officials conspired against him, having
animus towards out-of-state litigants and fathers in custody
suits. Any finding of such a conspiracy would invalidate the State court's decision, therefore the claim is
inextricably intertwined with the State court's ruling. Thus,
Plaintiff's section 1985(3) claim is barred for lack of
jurisdiction as per the Rooker-Feldman Doctrine.
For the reasons set forth above, the Court finds that it lacks
subject matter jurisdiction as to both of Plaintiff's causes of
action against all defendants: (1) deprivation of rights and (2)
conspiracy to interfere with civil rights. As such, the Court
will grant Defendants' Motion to Dismiss as the Court lacks the
authority to make any rulings on those matters.
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