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Matthew A. Senior v. Gail Page

March 16, 2011

MATTHEW A. SENIOR, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GAIL PAGE, FIDUCIARY/GUARDIAN/ADMINISTRATOR, OFFICE OF THE PUBLIC GUARDIAN, 2 PILLSBURY, SUITE 400, CONCORD, NH 03301, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kugler, United States District Judge:

NOT FOR PUBLICATION (Doc. Nos. 3, 4, 8)

OPINION

This matter arises out of Defendant Gail Page's alleged mailing of fraudulent documents from New Hampshire to Plaintiff Matthew A. Senior in New Jersey. Plaintiff asserts a claim under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961, et seq., ("RICO"), based on Defendant's alleged mail fraud. The matter comes before the Court pursuant to: (1) Defendant's motion to dismiss the Complaint for, among other things, lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which bars a party from asserting a claim in federal court that is inconsistent with a prior state court judgment; and (2) Plaintiff's cross-motion for leave to amend the Complaint. For the reasons discussed below, the Court denies as futile Plaintiff's cross-motion for leave to amend the Complaint and grants Defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.

I.BACKGROUND*fn1

Plaintiff is a pro se litigant currently incarcerated at Fort Dix Federal Correctional Institution in Burlington County, New Jersey. In 2001, Plaintiff's two sisters petitioned the New Hampshire Probate Court to appoint a guardian over the person and estate of their mother, Dorothy A. Senior-Lowe. The New Hampshire Probate Court granted the petition due to Ms. Senior-Lowe's age and incapacity. The Probate Court named the New Hampshire Office of Public Guardian ("OPG") as Ms. Senior-Lowe's guardian. Defendant Gail Page provided guardianship services to Ms. Senior-Lowe on behalf of the OPG. In that capacity, Defendant submitted periodic accountings to the Probate Court. Defendant sent copies of those accountings to Plaintiff and other parties to the proceeding.

In 2004, Plaintiff was arrested for trafficking crack cocaine out of his residence in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He was sentenced to ten years in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. In 2006, the OPG advanced $75,000 to Plaintiff for his legal defense and eventually advanced another $30,000 to settle a civil forfeiture action with the Department of Justice. Additionally, the OPG forgave approximately $400,000 in loans that Plaintiff owed to Ms. Senior-Lowe. In exchange, Plaintiff executed a General Release relinquishing all rights to his mother's estate.

Ms. Senior-Lowe died in March 2007. After her death, Plaintiff initiated an action in New Hampshire Probate Court contesting OPG's guardianship of her estate and seeking revocation of the General Release. In that state court action, Plaintiff argued that the General Release was void because the OPG fraudulently induced him to execute the release. He argued that the OPG's accountings undervalued his mother's estate, and that he relied on those valuations when he agreed to give away his future inheritance in exchange for "$505,000"*fn2 in forgiven debt. (Am. Compl., at 1). According to Plaintiff, he relied on the fraudulent accountings to his detriment when he signed the General Release because he unknowingly gave away "$1,500,000" in future inheritance in exchange for only $505,000 in forgiven debt. (Id.).

The Probate Court denied Plaintiff's request for revocation of the General Release. The Probate Court found that Plaintiff failed to prove that "he executed the release only after relying on a false representation made by the Office of Public Guardian." In re Will and Estate of Dorothy Ann Lowe, No. 2007-0474, slip op., at 3 (N.H. Probate Ct. Oct. 29, 2008). Plaintiff appealed that decision to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. On August 19, 2009, the New Hampshire Supreme Court issued an opinion upholding the Probate Court's ruling. See In re Will and Estate of Dorothy Ann Lowe, No. 2008-0877, slip op. (N.H. Aug. 19, 2009). The Court specifically upheld the Probate Court's finding that Plaintiff failed to prove that "he executed the release only after relying upon a false representation by the OPG." Id. at 2.

Plaintiff initiated this matter by filing the Complaint in this Court on June 8, 2010, almost ten months after the New Hampshire Supreme Court issued its ruling. The Complaint asserts a single cause of action under RICO. It alleges that when Defendant sent the allegedly fraudulent accountings to Plaintiff through the mail from New Hampshire to New Jersey, she violated RICO by committing mail fraud. Plaintiff again asserts that the accountings prepared by Defendant undervalued his mother's estate and that in deciding whether to execute the release, he "relied wholly upon the accountings prepared and mailed by [Defendant] (from New Hampshire to the federal prison in New Jersey) to assess the value of his mothers [sic] estate."

(Pl.'s Brief in Opp'n to Def.'s M. to Dismiss, at 1; see also Am. Compl., at 1). He does not explain how the accountings were in error or recite their estimated value of his inheritance. He alleges only that if "the mailed accountings prepared by [Defendant] accurately and correctly accounted the total value and inventory of his mothers [sic] estate, . . . [they] . . . would have reflected an inheritable right of $1,500,000.00 (not accounted in the mailings)." (Am. Compl., at 1).

Defendant did not answer the Complaint but timely moved to dismiss the Complaint on August 5, 2010. Defendant argues that the Complaint should be dismissed because: (1) the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over Defendant; (2) the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claim under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine; (3) Plaintiff's claim is barred by the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel; and (4) Plaintiff fails to state a claim under RICO.

Plaintiff did not timely oppose Defendant's motion to dismiss. On September 1, 2010, Plaintiff made a motion for an extension of time to oppose Defendant's motion to dismiss and for leave to file an Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 4). Plaintiff's proposed Amended Complaint is a five-paragraph addendum to his original Complaint. The Amended Complaint does not include any new claims. It simply provides additional background for Plaintiff's RICO claim. It alleges:

(1) that Defendant sent fraudulent accountings through the mail on July 21, 2003, June 23, 2004, May 23, 2005, and May 22, 2006; (2) that Plaintiff relied on those accountings when deciding to execute the General Release; (3) that Plaintiff would not have agreed to the General Release if the accountings had accurately reflected his $1,500,000 inheritance; and (4) that Defendant knew that Plaintiff would rely on her false accountings when executing the General Release.

On February 14, 2011, the Court granted Plaintiff additional time to file opposition to Defendant's motion to dismiss. Plaintiff did not timely file opposition, but made another motion for an extension of time (Doc. No. 8). On March 7, 2011, Plaintiff finally submitted opposition to Defendant's motion to dismiss. Notwithstanding Plaintiff's untimely filing, the ...


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