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Haddad v. Flynn

September 8, 2008

LOUIS HADDAD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TERENCE P. FLYNN, J.S.C., JAMES M. NEWMAN, BONNIE KLEIN, ELIZABETH A. BALFOUR, MONMOUTH PROBATION DIVISION, MONMOUTH COUNTY SHERIFFS DEPARTMENT, MONMOUTH COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Brown, Chief District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This memorandum opinion addresses the following five motions (1-5, below) filed by the Defendants:

(1) motion to dismiss with prejudice Plaintiff Louis Haddad's ("Plaintiff") complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) filed by the following Defendants: (1) the Superior Court of New Jersey, Monmouth Vicinage, Probation Division; (2) the Honorable Terence P. Flynn, J.S.C.; (3) probation officer Bonnie Klein ("P.O. Klein") (collectively the "State Judicial Defendants") [Docket # 79];

(2) motion to dismiss with prejudice Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6) filed by the following Defendants: (1) the Monmouth County Sheriff's Office; (2) the Monmouth County Department of Corrections (collectively the "Monmouth County Defendants") [Docket # 82];

(3) motion for summary judgment on all counts of Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 56 filed by James Newman ("Defendant Newman") [Docket # 81];

(4) motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), and motion for judgment on the pleadings on all counts of Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 56 filed by Elizabeth Balfour ("Defendant Balfour") [Docket # 83];

(5) motion for sanctions against Plaintiff pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 11 filed by Defendant Balfour [Docket # 108].

The Defendants' motions stem from a single complaint filed by Mr. Haddad [Docket #1], and as such, the Court has decided the motions in a comprehensive order. The Court has reviewed the parties' submissions and decided the motions without oral argument pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 78. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant all of the Defendants' motions.

I. BACKGROUND

A. General Facts And The State Court Actions

This matter stems from divorce proceedings initiated against Plaintiff by his now ex-wife, Defendant Elizabeth Balfour (f/k/a Elizabeth Haddad). (Compl. at ¶ 11.) The divorce proceedings commenced on or about June 9, 2003, in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Monmouth County Vicinage. (Id.) The Honorable Terence P. Flynn, J.S.C., a defendant in this case, presided in Superior Court. Prior to the divorce trial, the Superior Court ordered Plaintiff to cease filing motions until the commencement of trial, as it was clear to the court that Plaintiff "was attempting to harass both the plaintiff and the Court by filing so many motions." (St. Jud. Def's Mot. to Dismiss Ex. A (Flynn Opinion 12/20/06) at p. 12.) Following trial, Judge Flynn granted Defendant Balfour a divorce, and ordered that Plaintiff pay Ms. Balfour various monies for alimony, child support, and equitable distribution of their former estate. (St. Jud. Def's Mot. to Dismiss Ex. A (Flynn Order 12/20/06).)

Accompanying the judgment of divorce was a detailed 110-page opinion by Judge Flynn. (St. Jud. Def's Mot. to Dismiss Ex. A (Flynn Opinion 12/20/06).) That opinion detailed Plaintiff's long history of failure to pay bills, including his children's medical bills, school expenses, and car payments. (Id. at 13-16.) Plaintiff has been incarcerated twice because he failed to pay the court-ordered child support. (Id. at 16.) Each time, Plaintiff was released from custody after he promptly tendered the arrearage without apparent difficulty. (Id.) Judge Flynn's opinion explains Plaintiff had a thriving law practice, yet he went to great lengths "to make himself asset poor." (Id. at 40.) The court explained in detail how Plaintiff "with his extensive experience as a collections attorney, ha[d] done whatever he could to manipulate, conceal and deplete marital assets." (Id. at 48-67.) The prime example of this behavior was Plaintiff's manipulation of his client trust account. At trial, Plaintiff contended that he had not reconciled his client trust account in fifteen years. (Id. at 49.) Judge Flynn expressly rejected that argument and cited convincing evidence which demonstrated that Plaintiff had regularly monitored his firm's banking records. (Id.) In fact, Judge Flynn found that Plaintiff had been extensively "using his client trust account as his own checking account to pay for his personal expenses." (Id. at 52.) As the trial court correctly noted, "this [practice] was in violation of all [legal] ethical restrictions." (Id.)

