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FIORILLA FBO 25 2003 v. CITIGROUP GLOBAL MARKETS INC (2019)

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United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

John Leopoldo FIORILLA, Individually and as Trustee to FBO John Leopoldo Fiorilla Trust U/A/D/ 6-25-2003, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CITIGROUP GLOBAL MARKETS, INC., Edward James Mulcahu, Jr., Defendants-Appellees.

18-2196-cv

Decided: July 01, 2019

PRESENT: José A. Cabranes, Reena Raggi, Christopher F. Droney, Circuit Judges. FOR PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT: Bernard V. Kleinman, Law Office of Bernard V. Kleinman PLLC, Somers, NY. FOR DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES: Audra J. Soloway, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, New York, NY.

SUMMARY ORDER

Plaintiff-Appellant John Leopoldo Fiorilla, individually and as trustee to FBO John Leopoldo Fiorilla Trust U/A/D/ 6-25-2003 (“Fiorilla”), appeals the dismissal of his second amended complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). Fiorilla contends that the District Court erred in concluding that the entirety of his second amended complaint was barred by the so-called “Rooker-Feldman” doctrine. We assume the parties’ familiarity with the underlying facts, the procedural history of the case, and the issues on appeal.

We review de novo a district court’s dismissal of a complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1). See Carter v. HealthPort Techs., LLC, 822 F.3d 47, 56 (2d Cir. 2016). “In so doing, we accept the complaint’s material allegations as true, and we draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiffs’ favor.” Raymond Loubier Irrevocable Tr. v. Loubier, 858 F.3d 719, 725 (2d Cir. 2017).

Fiorilla does not dispute that he sues to set aside a state court judgment, which is generally barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. But he contends that the District Court erred in dismissing his complaint because there is a “fraud-on the-court” exception to the doctrine. He is wrong. We have clearly held that a plaintiff cannot rely on allegations that the state court judgment at issue “was obtained fraudulently” to avoid application of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Vossbrinck v. Accredited Home Lenders, Inc., 773 F.3d 423, 427 (2d Cir. 2014). As we have explained, “[t]his would require the federal court to review the state proceedings and determine that the ․ judgment was issued in error,” which Rooker-Feldman instructs we cannot do. Id. Accordingly, the District Court correctly determined that Fiorilla could not circumvent the Rooker-Feldman bar by alleging that the state court judgment was fraudulently obtained.

Fiorilla next contends that the District Court erred in finding that his damages claim against defendants for their alleged fraud on the courts is barred by Rooker-Feldman. Fiorilla argues that this claim is independent of any state court judgment because it is a suit against the defendants for their conduct before the court (not a request to set aside a state judgment) and, therefore, does not involve the type of “review and rejection” of state court judgments that Rooker-Feldman precludes. Sykes v. Mel S. Harris & Assocs. LLC, 780 F.3d 70, 94 (2d Cir. 2015) (quoting Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284, 125 S.Ct. 1517, 161 L.Ed.2d 454 (2005)). This argument is unavailing. Fiorilla’s fraud claim is “based upon the fraud perpetrated upon the state court,” Appellant Br. 37, and the only “damage” Fiorilla identifies from defendants’ alleged fraud comes from the unfavorable state court judgment. Accordingly, his fraud claim “invite[s] ․ review and rejection of that judgment,” which is precisely what Rooker-Feldman bars. Vossbrinck, 773 F.3d at 426 (quoting Hoblock v. Albany Cnty. Bd. of Elecs., 422 F.3d 77, 85 (2d Cir. 2005)). The District Court did not err in concluding that this claim is barred by Rooker-Feldman.

CONCLUSION

We have reviewed all of the arguments raised by Fiorilla on appeal and find them to be without merit. For the foregoing reasons, we AFFIRM the June 27, 2018 judgment of the District Court.

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