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Peter Dipietro v. Joanna Vassallo

November 17, 2011


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Gloucester County, Docket No. L-1583-09.

Per curiam.


Argued September 12, 2011

Before Judges Parrillo, Grall and Alvarez.

Plaintiff Peter DiPietro, who was self-represented in the Law Division proceedings from which this appeal is taken, seeks to set aside two orders dated April 12, 2010, and May 14, 2010. The orders dismissed DiPietro's claims against his former wife, his former mother-in-law, court staff, and a psychologist arising from litigation related to his parenting time. We affirm.

So that the issues raised by this appeal may be better understood, we detail the extensive litigation history which preceded the two orders. DiPietro and Joanna Vassallo (Vassallo), formerly known as Joanna DiPietro, were divorced on April 25, 2001. At that time, the parties' only child was an infant.

When the parties divorced, they agreed that a final restraining order (FRO) entered pursuant to the Domestic Violence Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35, which Vassallo had previously obtained against DiPietro, would continue in effect. The FRO provided that DiPietro's visitation with the child would be supervised, and designated defendant Diane Vassallo, Vassallo's mother, as the contact person regarding scheduling. The court staff person who completed the visitation risk assessment in 2000 ancillary to the issuance of the FRO was Angela Merlo. See N.J.S.A. 2C:25-29(b)(3)(a).

When they divorced, the parties also agreed to submit to Philip Bobrove, Ph.D., for evaluation and for his recommendation as to whether DiPietro's visitation should continue to be supervised. Merlo's risk assessment was provided to Dr. Bobrove before he completed his report. Dr. Bobrove recommended that supervised visitation continue.

Prior to the final divorce hearing, Merlo forwarded a copy of the risk assessment to DiPietro's attorney. She then informed him, in response to his inquiry, that she did not record the interview. The March 29, 2001 letter listed the following after her name: "MCAT, MA." DiPietro knew that Merlo completed a risk assessment in 2000, and knew that Dr. Bobrove completed his evaluations and visitation recommendations in 2002. In 2003, when the child was approximately three years old, DiPietro ceased having any contact with her.

In September 2008, DiPietro filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey alleging that Vassallo and various state agencies had conspired to deprive him of his constitutional rights. The suit was filed after the Gloucester County Probation Department refused to accept his personal or business checks for child support since an earlier check was returned for insufficient funds. In that lawsuit DiPietro also asserted claims against Vassallo for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

The federal complaint was dismissed on June 10, 2009, on several grounds, including failure to state a claim for relief against Vassallo. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal on the same grounds on March 18, 2010. DiPietro v. N.J. Family Support Payment Ctr., No. 09-3022, 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 5736 (3d Cir. Mar. 18, 2010).

On September 1, 2009, after the trial court's dismissal of his federal claims but before the decision issued on the appeal, DiPietro filed a complaint in the Law Division against Vassallo and her mother seeking damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress against Vassallo alone, and common law fraud against both.

Additionally, in October 2009, DiPietro filed motions in the Family Part, which were also denied, seeking to vacate the divorce judgment and to waive the requirement that he file a case information statement. See R. 5:7-2. Vassallo's Rule 1:10-3 cross-motion to enforce litigant's rights was granted, however, and judgment entered against DiPietro for $21,870 in child support arrears. He does not appeal that order.

DiPietro's Law Division complaint was dismissed on January 8, 2010, on the Vassallos' motion. The court granted the application because, among other reasons, DiPietro failed to state a cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional ...

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