Furthermore, the evidence adduced at trial revealed that Plaintiff "had been invading . . . various retirement accounts and placing the money in his trust account to cover his expenses." The court explained that Plaintiff's apparent strategy was to "forestall an examination of the trust account . . . to hide what he was doing." (Id.) Finally, the court noted that while Plaintiff failed to pay some bills, he consistently paid others. Plaintiff paid bills from liquor stores*fn1 , grocery stores, and restaurants, all from the client-trust account. (Id. at 53.) The Court explained that Plaintiff was "essentially funneling the money off to the side while claiming poverty." (Id.)

The trial court concluded that Plaintiff acted in bad faith throughout the divorce proceeding, and explained:

[Plaintiff Haddad] has consistently acted in bad faith. He has sought to block legitimate discovery requests, such as those seeking his medical and banking records, knowing that the information contained in these records was damaging to the false positions he was holding before the Court. He provided false or incomplete information in court submissions. He has filed numerous motions repeating the same arguments in an obvious attempt to have [his ex-wife] expend time and money to respond. He has attempted to conceal and dissipate assets. He has lied to the Court under oath and has done what he could to prolong the trial and the divorce process. He will most likely do what he can do to prolong the post-trial process.

(Id. at 100-01.)

Unfortunately, Judge Flynn accurately foreshadowed Mr. Haddad's future attempts to stymy the post-trial process. Plaintiff appealed the aforementioned judgment of divorce ("JOD") to the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division. The Appellate Division affirmed that JOD in a brief per curiam opinion dated April 11, 2008. Haddad v. Haddad, Super. App. Div. WL 993729 at *6 (N.J. Super. App. Div. April 11, 2008). Plaintiff also appealed various aspects of a post-judgment order entered by the New Jersey Superior Court on September 7, 2007, in which Plaintiff was denied relief on various grounds. The Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division affirmed that post-trial order in all respects, save one discrete issue regarding Plaintiff's demand for compensatory parenting time with his children. The court remanded for further proceedings on that discrete issue alone. Haddad v. Haddad, Super. App. Div. at 9 (N.J. Super. App. Div. August 19, 2008).

B. Plaintiff's Federal Court Actions

In addition to his filings in New Jersey Superior Court, Plaintiff has improperly filed suit in federal court on two previous occasions. Each time, Plaintiff's action was dismissed because of parallel actions pending in state court. On March 7, 2006, Plaintiff filed his first federal action against Defendant Elizabeth Balfour [Haddad v. Haddad, Civ. No. 06-1017, Docket # 1]. In an order dated March 8, 2007, United States Magistrate Judge Bongiovanni administratively dismissed this initial suit on two grounds: (1) Plaintiff failed to meet the jurisdictional amount in controversy required to file suit in federal court, and; (2) the Younger Abstention Doctrine required dismissal due to Plaintiff's pending matrimonial action in state court [Civ. No. 06-1017, Docket # 20]*fn2 . Because Plaintiff is an attorney, Judge Bongiovanni found that he "could not have had an objective knowledge or belief at the time of filing his Complaint that the claim was well grounded in fact and law, because no such ground exists." [Id.] Additionally, because Plaintiff sought relief in federal court from orders issued from a state judge, the court found that Plaintiff's claims were at best frivolous, and as such, ordered sanctions against Plaintiff pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 11. Finally, Judge Bongiovanni enjoined Plaintiff from filing suit in federal court regarding any matters relating to his claims in New Jersey state court, until said claims were resolved.

Less than a year later, on November 26, 2007, Plaintiff ignored Judge Bongiovanni's order and filed a motion for an order to show cause against the present Defendants [Civ. No. 07-5617, Docket #1]. In that motion, Plaintiff sought injunctive relief from all arrest warrants stemming from his failure to make alimony and child support payments. Plaintiff again failed to provide this Court with the certification required pursuant to Local Rule 11.2. On February 19, 2008, this Court denied Plaintiff's motion because of the actions pending in state court [Docket #63].

