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Morelli v. Hyman

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

January 16, 2020



          J. Michael Seabright Chief United States District Judge.


         Before the court are separate motions by Defendants Joshua B. Hyman (“Hyman”) and the State of Hawaii (the “State”) (collectively, “Defendants”) to dismiss pro se Plaintiff Angela Michelle Morelli's (“Plaintiff”) First Amended Complaint (“FAC”). ECF Nos. 35, 54. For the reasons set forth below, the Motions to Dismiss are GRANTED. Plaintiff is GRANTED leave to amend her claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for prospective injunctive relief against an individual non-judicial state official. All other claims are dismissed without leave to amend.


         On February 20, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Complaint against Hyman alleging 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims for violation of unspecified constitutional and civil rights in connection with a custody dispute involving their minor child, [1] as well as violations of 5 U.S.C. § 552; 18 U.S.C. §§ 242, 512, 1503, 1510, 1513, 1621, 1001, 241, and 2261A; and Hawaii Revised Statutes (“HRS”) §§ 92F-24, 708-820, and 708-906. ECF No. 1 at PageID #1-4. On June 28, 2019, this court granted Hyman's Motion to Dismiss the Complaint, dismissing Plaintiff's § 1983 claims with leave to amend and dismissing all other federal claims without leave to amend (the “June 28 Order”). ECF No. 31. As set forth in the June 28 Order, Plaintiff's § 1983 claims were deficient, in part, because she failed to allege facts showing that Hyman acted under color of state law. Id. at PageID #503-05.

         On July 25, 2019, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) against both Hyman and the State of Hawaii. ECF No. 32. The FAC asserts § 1983 claims for violation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights to due process and against involuntary servitude as protected by the Fifth, Thirteenth, and/or Fourteenth Amendments. The FAC alleges that Hyman has a “peculiar relationship with the [Maui Police Department (“MPD”)], ” based on Hyman's alleged actions to “remove himself from investigation” for two unrelated crimes. Id. at PageID #516. The FAC further alleges that

Hyman in joint action with the [Maui Police Department (“MPD”)], violated constitutional right of life, liberty and property, with symbiotic relationship to remove due process to not allow a victimless investigation after 911 was called on February 21, 2016. Police did not even note that the 10 month old ABH was present. Also, did not document the injuries on Morelli's face and chest, pictures taken were time stamped within minutes of calling 911. Further risking the safety of both Morelli and ABH during a Felony assault and further abuse applicated by Hyman. Hyman mysteriously was not arrested by violating VAWA unregistered shotgun that he turned over when served the TRO August 11, 2016.
Hyman continues to violate Morelli's constitutional rights in joint action during the Hyman vs. Morelli, by using false testimony, false and altered evidence, in conspiracy as preponderance evidence on government property during all court proceedings with Morelli.
Maui Police Department's Officer Ornellas badge #15391 and other MPD Officers name missing from the report stated nothing about domestic violence in the report and had failed to perform a victimless investigation when Morelli called 911 February 21, 2016, falls in line with the intertwined relationship between Hyman and MPD.

Id. at PageID #516-17 (internal citations omitted).

         In addition, the FAC alleges that in presiding over family court TRO and/or custody proceedings, “Judge Tanaka, ” “Judge Madson Kelly, ” (sic) and “Judge Lloyd Poleman” (sic)[2] issued rulings “[w]ithout hearing any evidence, ” thereby violating Plaintiff's constitutional right to due process. Id. at PageID #517-18.

         Plaintiff seeks damages of “over a Million dollars” and “relief from judgment” that resulted in termination of Plaintiff's parental/custodial rights. Id. at PageID #519-20.

         On October 16, 2019, Hyman filed a Motion to Dismiss the FAC. ECF No. 35. On November 4, 2019, Plaintiff filed her Opposition, and on November 11, 2019, Hyman filed his Reply. ECF Nos. 40, 41. On November 14, 2019, the court vacated the hearing. ECF No. 45.

         On December 11, 2019, the State filed its Motion to Dismiss the FAC. ECF No. 54. On December 31, 2019, Plaintiff filed her Opposition, and on January 7, 2020, the State filed its Reply. ECF Nos. 56, 59. Pursuant to Local Rule 7.1(c), the court finds both motions to be suitable for disposition without a hearing.


         A. Rule 12(b)(1)

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) authorizes a court to dismiss claims over which it lacks proper subject matter jurisdiction. “[U]nlike a rule 12(b)(6) motion, in a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the district court is not confined to the four corners of the complaint-it may consider facts and need not assume the truthfulness of the complaint.” Americopters, LLC v. Fed. Aviation Admin., 441 F.3d 726, 732 n.4 (9th Cir. 2006). That is, the parties may submit, and the court may consider, “extra-pleading material” and “resolve factual disputes” to determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists. Assoc. of Am. Med. Colls. v. United States, 217 F.3d 770, 778 (9th Cir. 2000).

         B. Rule 12(b)(6)

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits a motion to dismiss for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Dismissal is appropriate where the complaint lacks a cognizable legal theory or if its factual allegations do not support a cognizable legal theory. Hartmann v. Cal. Dep't of Corr. & Rehab., 707 F.3d 1114, 1122 (9th Cir. 2013) (quoting Mendiondo v. Centinela Hosp. Med. Ctr., 521 F.3d 1097, 1104 (9th Cir. 2008)). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also Weber v. Dep't of Veterans Affairs, 521 F.3d 1061, 1065 (9th Cir. 2008). This tenet-that the court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in the complaint-“is inapplicable to legal conclusions, ” and “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Rather, “[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Factual allegations that only permit the court to infer “the mere possibility of misconduct” or “unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed me accusation[s]” fall short of meeting this plausibility standard. Id. at 679; see also Moss v. U.S. Secret Serv., 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009).

         C. Pro Se Pleadings

         Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the court liberally construes the FAC and resolves all doubts in her favor. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted). The court must grant leave to amend if it appears that Plaintiff can correct the defects in her FAC, Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000), but if a claim or complaint cannot be saved by amendment, dismissal with prejudice is appropriate. Sylvia Landfield Tr. v. City of L.A., 729 F.3d 1189, 1196 (9th Cir. 2013); see also Leadsinger, Inc. v. BMG Music Pub., 512 F.3d 522, 532 (9th Cir. 2008) (reiterating that a district court may deny leave to amend for, among other reasons “repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed . . . [and] futility of amendment”) (citation omitted).


         Defendants seek dismissal of the FAC with prejudice, arguing that Plaintiff failed to establish subject-matter jurisdiction and failed to state a cognizable § 1983 claim. More specifically, Defendants contend that this court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over this action pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the domestic relations exception, and/or the Younger abstention doctrine. Defendants further contend that the FAC again fails to allege that Hyman acted under color of state law, and that claims against the State and state judges are barred by the Eleventh Amendment and judicial immunity. For the reasons discussed below, the court agrees that Plaintiff fails to state a cognizable federal claim and grants the Motions on that basis.

         A. Subject ...

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