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Krankowski v. O'Neil

March 26, 2010

SUSAN KRANKOWSKI, ET AL. PLAINTIFFS
v.
TIMOTHY O'NEIL, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Vanaskie

MEMORANDUM

Dissatisfied with her treatment during, as well as the results of, child support proceedings in the Court of Common Pleas of Northumberland County and the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, Plaintiff Susan Krankowski, proceeding pro se, brought this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983*fn1 on her own behalf and on behalf of her autistic and mentally challenged minor child.*fn2 Defendants, with the exception of Defendant Timothy J. O'Neil, have moved to dismiss, asserting, inter alia, that this Court lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate Plaintiff's claims as they amount to a challenge to the state court child support rulings, and, as such, are barred by application of the Rooker/Feldman doctrine.*fn3 Finding merit in Defendants' jurisdictional challenge, this Court will grant the motion to dismiss.

I. BACKGROUND

Ms. Krankowski and Defendant Timothy O'Neil are the parents of an autistic and mentally-challenged daughter born in 1996.*fn4 Ms. Krankowski has found it necessary to seek judicial intervention, both in state and federal court, on several occasions in relation to their daughter, who is in her custody.*fn5 This action is brought against Northumberland County Commissioners Vinnie Clausi, Frank Sawicki, and Kurt Masser; Northumberland County Domestic Relations staff members Cynthia Price, Shelley Supatina, Brian Moroskie, and Michael Seward; and Mr. O'Neil.

In June of 2005, Ms. Krankowski petitioned to modify an existing child support order, claiming that Mr. O'Neil should be paying substantially more than he was required to remit. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1-2.) In November, 2005, Mr. Seward conducted a combined "hearing and conference." (Id. at ¶ 3.) Ms. Krankowski unsuccessfully requested, inter alia, that Seward recuse himself. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that Mr. Seward and Mr. O'Neil, who participated via telephone, "snickered and laughed" throughout the hearing. (Id. at ¶ 4.) Subsequently, Plaintiff Krankowski learned that her child support was reduced from $1,086 per month to $920 per month. (Id. at ¶ 5.)

In January of 2006, a hearing was held before Judge Saylor of the Northumberland County Court of Common Pleas.*fn6 (Id. at ¶ 6.) Ms. Supatina was present at this proceeding. (Id.) At the hearing, Plaintiff requested all of Mr. O'Neil's financial information, which, she alleges, Ms. Supatina had refused to provide. (Id. at ¶ 8.) Judge Saylor advised Plaintiff that she would have to make a written discovery request for the financial information. (Id.)

In June, 2006, another hearing was held, the only proceeding for which a record was made. (Id. at ¶ 10.) For the first time, Plaintiff received Mr. O'Neil's financial information. (Id.) In July, 2006, oral argument was held. (Id. at ¶ 12.) Plaintiff estimated that $2,000 per month, without any extraordinary expenses, and with no income imputed to Plaintiff, would be an appropriate amount of child support. (Id.) Allegedly, a court reporter was present, but did not transcribe any record of the oral argument. Plaintiff also claims that Judge Saylor's law clerk "smirked" as Plaintiff addressed the court. (Id. at ¶ 13.)

On August 24, 2006, Judge Saylor entered an order awarding child support in the amount of $1,387 per month. See Krankowski v. O'Neil, 928 A.2d 284, 285 (Pa. Super. 2007). Plaintiff claims that the child support was "once again... computed in error." (Id. at ¶ 16.) She asserts that the amount awarded was about $1,000 less than called for by the 2005 child support guidelines as a result of the erroneous exclusion of various components of Mr. O'Neil's income. (Id.) Ms. Krankowski further alleges that her calls to Mr. Moroskie of the Domestic Relations unit were not returned. (Id.)

Both Mr. O'Neil and Ms. Krankowski appealed the child support award. In an opinion published at Krankowski v. O'Neil, 928 A.2d 284 (Pa. Super. 2007), the Superior Court affirmed the award. Addressing Mr. O'Neil's contentions, the Pennsylvania Superior Court held that (1) Mr. O'Neil's living quarter and post allowances as a civilian employee were properly included in his net income for purposes of calculating child support; and (2) the trial court was not required to assign any earning capacity to Ms. Krankowski, who has a law degree but is not currently licensed to practice law, given the extraordinary demands imposed upon her in raising her daughter. Turning to Ms. Krankowski's appeal, the Superior Court held that the calculation of child support was "amply supported by the record," and that Judge Saylor's "upward deviation" of ten percent (10%) was appropriate "given the circumstances of this case."*fn7 Id. at 287.

In January, 2008, Plaintiff contacted County Commissioner Clausi regarding problems she was having with her child's dental insurance and the "miscalculated support." (Am. Compl. ¶ 17.) Mr. Clausi referred Plaintiff to Ms. Rose Marquardt, who informed her that "this was 'a problem with the courts [sic] system.'" (Id.)

In March, 2008, Plaintiff went to retrieve the case file from the Northumberland County Court. (Id. at ¶ 18.) Eventually, a court employee located the file. (Id.) Plaintiff was told she could make notes of the file, but she was not permitted to make any photographic copies. (Id.) Plaintiff noticed that there were only two "parts" of the file, where there should have been "at least (5) excluding the transcript."*fn8 (Id.)

In March, 2008, after the Judges of Northumberland County Court of Common Pleas recused themselves from the matter, Plaintiff's child support claim was transferred to the Columbia County Court of Common Pleas for a decision regarding dental insurance. (Id. at ¶ 19.) The dental issue was resolved when Mr. O'Neil obtained private dental insurance for the child, and the case was returned to Northumberland County in November, 2008. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that upon receipt of the file the Northumberland County Domestic Relations unit "lowered Plaintiff's support even further," providing Plaintiff with an allegedly fabricated accounting sheet indicating that Mr. O'Neil had paid all arrears in full.*fn9 (Id. at ¶ 20.)

The Amended Complaint contains five counts. The first claim for relief asserts that Plaintiff was denied Substantive Due Process of the Fourteenth Amendment by all Defendants, and that the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment was violated by the deliberate reduction in Mr. O'Neil's earnings by Defendants Supatina and Seward in order to reduce the child support order, and the intentional affirmation of the miscalculation by Defendants Moraskie, Price, and O'Neil's attorney. (Id. at ¶¶ 25-32.) All Defendants purportedly acted in concert to appropriate Plaintiff's monetary and child support interests without providing just compensation. (Id. at ¶ 25.)

The second claim for relief, asserting violations of the Procedural Due Process component of the Fourteenth Amendment, alleges Defendants Price, Supatina, and Moroskie denied Plaintiff access to Mr. O'Neil's financial information before the hearing conducted by Mr. Seward, and failed to provide Mr. O'Neil's full financial situation prior to the June 2006 hearing before Judge Saylor. (Id. at ¶ 34-6.) Plaintiff also complains that she "[was] denied a recorded hearing at oral argument...." (Id. at ¶ 36.) Additionally, it is alleged that Plaintiff was denied a fair judicial review because Defendants removed contents of the case file, Judge Saylor's law clerk "narrowed Plaintiffs [sic] issues to omit the miscalculation of support[,]" Defendants denied Plaintiff a fair and ...


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