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Josephine Amatucci v. Charles Hamilton et al.

May 18, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Landya McCafferty United States Magistrate Judge


Before the court for preliminary review are pro se plaintiff Josephine Amatucci's complaint (doc. no. 1) and two supplements thereto (doc. nos. 5 & 6), which the court considers collectively as the complaint, filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire Local Rule ("LR")

4.3(d)(1)(B). This is the third action Amatucci has brought in this court arising out of property disputes she has had with her neighbors in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. See Amatucci v. Hamilton, No. 05-cv-259-SM ("Amatucci I"); Amatucci v. Bolduc, No. 06-cv-225-JD ("Amatucci II"). She also brought at least one state-court action involving this same basic dispute. See Amatucci v. Hamilton, No. 2008-C-117 (N.H. Super. Ct., Carroll Cnty.) ("Amatucci III").*fn1 Even under the favorable standard of review afforded pro se litigants at this preliminary stage, see Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam) (following Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976), to construe pleadings liberally in favor of the pro se party), because the current suit is yet another iteration of Amatucci's familiar complaint based on the same underlying facts, it is barred under the doctrine of res judicata and should be dismissed.


I. Factual Background

Amatucci's legal troubles related to the claim in this case began in 2002, when she was arrested for damaging a car that belonged to her neighbor's guest and that was parked in front of her driveway. The charges from that incident were dismissed, but Amatucci's problems with her neighbors persisted, eventually culminating the following summer, when Amatucci and her neighbor, Pauline Maloney, each filed a stalking petition against the other. See Maloney v. Amatucci, No. 03-E-0080 (N.H. Super. Ct., Carroll Cnty. Aug. 6, 2003), and Amatucci v. Maloney, No. 03-E-0081 (N.H. Super. Ct. Carroll Cnty. July 1, 2003)*fn2 . On November 12, 2003, a hearing was held on the stalking petitions, at which Maloney and Amatucci, who each appeared pro se, mutually consented to a bench ruling that enjoined them from any further contact or communication with one another or any member of the other's family. That same day, the judge issued a written order reiterating the bench ruling, see id., Order (Nov. 12, 2003) ("Restraining Order"); however, the written order was not mailed until the following day and was not received by Amatucci until sometime later.

On November 13, 2003, the day after the hearing, Amatucci mailed a "demand letter" regarding a separate property dispute to Norman Bolduc, who is Pauline Maloney's brother and another of Amatucci's neighbors. Because Bolduc is a member of Maloney's family, the pair went to the Wolfeboro Police Department where they reported Amatucci's violation of the Restraining Order. Amatucci was arrested pursuant to state law that requires police officers to arrest persons who violate permanent protective orders. See N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. ("RSA") 173-B:9, I(a) (Supp. 2011); see also RSA 633:3-a, III-a (2007). The charges against Amatucci for violating the Restraining Order ultimately were dismissed.

Eight years later, in 2011, a court clerk advised Amatucci that the Restraining Order was a civil order that had been issued in equity. After learning this, Amatucci filed a motion for clarification and received the following order:

Upon review of the prior Orders in this matter, clarification is not deemed necessary. Specifically, the prior Orders were directed to remain "in full force and effect pending further Order of the Court" rather than for the finite term of Stalking Orders (see NHRSA 633:3-a, and NHRSA 173-B). The Orders are therefore by definition Restraining Orders in Equity, which was the intent of the Court.

Maloney v. Amatucci, No. 212-2003-EQ-0080-0081 (N.H. Super. Ct., Carroll Cnty. Aug. 17, 2011). Based on the above-quoted order, Amatucci believes that she should have been subject only to civil enforcement procedures for contempt of court rather than having been criminally charged, and that her 2003 arrest was the result of a conspiracy among the defendants to defraud the court.

II. Amatucci's Claims

In this case, Amatucci alleges that both the 2003 arrest and all the subsequent judgments against her resulted from a conspiracy to commit "fraud on the court." Amatucci contends that she should not be precluded from bringing this action because the state-court judge who issued the 2003 arrest warrant did not have jurisdiction over her, and, therefore, all the subsequent judgments against her based on the presumed validity of her initial arrest were similarly issued without jurisdiction and should be vacated. Amatucci also contends that this action is not barred by the statute of limitations because she only recently (in 2011) discovered the fraud on the court she is now alleging. Amatucci cites Rule 60(b) to support the relief she now seeks. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b) (allowing relief from a judgment, order or proceeding, based on, among other things, mistake, newly discovered evidence, fraud or misconduct).

Generously construing the complaint in Amatucci's favor, as is required at this preliminary stage of review, the court finds that ...

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