Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Martinez v. Berrios

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

March 22, 2018

GILBERT M. MARTINEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
SARAI BERRIOS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          EDWARD G. SMITH, J.

         The pro se plaintiff has moved to proceed in forma pauperis in this action against the mother of one of his minor children. Apparently, the mother wrongfully removed the minor child from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania despite the plaintiff maintaining primary physical custody of the child. In addition, during a period of time in which the mother lacked physical custody of the minor child, she sought and received a tax credit for the minor child, which resulted in the Internal Revenue Service denying the plaintiff's claim for a similar credit.

         In response to the mother taking the minor child out of Pennsylvania, the plaintiff sought and obtained a state court order awarding him sole physical and legal custody of the minor child. He has now filed this action seeking damages and injunctive relief for violations of the Internal Revenue Code (for fraudulently claiming E.B. as a dependent in her tax return) and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (for wrongfully removing the minor from the plaintiff's custody).

         Although it appears that the mother's conduct in this case is wrongful and potentially unlawful, the plaintiff has failed to state a plausible claim for relief in this case. In particular, although the plaintiff is asserting causes of action under the Internal Revenue Code, the provisions he references do not provide a basis for him to obtain relief. Additionally, although the plaintiff claims that a violation of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act occurred, it appears that this court lacks jurisdiction to entertain such a claim and even if the court had jurisdiction, it does not appear that the Act provides for a federal cause of action for damages. Accordingly, the court must dismiss the complaint. Since the parties appear to be completely diverse and the plaintiff vaguely references tortious conduct by the defendant, the court will grant him leave to file an amended complaint in the event he can articulate a cognizable basis for a state law claim against the defendant.

         I. ALLEGATIONS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The pro se plaintiff, Gilbert M. Martinez (“Martinez”), commenced this action by filing a motion to proceed in forma pauperis (the “IFP Motion”), a proposed complaint against the defendant, Sarai Berrios (“Berrios”), and a purported motion for a preliminary injunction on March 1, 2018. Doc. No. 1. In the introductory paragraph of the complaint, Martinez describes this action as follows:

This is a [c]ivil action seeking injunction relief, monetary damages, past and ongoing economic loss, compensatory and punitive damages, disbursements, costs and attorney fees for tort acts brought in violation to (UCCJEA) the Uniform [C]hild [C]ustody Jurisdiction [and] Enforcement [A]ct of (1997), [t]he [f]raudulent filing of information on Federal tax returns pursuant to Internal Revenue [C]ode of 1986 as amended Public Law 104-168 Title VI sec. 601(a), 26 USC 7434, 26 USC 24 (child [t]ax [c]redit).

         Compl. at 1 (alterations to original), Doc. No. 1-1. He purports to invoke jurisdiction “pursuant to Article III Sec. 2 of the United States Constitution, 28 USC 1331, Public Law 104-168 Title VI sec. 601(a), 26 USC 7434, 26 USC 24 (child Tax [c]redit)” and states that “[t]his court has jurisdiction because the disputes which give rise to this claim are over violations over Federal Laws, and between citizens of different states.” Id. (alterations to original).

         For his factual allegations, Martinez alleges that he and Berrios have a minor son, E.B.[1]Id. at 2. Berrios currently resides in Florida. Id. In February 2015, Martinez's mother-in-law notified him that Berrios was asking his relatives if E.B. could live with them because she could not take care of E.B. anymore. Id. Berrios was also considering placing E.B. in a state home. Id.

         Upon hearing about Berrios's desire to no longer care for E.B., Martinez reached out to her and, after a brief discussion, they agreed that E.B. would come and live with him on a permanent basis.[2] Id. Berrios then discharged E.B. from school in Florida, and Martinez began a period of permanent physical custody over E.B. in Pennsylvania. Id. Since then, E.B. had been attending school in Reading, and he was recently working part-time at McDonald's. Id.

         In approximately January 2017, Martinez attempted to claim a child tax credit on his tax return only to have the Internal Revenue Service reject the claim because Berrios had already claimed E.B. as a dependent. Id. Approximately a year later, Martinez received a call from E.B.'s school indicating that E.B. had not attended school that day. Id. at 3. Martinez searched for E.B. for approximately three hours before calling the City of Reading Police Department and filing a missing person report. Id. Martinez also tried contacting Berrios to discern E.B.'s whereabouts, but she would not respond to him. Id. At some point, Martinez learned that Berrios had removed E.B. from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Id. at 2.

