United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
J. HAZEL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Namish Parikh brings this action pro se against
Defendant Hon. Brian Frosh, in his official capacity as
Attorney General of Maryland, challenging the
constitutionality of the Maryland prejudgment attachment
statute, Md. Rule 2-115, under the due process clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment and the Fourth Amendment. Presently
pending before the Court is Plaintiffs Motion for a
Preliminary Injunction, ECF No. 4, Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment, ECF No.
7, and Plaintiffs Motion for Leave to File Surreply, ECF No.
12. No hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D.
Md. 2016). For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion
to Dismiss is granted, Plaintiffs Motion for Leave to File
Surreply is denied, and Plaintiffs Motion for a Preliminary
Injunction is denied.
case concerns the financial assets of Plaintiff s late
father, Dinesh O. Parikh, and a legal dispute that resulted
over those funds. ECF No. 1 ¶ 10; ECF No. 5-2 at
Plaintiffs father died on June 18, 2016. ECF No. 1 ¶ 10.
The father's Last Will and Testament was docketed
in the Register of Wills Office for Montgomery
County, Maryland (Estate #W87973). Id. ¶ 11.
The terms of the Last Will named Plaintiffs ex-wife, Oxana
Parikh, as the Executor and sole beneficiary of Plaintiff s
father's property and assets. Id. ¶ 12. On
June 22, 2016, the Register of Wills appointed Oxana Parikh
as the Personal Representative, or Executor, of the Estate.
Plaintiffs sister, who had been apparently disinherited in
the will, filed a Petition to Remove the Personal
Representative and a Petition to Caveat the Last Will on July
11, 2016 in the Orphans' Court for Montgomery County.
Id. ¶ 14. The Orphans' Court held a hearing
on September 9, 2016. Id. ¶ 17. The
Orphans' Court removed Oxana Parikh as Personal
Representative and appointed Lynn Claude Boynton, also known
as Lynn C. Pendleton, ("Boynton"), as Special
Administrator of the Estate. Id.
October 6, 2016, Boynton filed a verified complaint under
oath against Plaintiff and his ex-wife in the Circuit Court
for Montgomery County, Maryland. ECF No. 1 ¶ 21; ECF No.
5-2 at 2-23; see Boynton v. Parikh, Case No. 425847
V (Cir. Ct. Prince George's Cty. 2016). That same day,
Boynton also petitioned the duty judge, ex parte,
for an Order of Attachment. Id. ¶ 24; ECF No.
5-3 at 2-10. Boynton moved pursuant to Md. Code, Cts. &
Jud. Proc. § 3-303(e), which prescribes that an
attachment before judgment may issue "[i]f the debtor is
about to assign, dispose of, conceal, or remove his property
or a portion of it from the State with intent to defraud his
creditors ..." § 3-303(e)(1). See ECF No.
5-3 at 5. The judge granted the Order of Attachment,
freezing and seizing the Ally Bank accounts of Plaintiff and
his ex-wife. ECF No. 1 ¶ 24; ECF No. 5-4 at 2-4.
Allegedly, Boynton was not required to post a bond to obtain
the Attachment, as it was waived by the court, and no hearing
was held before the Attachment issued. ECF No. 1 ¶¶
24, 28. Plaintiff claims that he was not notified about the
Attachment. See ECF No. 1 ¶ 52; ECF No. 10 at
25. He further complains that no post-deprivation hearing was
scheduled. ECF No. 1 ¶ 57. Pursuant to a joint consent
motion filed by Boynton and the Parikhs, the $1, 140, 000 in
seized funds were held by the Registry of the Circuit Court
for Montgomery County. ECF No. 5-5 at 2-4.
filed the instant Complaint in this Court against Brian
Frosh, in his official capacity as Attorney General for the
State of Maryland, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief.
