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Daniels v. Cynkin

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

July 23, 2014

MICHAEL J. DANIELS, Plaintiff,
v.
LAURIE E. CYNKIN, et al., Defendants

Michael J. Daniels, Ocean City, NJ, Pro se Plaintiff.

John-Paul Madden, Esq., Madden & Madden, Haddonfield, NJ, Attorney for Defendants.

OPINION

Page 434

HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE, Chief U.S. District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Michael J. Daniels, who is representing himself pro se, brought this action against Defendants Laurie E. Cynkin, Andrew M. Rosenberg, The Susan J. Snyder Living Trust (" The Living Trust" ), and The Estate of Susan J. Snyder (" The Estate" ). Plaintiff was previously married to Susan J. Snyder, who obtained a divorce judgment against him in Florida state court and died shortly thereafter. Cynkin and Rosenberg are Snyder's children and heirs, Snyder transferred property to The Living Trust before she died, and The Estate handled her remaining assets after she died. Plaintiff alleges that Snyder fraudulently induced him to sign a prenuptial agreement and that Snyder's divorce proceedings against him in Florida state court violated his constitutional rights. Plaintiff seeks reinstatement of his Social Security survivor benefits, attorney's fees from the Florida divorce proceedings, a declaration that the prenuptial agreement is void, and modification, vacation, or reversal of the Florida court's divorce judgment.

Page 435

This matter comes before Court on Defendants' motion to dismiss [Docket Item 6] all of Plaintiff's claims. Defendant's motion will be granted because the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the domestic relations exception, and Social Security jurisdictional requirements.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Allegations in Plaintiff's Complaint

Plaintiff signed a prenuptial agreement with Susan E. Snyder and then married her.[1] (Compl. ¶ ¶ 20-21.) Plaintiff alleges that Snyder induced him to sign the pre-nuptial agreement by promising to " provide for the Plaintiff as she had provided for Mr. Millardi [her second husband], as long as we were married." (Id. ¶ ¶ 17-18.) Plaintiff alleges that Snyder originally " did fulfill the promise she made to the Plaintiff by making provisions for him in her will." (Id. ¶ 22.) But he alleges that she " violated the agreement she had made with the plaintiff prior to the signing of the prenuptial agreement by her act of disinheriting the husband in 2009." (Id. ¶ 56.)

While they were married, Plaintiff applied for Social Security benefits and, in addition to his own benefits, he allegedly received an additional $186.00 per month because he was married to Snyder. (Id. ¶ ¶ 23-24.)

The Florida state court issued a divorce decree on August 16, 2010 and, according to Plaintiff, the divorce judgment was signed in 2011. (Id. ¶ 37.) Plaintiff alleges that the divorce proceedings in Florida state court violated his constitutional rights because the trial judge refused to bifurcate the trial proceedings, prohibited Plaintiff from speaking on his own behalf in court, and signed the divorce decree despite a lack of evidence that the marriage was irretrievably broken. (Id. ¶ 33, 35, 38.) Plaintiff alleges that the late Susan Snyder " repeatedly misled or intentionally did not tell the truth to trial court . . . ." (Id. ¶ 40.)

Snyder died in 2011, after the divorce became final. (Id. ¶ 55.) After her death, Plaintiff allegedly discovered that she violated the terms of their prenuptial agreement. (Id. ¶ 56.) Plaintiff then filed a motion to modify the trial court's decision because " the agreement was null and void due to the breach of the condition precedent by my former wife." (Id. ¶ 57.) His motion was dismissed. (Id.) Plaintiff filed an appeal, which was denied. (Id. ¶ 63.) He filed a motion to set aside the divorce and an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court, both of which were denied. (Id. ¶ 63.) Plaintiff filed another appeal addressing the trial court's denial of an amended complaint and to dismiss his complaint, which was pending at the time he filed his present Complaint. (Id. ¶ 65.)

Plaintiff argues that " [t]o allow the Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage to remain undisturbed . . . would be in violation of the constitutional rights of the Former Husband . . . ." (Id. ¶ 63.) He claims that " [t]he only possible conclusion that can be made of the reason for the divorce is that the plaintiff had Parkinson's disease. This . . . violated the persons with disabilities acts . . . ." (Id. ¶ 49(3).) Plaintiff also asserts that the Florida trial court's " finding that both parties worked on the premarital agreement ignores the facts." (Id. ¶ 49(5).)

Defendants Laurie Cynkin and Andrew Rosenberg are Snyder's heirs. (Id. ¶ 51.) Plaintiff alleges that Cynkin and Rosenberg " agreed to keep the benefits received from their mother and the[y] agreed

Page 436

amongst themselves to keep those gains for themselves and for their mutual benefit." (Id. ¶ 31(2).) Plaintiff emphasizes that " [a]ll of the defendants did agree to keep the benefits received from the Trial Court making up findings to support his conclusions in spite of the fact that no evidence existed to support the findings." (Id. ¶ 31(4).)

B. Divorce Judgment

Plaintiff attached to his Complaint the August 17, 2010 " Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage" from the Seventh Judicial Circuit in St. Johns County, Florida.[2] (Compl. Ex. A.) The judgment specifies that the St. Johns court held a trial on August 9, 2010; wife Susan E. Snyder was represented by attorney Leanna Freeman; and husband Michael J. Daniels was represented by attorney Sean Sheppard. (Id. at 1.) The divorce court found " that the parties were married to one another on December 20, ...


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