Undeterred by the dismissal of his previous actions, the Plaintiff now takes another bite at the apple in federal court. The present action stems from a rambling 385-paragraph complaint filed by Plaintiff on November 26, 2007. With this complaint, Plaintiff fires a salvo apparently aimed at every person and organization remotely connected with his state court divorce proceedings. Reduced to its fundamentals, Plaintiff's complaint asserts that the various defendants in this case conspired to deprive him of his rights under the United States Constitution. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief and punitive damages of $80,000,000. For the sake of clarity and economy, the Court will summarize the specific allegations contained in Plaintiff's complaint against each group of defendants:

1. Plaintiff's Claims Against The State Judicial, And The Monmouth County Defendants

Plaintiff lodged ten counts against Judge Flynn. Counts I through IV allege violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 -- specifically that Judge Flynn failed to inform Plaintiff of his right to counsel at various proceedings during the divorce trial, thereby violating Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment due process rights. (Compl.at ¶¶ 65-96.) Count V asserts a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1985, alleging that Judge Flynn acted in conspiracy with Defendant Newman to threaten and prevent one of Plaintiff's proposed witnesses from testifying at the divorce trial. (Id. at ¶¶ 97-109.) Counts VI through VIII allege that Judge Flynn "willfully, wantonly and wrongfully" ordered Plaintiff to pay monies owed to Defendant Balfour, or be incarcerated. (Id. at ¶¶ 110-127.) Count IX alleges that Judge Flynn failed to make a necessary adjustment to Plaintiff's arrears payments due to Defendant Balfour, after an audit revealed errors in prior payment calculations. (Id. at ¶¶ 128-42.) In Count X, Plaintiff asserts he is entitled to attorney's fees, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988.

The causes of action alleged against P.O. Klein (Id. at ¶¶ 226-275), the Monmouth County Probation Division (Id. at ¶¶ 318-344), Monmouth County Sheriff's Office (Id. at ¶¶ 345-364), and Monmouth County Department of Corrections (Id. at ¶¶ 362-384) all relate to the enforcement of Plaintiff's support allegations. Plaintiff asserts that these entities also violated his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

2. Plaintiff's Claims Against Defendant James Newman

Plaintiff asserts claims against Defendant James Newman under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Newman, his ex-wife's attorney, deprived him of his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution by failing to ensure that Plaintiff was informed of his right to counsel at various state court hearings. (Compl. at ¶¶ 145-176.) Plaintiff also asserts claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1985, alleging that Defendant Newman conspired with Judge Flynn and Defendant Balfour to prevent one of Plaintiff's proposed witnesses from testifying. (Id. at ¶¶ 177-189.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Newman wrongly advocated for various child support or alimony payments due to Plaintiff, knowing that Defendant did not owe these amounts. (Id. at ¶¶ 190-223.) Plaintiff also seeks attorney's fees. (Id. at ¶¶ 224-225.)

3. Plaintiff's Claims Against Defendant Elizabeth Balfour

In Plaintiff's first cause of action against Defendant Balfour, he seeks relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1985, alleging that Defendant Balfour conspired with Defendant Newman and Judge Flynn to prevent one of Plaintiff's proposed witnesses from testifying. (Compl. at ¶¶ 276-290.) Plaintiff's second, third, and fourth causes of action assert that Defendant Balfour conspired with Defendant Newman and Judge Flynn to "willfully, wantonly, and wrongfully" misrepresent the amount of payments in arrears owed to Defendant Balfour by Plaintiff, for which Plaintiff was incarcerated on three separate occasions, after failing to pay these amounts. (Id. at ¶¶ 291-308.) The fifth cause of action seeks relief under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1985 and 1986 and asserts that Defendant Balfour had the power to prevent the conspiracy that led to Plaintiff's witness not testifying at trial, but Plaintiff failed to exercise this power. (Id. at ¶¶ 309-315.) The sixth cause of action seeks attorney's fees. (Id. at ¶¶ 316-17.)

4. Defendant Elizabeth Balfour's Motion For Sanctions Against Plaintiff

On May 9, 2008, Defendant Elizabeth Balfour filed a motion for sanctions against Plaintiff Haddad pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 11. Defendant Balfour asserts that the Plaintiff's history of filing patently frivolous claims before this Court supports an award of sanctions under FED. R. CIV. P. 11. (Def. Balfour's Mot. For Sanctions)

II. DISCUSSION

For the sake of clarity and economy, and because the Defendants move pursuant to different Federal Rules of Civil Procedure with varying legal standards, the Court will discuss each of the Defendants' motions individually, below.

A. Motion To Dismiss With Prejudice Plaintiff Louis Haddad's ("Plaintiff") Complaint Pursuant To Federal Rule Of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) Filed By The State ...


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