ECF No. 1. Specifically, Plaintiff requests that the
Court "[i]ssue a declaratory judgment finding that the
seizure/attachment by the State unconstitutionally injured
Plaintiff and is unlawful, " " [permanently enjoin
the Defendant from seizing, freezing or holding, any assets
belonging to Plaintiff under the State's prejudgment
attachment program, " and "[o]rder the State
authorities to adopt a new prejudgment attachment program
without the constitutionally offensive features of the
current program." ECF No. 1 at 18. Defendant moves to
dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and
12(b)(6), or in the alternative, for summary judgment. ECF
No. 7. Defendant contends that the case is subject to
dismissal based upon the Rooker-Feldman doctrine,
Younger abstention, and because the Maryland
prejudgment attachment statute is not unconstitutional. The
Court will address each issue.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
is well established that before a federal court can decide
the merits of a claim, the claim must invoke the jurisdiction
of the court." Miller v. Brown, 462 F.3d 312,
316 (4th Cir. 2006). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1)
governs motions to dismiss for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. See Khoury v. Meserve, 268 F.Supp.2d
600, 606 (D. Md. 2003), aff'd, 85 F.App'x
960 (4th Cir. 2004). Once a challenge is made to subject
matter jurisdiction, the Plaintiff bears the burden of
proving that subject matter jurisdiction exists. See
Ferdinand-Davenport v. Children's Guild, 742
F.Supp.2d 772, 777 (D. Md. 2010) (citing Piney Run Pres.
Ass 'n v. Cty. Comm'rs of Carroll Cty., Md, 523
F.3d 453, 459 (4th Cir. 2008)). The Court should grant a Rule
12(b)(1) motion "only if the material jurisdictional
facts are not in dispute and the moving party is entitled to
prevail as a matter of law." Evans v. B.F. Perkins
Co., a Div. of Standex Int'l Corp., 166 F.3d 642,
647 (4th Cir. 1999).
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) "test[s] the
adequacy of a complaint." Prelich v. Med. Res.,
Inc., 813 F.Supp.2d 654, 660 (D. Md. 2011) (citing
German v. Fox, 267 F.App'x 231, 233 (4th Cir.
2008)). Motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim do
"not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits
of a claim, or the applicability of defenses."
Prelich, 813 F.Supp.2d at 660 (citing Edwards v.
City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999)).
To overcome a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a complaint must allege
enough facts to state a plausible claim for relief.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A claim
is plausible 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. The facts "must be enough to raise a right
to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The Court
accepts factual allegations in the complaint as true and
construes the factual allegations in the light most favorable
to the Plaintiff. See Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S.
266, 268 (1994); Lambeth v. Bd. of Comm'rs of
Davidson Cty., 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th Cir. 2005). The
Court should not grant a motion to dismiss for failure to
state a claim unless "it is clear that no relief could
be granted under any set of facts that could be proved
consistent with the allegations." GE Inv.
Private Placement Partners II v. Parker, 247
F.3d 543, 548 (4th Cir. 2001) (citing H.J. Inc. v.
Northwestern Bell Tel. Co., 492 U.S. 229, 249-50
Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars federal district courts
from hearing "cases brought by state-court losers
complaining of injuries caused by state court judgments
rendered before the district court proceedings commenced and
inviting district court review and rejection of those
judgments." Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus.
Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005); see Rooker v.
Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923); District of
Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462
(1983). The doctrine springs from the principle that
"[j]urisdiction to review such state court decisions
lies exclusively with superior state courts, and ultimately,
the United States Supreme Court." Plyer v.
Moore, 129 F.3d 728, 731 (4th Cir. 1997).
Rooker-Feldman stops "lower federal courts from
considering not only issues raised and decided in the state
courts, but also issues that are 'inextricably
intertwined' with the issues that were before the state
court." Washington v. Wilmore, 407 F.3d 274,
279 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Dist. of Columbia Ct. of
Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 486 (1983)). An issue
is "inextricably intertwined" when it "was not
actually decided by the state court but where success on the
... claim depends upon a determination that the state court
wrongly decided the issues before it." Brown &
Root, Inc. v. Breckenridge, 211 F.3d 194, 198 (4th Cir.
2000). The doctrine is jurisdictional; thus, the Court is
"obliged to address it before proceeding" to the
merits of a given case. Friedman's, Inc. v.
