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Leisha Tringali v. Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance

November 13, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul Barbadoro United States District Judge

Opinion No. 2012 DNH 190


Leisha Tringali, appearing pro se, brings suit for declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and damages against the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance ("DTA"); the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, Child Support Enforcement Agency ("CSE"); the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles ("Massachusetts RMV"); and Doug Comfort, an employee of the CSE. The suit arises from the defendants' alleged failure to afford Tringali notice and a hearing before attempting to enforce a child support order against her. Tringali seeks relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for procedural due process violations. She also states an intention to assert state law claims, arising out of the same nucleus of facts, though she does not identify those state claims in her complaint.

Presently before the court is the defendants' motion to dismiss Tringali's complaint. Defendants assert that Tringali's claims against the state agencies and her claims against Doug Comfort in his official capacity are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Comfort also argues that Tringali has not pleaded a plausible claim that he proximately caused her alleged injuries. For the reasons set forth below, I grant the defendants' motion and dismiss Tringali's complaint.


Tringali and her former husband, Matthew Tringali, obtained a Judgment of Divorce on August 20, 1996, in Middlesex County Family and Probate Court (the "Divorce Action"). The original judgment was modified on September 29, 1998, to specify that Matthew and Leisha Tringali would have joint legal and physical custody over their child.

On April 12, 2000, Matthew's father, Peter Tringali, filed a separate action against Matthew seeking temporary guardianship (the "Guardianship Action"). Tringali does not explain what was at issue in this action. Nor does she state whether she was named as a defendant. She does allege, however, both that a temporary guardianship was granted for a period expiring on July 11, 2000, and that Leisha Tringali thereafter lost temporary custody of her child.

On August 9, 2001, Peter Tringali filed a motion for child support in the Divorce Action but he withdrew the motion on September 10, 2001. A few days later, a representative of the CSE filed a complaint seeking to modify the divorce judgment. The complaint named Leisha Eshbach rather than Leisha Tringali as the respondent even though Leisha Tringali has never used the name Eshbach. A summons was then issued in the name of Leisha Eshbach. The record does not disclose whether the summons was served. At some point thereafter, a temporary order of support and assignment of income (the "Support Order") was entered against Leisha Eshbach. Between March 2003 and some unspecified date in 2006, the CSE used the Support Order to obtain approximately $14,000 from Leisha Tringali by levying several different accounts in her name.

On December 5, 2003, a judge named Peter Tringali permanent guardian with custody of the Tringalis' child. No support was ordered at that time.

On June 13, 2011, the New Hampshire Department of Motor Vehicles denied Trinagli's request to renew her New Hampshire driver's license. After investigating the matter, Tringali determined that her Massachusetts license had been suspended because of overdue child support obligations. Tringali was not given notice of the fact that her license had been suspended, nor was she given a hearing on the issue.

On October 13, 2011, Tringali sent Doug Comfort a demand letter demanding, among other things, that any monies obtained from her be returned and that the suspension of her driving privileges should be lifted.


In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), the court's review is generally limited to the matters asserted in the complaint. See Curran v. Cousins, 509 F.3d 36, 44 (1st Cir. 2007). I must "accept as true the well-pleaded factual allegations of the complaint, draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in the plaintiff's favor and determine whether the complaint, so read, sets forth facts sufficient to justify recovery on any cognizable theory." Martin v. Applied Cellular Tech., 284 F.3d 1, 6 (1st Cir. 2002). The plaintiff must make factual allegations sufficient to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is facially plausible when it pleads "factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citations omitted).

Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by lawyers and are to be liberally construed in favor of the pro se party. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1979); Ahmed v. Rosenblatt, 118 F.3d 886, 890 (1st Cir. 1997). The Supreme Court's decision in Twombly "did not alter the courts' treatment of pro se filings; accordingly, we continue to construe pro se filings liberally when evaluating them under Iqbal." Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342, 342 n.7 (9th Cir. 2010) (collecting cases from the Second, Third, Fifth, Seventh, and, Tenth Circuits stating that pro se complaints must be construed liberally after Iqbal). See also Dutil v. Murphy, 550 F.3d 154, 158 (1st Cir. 2008) (construing pro se litigant's claim liberally post-Twombly); ...

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