         In addition to taking E.B., Berrios filed a federal tax return in January 2018, in which she claimed E.B. as a dependent. Id. at 3. Martinez discovered this “fraudulent” claim, and on January 30, 2018, he sent the I.R.S. a “formal [stop] complaint advising them of the fraud.” Id. at 3 & Ex. C.

         Apparently, Martinez brought some sort of child custody action in state court and, after a hearing, the Honorable James Bucci of the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County determined that Berrios had unlawfully removed E.B. from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Id. at 3 & Ex. D. Judge Bucci also ordered that (1) Martinez has sole legal and physical custody of E.B., (2) Berrios (or any other person with physical custody of E.B.) must immediately surrender custody of E.B. to Martinez or any law enforcement officer enforcing this order, and (3) law enforcement is authorized to render assistance to Martinez in locating and delivering E.B. to Martinez's custody.[3] Id. at 3 & Ex. D. Martinez mailed a copy of Judge Bucci's order to Berrios on February 12, 2018. Id. at 3. Martinez also sent Berrios a text message informing her of the custody order, asking that she comply with it, and warning her that he would be filing the instant civil action against her in federal court if she did not comply with the order. Id.

         Based on the aforementioned allegations, Martinez asserts causes of action for violations of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”) (codified at 23 Pa. C.S. § 5401, et seq.) and two provisions of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. § 24 (relating to the child tax credit) and 26 U.S.C. § 7434 (relating to “Civil damages for fraudulent filing of information returns”) in count I of the complaint. Id. at 4-5. He claims that he “is entitled to recover against [Berrios] for injuries, damages and losses approximately caused by her conduct as set forth in this complaint.” Id. at 4 (alteration to original). He also asserts that he is “suffering and will continue to suffer irreparable injury and monetary damages as well as damages for fraud, mental anguish, emotional distress, financial hardship[, and he is entitled to] injunction relief, attorney fees, costs, and One Hundred Fifty one thousand (151, 000) dollars as well as punitive damage[s].” Id. at 4-5 (alterations to original).

         In count II of the complaint, Martinez purports to assert another claim under the UCCJEA and the Internal Revenue Code, but it appears to relate to a different set of facts. In particular, Martinez alleges that Berrios's act of “defrauding” him was “constructively planned by [Berrios] and others not party to this case to cause [him] to be subjected to losing state benefits from the Department of Public Welfare.” Id. at 5 (alterations to original). He asserts that Berrios and Gloria Margary (“Margary”), the mother of his youngest child, colluded on multiple occasions to lure him on trips away from his home so Margary could call the police and accuse him of crimes and then use the calls to gain advantage over him in custody matters and evade claims he was asserting against her. Id. Martinez appears to seek the same damages and remedies for this alleged misconduct. Id. at 6.

         Despite including requests for relief after each count in the complaint, Martinez includes a separate “PRAYER OF RELIEF” where he specifies the injunctive relief that he is seeking in this case. Id. at 6-7. It appears that he is seeking to have the court order Berrios to return E.B. to his custody in Pennsylvania and fine her $175.00 for every day that E.B. is not returned to him. Id. He also seeks a decree (1) stating that Berrios unlawfully claimed E.B. on her tax returns for the years 2016 and 2017, (2) directing the I.R.S. to stop any payments to her, and (3) directing the I.R.S. to pay the appropriate amount to him for his 2017 tax return. Id. at 7.

         Along with the complaint, Martinez filed a “Motion for Injunction Relief Memorandum of Law in Support.” Doc. No. 1-3. The motion

seek[s] relief against [Berrios] . . . for wrongful intentional tort acts removing [E.B.] from [Martinez's] custody and unlawfully claiming a child tax credit for [E.B.] for purposes to defraud and interfere with [Martinez's] tax returns & custody rights in violation of [the UCCJEA], The Fraudulent filing of information on Federal tax returns pursuant to Internal Revenue [C]ode of 1986 as amended Public Law 104-168 Title VI sec. 601(a), 26 USC 7434, 26 USC 24 (child Tax Credit).

         Mot. for Inj. Relief Mem. of Law in Supp. at 1 (alterations to original). Martinez requests that the court order (1) Berrios to pay $175.00 per day for every day that she does not return E.B. to him, and (2) the IRS to release payment on his tax ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.