Dunlap, 290 F.3d 191, 196 (4th Cir. 2002).
Rooker-Feldman is "narrow and focused, "
and stands only for the proposition that "lower federal
courts are precluded from exercising appellate jurisdiction
over final state- court judgments." Thana v. Bd. of
License Commissioners for Charles Cty., Maryland, 827
F.3d 314, 319 (4th Cir. 2016). To emphasize the narrow role
of Rooker-Feldman, the Supreme Court has repeatedly
noted that it has not applied the doctrine since the
decisions in Rooker and Feldman. See, e.g.,
Skinner v. Switzer, 562 U.S. 521, 531 (2011); Lance
v. Dennis, 546 U.S. 459, 464 (2006); Exxon, 544
U.S. at 287 (2005). Since Exxon, the Fourth Circuit
also has not, in a published opinion, held that a district
court lacked subject matter jurisdiction under Rooker
-Feldman. See Thana, 827 F.3d at 319.
the doctrine does not apply "if a plaintiff in federal
court does not seek review of the state court judgment itself
but instead presents an independent claim that is related to
a matter decided by a state court." Torkornoo v.
Helwig, No. 16-1650, 2016 WL 7156586, at *1 (4th Cir.
Dec. 8, 2016). In Thana, plaintiffs had been denied
an alcoholic beverage license by the Board of License
Commissioners of Charles County. Thana, 827 F.3d at
317. The Circuit Court for Charles County affirmed the
Board's decision and the Maryland Court of Appeals
subsequently affirmed. Id. Before filing an appeal
with the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, Plaintiffs filed
a § 1983 action in federal court, alleging that the
Board's policies violated its First Amendment rights.
Id. at 318. After the district court had concluded
it lacked subject matter jurisdiction under
Rooker-Feldman, the Fourth Circuit reversed,
reasoning that the federal action was "a concurrent,
independent action supported by original jurisdiction
conferred by Congress on federal district courts, even though
the complaint in the action includes claims and legal
arguments similar or the same as those made in the state
proceedings." Id. at 321. It further held that
the doctrine did not apply because "the district court
here was not called upon to exercise appellate jurisdiction
over a final judgment from 'the highest court of a State
in which a decision could be had, ' 28 U.S.C. §
1257(a)... as was the case in both Rooker and
Feldman.” Id. Thus, there could be no attempt
by plaintiffs to flout Supreme Court jurisdiction because
there had been no final state court judgment from which to
appeal to the Supreme Court. See id.
is also not applicable here, at least to the extent Plaintiff
challenges the prejudgment attachment statute itself.
Plaintiff seeks not to appeal a state court
judgment, nor does he seek to appeal an
interlocutory order as claimed by Defendant. See ECF
No. 7-1 at 7 (citing Brown & Root, Inc. v.
Breckenridge, 211 F.3d 194, 199 (4th Cir. 2000) (holding
that Rooker-Feldman applies to both final and
interlocutory orders)). Five years after the Fourth Circuit
decision in Brown & Root, the Supreme Court
clarified in Exxon-Mobil that "the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine is confined 'to cases
brought after the state proceedings have ended.'"
Mann v. Boatright, 477 F.3d 1140, 1146 (10th Cir.
2007) (quoting Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus.
Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 291 (2005)).
Rooker-Feldman does not apply to federal court
actions proceeding in tandem with on-going state court
actions. See Exxon Mobil Corp., 544 U.S. at 292
(2005); see also Green v. Mattingly, 585 F.3d 97,
101 (2d Cir. 2009) (noting that ExxonMobil abrogated
much of the prior case law on Rooker-Feldman and
stating that the doctrine "has no application to
federal-court suits proceeding in parallel with ongoing
time of the filing of this Complaint, Boynton v.
