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Weber v. McGrogan

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

September 12, 2019

AMY WEBER, Individually, and as Parent, Natural Guardian and Next Friend on behalf of K.A., a Minor
v.
FRANCES A. MCGROGAN, Individually and as a STATE actor Judge for the Bergen County Family Court; PETER J. MELCHIONNE, individually and as a STATE actor Judge for the Bergen County Family Court; KENNETH J. SLOMIENSKI, individually and as a STATE actor Judge for the Bergen County Family Court; GARY N. WILCOX, individually and as a STATE actor Judge for the Bergen County Family Court; BONNIE J. MIZDOL, individually and as a STATE actor Judge for the Bergen County Family Court; PETER DOYNE, individually and as a STATE actor Judge for the Bergen County Family Court; MARCELLE NICOLE, individually and as a STATE actor Law Clerk for the Bergen County Family Court; GOVENOR CHRIS CHRISTIE, individually and as STATE actor Governor; SENTATOR ROBERT MENENDEZ, individually and as STATE actor Senator; SENATOR NICHOLAS SACCO, individually and as STATE actor Senator; STATE OF NEW JERSEY; BERGEN COUNTY FAMILY COURT OF THE SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY; ANTHONY D'URSO; JOAN GLAESER; BRETT BILLER; RICHARD COCO; KYONGOK KIM; JULIA DEBELLIS; NINA AGRAWAL; JEMOUR MADDUX; SARA MICHAELOWLSKI; PATRICIA SERMABIKIAN; FAMILIES FIRST; VICTORIA MADDEN; CHILDRENS AIDS AND FAMILY SERVICES; RACHEL POLAN; PATRICIA KRYGER; MARIA MAHTANI; CLAIRE ABEL; DIVISION OF CHILD PROTECTION AND PERMANENCY f/k/a DYFS; ATTORNEY GENERAL NEW JERSEY; STATE OF NEW JERSEY BOARD OF ETHICS; MONIQUE D'ERRICO, Esq.; MARY ZEC, Esq.; CARYN STALTER, Esq.; YLLINI TORRES; DOLORES COUNNEELY; RUTH BAZZANO; LOURDES NUNEZ; DANILLE GONZALEZ; LUIS PADIERNA; CYNTHIA MCWHITE; VICTORIA SUMMERS; JOAN TAKACS; MARTHA VAZQUEZ; MARIA GONZALEZ; NICOLLE MILLER; HAYDEE ZAMORA-DALTON; KELLY NESTOR; LUKE DRUMMOND; MARISOL NARANJO; JESSICA MULLIGAN; BERGEN COUNTY DIVISION OF FAMILY GUIDANCE; JUDITH LEGGET; RESSA VILLANI; DENNIS CHETEYAN; DR. DANIEL BROMBERG; DR. DONNA LOBIONDO; SAMSIRI SOSTRE; VIVIAN CHERN SHNADIMAN; ROBERT LATIMER; DR. HAROLD GOLDSTEIN; JACQUELINE KIM SZABO; MICHAEL LAMOLINO, Esq.; ROBYN VEASEY; ALL ABOUT ME LEARNING CENTER; MICHAEL CULVER; CONNIE CULVER; DOES #1 THRU 33; AUDREY HEPBURN CHILDREN'S HOUSE; KEYSHA TYSON; KEITH J. YONOS, Real Party of Interest Amy Weber, Appellant

          Argued June 5, 2019

          On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (D.C. No. 2-14-cv-07340) District Judge: Hon. Claire C. Cecchi

          Christopher T. Zirpoli, Esq. [ARGUED] Covington & Burling LLP Court Appointed Amicus Curiae on behalf of Appellant

          Gurbir S. Grewal Thomas P. Lihan, Esq. Michael R. Sarno, Esq. [ARGUED] Office of the Attorney General Division of Law Attorneys for Appellees Frances A. McGrogan, individually and as a STATE Judge for the Bergen County Family Court

          Daniel R. Esposito, Esq. Buckly Theroux Kline Attorney for Appellees Audrey Hepburn Children's House, Brett Biller, Richard Coco, Anthony D'Urso, Joan Glaeser, Kyongok Kim, Jemour Maddux, Sara Michaelowlski, Patricia Sermabikian

          Robert E. Levy, Esq. Scarinci & Hollenbeck Attorney for Appellee Senator Robert Menendez, individually and as State actor Senator

          Cyndee L. Allert, Esq. Elizabeth A. Farrell, Esq. Dughi Hewit & Domalewski Attorneys for Appellees Julia DeBellis, Nina Agrawal, Robert Latimer

          Paul J. Soderman, Esq. Attorney for Appellee Families First, Victoria Madden

          Darrell M. Felsenstein, Esq. Wells Jaworski & Lebman Attorney for Appellees Childrens Aids and Family Services, Rachel Polan, Patricia Kryger, Maria Mahtani, Claire Abel

          Julien X. Neals, Esq. Robert N. Schwartz, Esq. Office of Bergen County Counsel Attorneys for Bergen County Division of Family Guidance, Judith Legget

          William T. McGloin, Esq. Connell Foley Attorney for Dr. Daniel Bromberg, Dr. Donna LoBiondo

          William J. Buckley, Esq. Thomas N. Gamarello, Esq. Schenck Price Smith & King Attorneys for Vivian Chern Shnadiman

          Melissa J. Brown, Esq. Marks O'Neill O'Brien Doherty & Kelly Attorney for Jacqueline Kim Szabo

          Before: JORDAN, BIBAS, and MATEY, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          MATEY, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Sometimes a difficult journey produces fresh insights, like when the "[l]ongest way round is the shortest way home."[1]In this appeal, Amy Weber argues persuasively that her complaint was erroneously dismissed. But rather than decide that question, we must dismiss the appeal for lack of a final order. That result is regrettable, but not unexpected, as finality is a necessary predicate to appellate review. Indeed, an epic poem of problems often follows when charting any other course. Our opinion seeks to eliminate some of that confusion while reminding litigants and courts that following the rules ensures predictable outcomes and effective results.

         I. The Proceedings Before the District Court

         A. Weber Begins Her Odyssey

         We begin our journey in 2014 when Appellant Amy Weber sued, pro se, nearly sixty defendants in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.[2] Weber's complaint stems largely from her experiences dealing with New Jersey public officials during a child custody matter, a controversy that involved litigation in the New Jersey state courts. When she filed her federal complaint, Weber was also appealing an adverse custody decision to the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court. The specter of this seemingly related state court action caused the District Court to consider the prudential limitations on subject-matter jurisdiction in the abstention doctrines. Following briefing, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation that Weber's claims be dismissed under the principles of Rooker-Feldman or Younger.[3] And that is where the story begins its journey into mystery.

         B. Between Scylla and Charybdis

         The District Court issued a Memorandum Opinion adopting the Report and Recommendation, accompanied by an order dismissing Weber's complaint without prejudice and permitting her thirty days to amend. In a letter dated June 27, 2016, Weber filed a notice of appeal with this Court. That notice prompted a July 21, 2016 letter by our Circuit Clerk advising Weber that her appeal "will be submitted to a panel of this Court for possible dismissal due to a jurisdictional defect" because her complaint had been dismissed by the District Court without prejudice and thus "may not be reviewable at this time by a court of appeals." The Clerk's letter enclosed a copy of 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and summarized the holding in Borelli v. City of Reading, 532 F.2d 950 (3d Cir. 1976) (per curiam), stating that, "to be final, order of dismissal must be with prejudice; order dismissing without ...


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