Natale Ruisi v. Timothy O'Sullivan

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Superior Court of Connecticut.

Natale Ruisi v. Timothy O'Sullivan

FSTCV115013596S

Decided: May 2, 2011

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION RE MOTION TO DISMISS # 102

In this matter, the plaintiff, Natale Ruisi, has brought suit against the defendant, Timothy O'Sullivan (the defendant), who is the executive director of the New York state lawyers' fund for client protection (lawyers' fund).1  The plaintiff, a self-represented party, alleges that he has suffered health problems such as stress and atrial fibrilliation due to the actions of the defendant.   Specifically, the plaintiff alleges that he is “upset and devastated by Timothy O'Sullivan and the Lawyers' Fund's lack of acting on wrong doings of attorneys who commit crimes in the State of New York.” The present case is the second lawsuit that is currently pending between these same parties.   In Ruisi v. O'Sullivan, Superior Court, judicial district of Stamford–Norwalk at Stamford, Docket No. CV 10 5013421 (the 2010 case), the plaintiff alleged that he experienced financial and emotional damages resulting from the allegedly inappropriate handling of a series of attorney discipline matters by the lawyers' fund.   The 2010 case and the present matter appear to arise out of the same underlying factual circumstances.

On June 21, 2010, the defendant brought a motion to dismiss the 2010 case.   The defendant moved to dismiss the 2010 case on the grounds of sovereign immunity and lack of personal jurisdiction under the Connecticut long-arm statute.   This motion to dismiss was denied by the court, Karazin, J.T.R., on July 6, 2010.   Following the denial of his motion to dismiss, the defendant subsequently filed a motion to strike on July 20, 2010.   In his motion to strike, the defendant stated that the plaintiff's complaint was legally insufficient because the plaintiff's claims were barred under the doctrine of sovereign immunity.   The defendant also argued that the Connecticut long-arm statute would not allow this court to obtain personal jurisdiction over him and that the court had no personal jurisdiction because the plaintiff had not served the attorney general's office as is required under New York law.2  By a memorandum of decision dated November 2, 2010, the court, Karazin, J.T.R., denied the defendant's motion in its entirety.   On November 19, 2010, the defendant appealed the court's denial of his motion to strike to the Appellate Court.

On March 7, 2011, the plaintiff filed the present case.   As previously mentioned, the facts in this matter and the 2010 case appear to be largely the same.   The defendant filed the motion to dismiss that is currently before the court on March 16, 2011.   Once again, the defendant is moving to dismiss this case on sovereign immunity grounds, as well as this court's lack of personal jurisdiction under the long-arm statute and for the plaintiff's failure to serve the New York state attorney general's office.3  Consequently, the present motion to dismiss raises the same issues as those that are currently pending before the Appellate Court in the 2010 case.   Although there are some differences between the allegations that are made in the plaintiff's complaint in the 2010 case and the present matter, those distinctions are immaterial because the defendant is moving for dismissal on sovereign immunity and personal jurisdiction grounds.   Both sovereign immunity and personal jurisdiction involve the court's power over a particular type of person or entity, and, as a result, any subtle differences in the underlying factual allegations of the two cases are not relevant.   Accordingly, when it decides the pending appeal in the 2010 case, the Appellate Court will address the same issues that are raised in the motion to dismiss that is presently before the court.4  Therefore, it would be in the interests of judicial economy to await the Appellate Court's resolution of the appeal in the 2010 case before the court decides this motion to dismiss.

“The court has the inherent power to stay proceedings before it in the interest of the just resolution of controversies.”   Hilb Rogal & Hobbs Co. v. Siech, Superior Court, judicial district of Hartford, Docket No. CV 04 4004817 (March 23, 2005, Beach, J.) (38 Conn. L. Rptr. 706, 710 n.5).  “[T]he power to stay proceedings is incidental to the power inherent in every court to control the disposition of the causes on its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants.   How this can best be done calls for the exercise of judgment, which must weigh competing interests and maintain an even balance.”  (Internal quotation marks omitted.)  Lee v. Harlow, Adams & Friedman, P.C., 116 Conn.App. 289, 311–12, 975 A.2d 715 (2009).  “An order staying proceedings does not terminate the action but merely postpones its disposition.   It may be modified or vacated by the court whenever, in the exercise of a sound discretion, it is considered necessary or proper to do so.”  (Internal quotation marks omitted.)  Success Centers, Inc. v. Huntington Learning Centers, Inc., 223 Conn. 761, 771, 613 A.2d 1320 (1992).   Many Connecticut Superior Court judges have sua sponte stayed a case pending the resolution of another matter that raises similar issues.   See, e.g., Connecticut Ins. Guaranty Assn. v. Harbec, Superior Court, judicial district of New London, Docket No. 529690 (June 3, 1997, Handy, J.) (holding that “[i]n light of the overlapping issues, this court, sua sponte, stays the proceedings in the above-captioned matter pending the outcome of the [pending] appeal”);  Lowe v. Lowe, Superior Court, judicial district of Danbury, Docket No. FA 94 0066876 (June 14, 1996, Axelrod, J.) (17 Conn. L. Rptr. 165, 167) (the court, sua sponte, issued a stay of all proceedings in Connecticut in order to allow a New Hampshire court to determine whether it had continuing jurisdiction to enter financial orders).

Given that the issues raised in this motion to dismiss are virtually indistinguishable from those that will be examined by the Appellate Court in the appeal in the 2010 case, the court stays its resolution of this motion to dismiss until the Appellate Court issues a ruling in the 2010 case.   After the Appellate Court has issued its ruling on the appeal in the 2010 case, this court will then be able to decide this motion to dismiss in accordance with the guidance given by the Appellate Court.

SO ORDERED.

EDWARD R. KARAZIN, JR.

JUDGE TRIAL REFEREE

FOOTNOTES

1.  FN1. It is somewhat unclear whether both O'Sullivan and the lawyers' fund are named as defendants or if O'Sullivan is the only defendant in this case.   The courthouse records and the case caption at the top of the plaintiff's complaint only list O'Sullivan as a defendant.   Furthermore, according to the return of service, it appears that only O'Sullivan was served with process as opposed to the lawyers' fund generally.   Nevertheless, a close reading of the plaintiffs' complaint leads to the conclusion that the plaintiff probably wanted both O'Sullivan and the lawyers' fund to be defendants in this case.   Despite this fact, as only O'Sullivan was served with process and is the only defendant listed in the courthouse records, this memorandum will refer to a single defendant as opposed to two defendants.

2.  FN2. Additionally, in this motion to strike, the defendant also argued that the plaintiff “could not present a cognizable claim for compensatory relief under the applicable [New York] statutes and regulations.”

3.  FN3. The defendant is also moving to dismiss the present case under the prior pending action doctrine based on the fact that the 2010 case is still pending.

4.  FN4. The court notes that in the 2010 case, the defendant chose to appeal this court's denial of his motion to strike as opposed to his motion to dismiss.   Questions of jurisdiction are properly raised on a motion to dismiss;  Practice Book § 10–31;  as opposed to a motion to strike.   Practice Book § 10–39.   Accordingly, there is a chance that the Appellate Court will decide not to address the defendant's personal jurisdiction argument because the defendant has appealed this court's denial of a motion to strike.   Nevertheless, as sovereign immunity implicates subject matter jurisdiction;  see Beecher v. Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut, 282 Conn. 130, 134, 918 A.2d 880 (2007);  and it can be raised at any time and is non-waivable;  Practice Book § 10–33;  the Appellate Court will necessarily have to examine the defendant's sovereign immunity argument.

Karazin, Edward R., J.T.R.

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