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.

Zeffie Surgick and Cordelia Johnson v. Acquanetta Cirella

June 29, 2011

ZEFFIE SURGICK AND CORDELIA JOHNSON, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ACQUANETTA CIRELLA, ROSE SURGICK, K. HOVNANIAN ENTERPRISES, INC.,
C/O ACQUANETTA CIRELLA, AND INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION

Plaintiffs, Zeffie Surgick and Cordelia Johnson, have brought a suit against defendants, Acquanetta Cirella, Rose Surgick, and the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS"), with regard to the estate of Plaintiffs' father, James Leslie Surgick.*fn2 By denying them access to tax records and other information relating to their father and his estate, Plaintiffs allege that defendants have violated their First Amendment and statutory rights to freedom of information. Additionally, Plaintiffs accuse Cirella and Rose Surgick, both of whom allegedly exercise power of attorney over the estate, of conspiring to deceive, defraud, and conceal the value of the estate and of refusing to cooperate with Plaintiffs.

Presently before this Court are motions to dismiss submitted by the IRS and Acquanetta Cirella and Rose Surgick. For the following reasons, the IRS's Motion to Dismiss is denied. Further, Cirella and Surgick's Motion to Dismiss is denied.

I. JURISDICTION

Plaintiffs set forth claims derived from both federal and New Jersey law. This Court has subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' federal claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Further, this Court may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' related state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs, Zeffie Surgick and Cordelia Johnson, are two of James Leslie Surgick's children.*fn3 In May 1996, James Leslie Surgick died intestate, leaving behind his estate and his twelve children, including Plaintiffs and defendants, Acquanetta Cirella and Rose Surgick. According to Plaintiffs' original complaint, Cirella and Rose Surgick obtained power of attorney over their father's estate. Upon assuming power of attorney, however, Cirella and Surgick refused to cooperate with Plaintiffs. Despite Plaintiffs' requests, Cirella and Surgick have not provided them with certain information relating to the estate, such as an account of its assets.*fn4

Plaintiffs turned to the IRS and requested documents and records relating to their father and his estate. In search of information, they also reached out to K. Hovnanian, a corporation in which their father allegedly had some sort of ownership, control, or interest. Neither the IRS nor K. Hovnanian provided Plaintiffs with the information they sought.

On July 31, 2009, Plaintiffs filed a complaint in this Court against Cirella, Surgick, and K. Hovnanian. Soon thereafter, the Court issued an Order to Show Cause, directing Plaintiffs to properly plead the federal question that would serve as the basis for the Court's jurisdiction over the case. On August 13, 2009, Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, adding the IRS as a defendant. By denying them access to the tax records and other information relating to their father and his estate, Plaintiffs claim that defendants violated their First Amendment rights to freedom of information and federal statutory law. Plaintiffs also allege that Cirella and Rose Surgick conspired to deceive, defraud, and conceal the value of the estate and have refused to cooperate with Plaintiffs.

In its Opinion and Order dated June 15, 2010, the Court dismissed Plaintiffs' claims against K. Hovnanian and terminated the company from this case. Further, the Court held that, inter alia, Plaintiffs had not sufficiently pleaded a cause of action under the Freedom of Information Act (or, "FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. § 552, nor did they indicate that they had exhausted their administrative remedies. Thus, the Court dismissed Plaintiffs' claim against the IRS, but granted them leave to amend their complaint. Soon thereafter, Plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint alleging that the IRS violated FOIA by withholding information pertaining to their father's estate. Plaintiffs also aver in their second amended complaint that they have exhausted all administrative remedies available to them under FOIA.

In September 2010, the IRS filed a Motion to Dismiss against Plaintiffs' second amended complaint. Around that same time, Cirella and Rose Surgick also moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standards of Review

In this case, defendants invoke Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 12(b)(1). When considering a motion to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a court must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 350 (3d Cir. 2005). It is well settled that a pleading is sufficient if it ...


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.