Parikh, had not produced a final, appealable judgment
from which to appeal to the Supreme Court. The Maryland Court
of Appeals has held that a ruling must have the following
three attributes to be considered a "final
judgment": (1) "it must be intended by the court as
an unqualified, final disposition of the matter in
controversy, " (2) "it must adjudicate or complete
the adjudication of all claims against all parties"
unless "the court acts pursuant to Maryland Rule
2-602(b) to direct the entry of a final judgment as to less
than all of the claims or all of the parties, " and (3)
"it must be set forth and recorded in accordance with
Rule 2-601." Metro Maint. Sys. S., Inc. v.
Milburn, 442 Md. 289, 298 (2015); see Md. Code,
Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 12-301. To constitute an
"unqualified, final disposition, an order of a circuit
court must be so final as either to determine and
conclude the rights involved or to deny the appellant
the means of further prosecuting or defending his or her
rights and interests in the subject matter of the
proceeding." Id. at 299 (emphasis in original).
The order need not resolve the merits of the case, but it
must have the effect of "putting the party out of
court." Id. (internal citations omitted).
respect to interlocutory orders, or orders that do not
dispose of all the claims against all parties, such orders
are immediately appealable only under three narrow exceptions
to the final judgment rule: (1) "appeals from
interlocutory orders specifically allowed by statute";
(2) appeals certified under Maryland Rule 2-602; and (3)
"appeals from interlocutory rulings allowed under the
common law collateral order doctrine." Schuele v.
Case Handyman & Remodeling Servs., LLC, 412 Md. 555,
566 (2010). Under the first exception, Md. Code, Cts. &
Jud. Proc. § 12-303(2) provides that a party may appeal
from "[a]n order granting or denying a motion to quash a
writ of attachment, " but as the Montgomery County
Circuit Court here had not, as of the time of the filing of
this Complaint, ruled upon a motion to quash, this exception
is inapplicable to this case. Second, no appeal has been
certified under Rule 2-602. Third, the collateral order
doctrine "permits premature appeals" only from
"a limited class of cases."
Schuele, 412 Md. at 572 (emphasis added). These
include an interlocutory order that "(1) conclusively
determines the disputed question, (2) resolves an important
issue, (3) resolves an issue that is completely separate from
the merits of the action, and (4) would be
effectively unreviewable if the appeal had to await the entry
of a final judgment." Id. (emphasis in
prejudgment attachment ordered by the Circuit Court was not
an unqualified, final disposition of the matter in
controversy, nor did it conclusively determine a disputed
question. Indeed, prejudgment attachment by its very nature
invites further prosecuting or defending of the rights and
interests involved in the subject matter of the proceeding.
Failure to do so results in the dissolution of the attachment
or disposition of the property. See Md. Rule
2-115(i)-(k). Viewed in this context, Plaintiff cannot be
considered a "state court loser." See Green v.
Mattingly, 585 F.3d 97, 102 (2d Cir. 2009) (plaintiff
not a "state court loser" for Rooker-
Feldman purposes where state court had issued an
order temporarily removing plaintiffs child after an ex
parte emergency hearing). The issue presented also
cannot be considered "inextricably intertwined"
because Plaintiffs success on the claim does not depend on
this Court's determination that the state court was
"wrong." Preventing review of such a prejudgment
attachment is not contemplated by the principles of
Rooker-Feldman, which merely restricts federal
courts from exercising appellate jurisdiction over state
Plaintiff s as-applied challenge to the state court
attachment were barred as an unreviewable interlocutory
order, Plaintiff also clearly makes a facial challenge to the
constitutionality of the underlying prejudgment attachment
statute, which is an independent claim not barred by
Rooker-Feldman. See D.C. Court of Appeals v.
Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 486 (1983) (noting that
"[c]hallenges to the constitutionality of state bar
rules, therefore, do not necessarily require a United States
District Court to review a final state court judgment").
As the court in Willner noted:
The rationale of Feldman makes clear that. . .
whether [plaintiffs] may bring their claims in federal
district court depends on whether their challenge to [the
state] ... statute is facial or as-applied. If the former,
then it may proceed, because the plaintiffs would then be
challenging an act of the . . . state legislature. But if the
latter, then it is barred by the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine because the ...