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Maravelias v. Coughlin

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

November 4, 2019

Paul Maravelias, Plaintiff
v.
Hon. John J. Coughlin; Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald; Patricia G. Conway, Esq.; Town of Windham; and the Windham Police Department, Defendants

          ORDER

          Steven J. McAuliffe United States District Judge.

         Pro se plaintiff, Paul Maravelias, brings this action challenging the constitutionality of a stalking order entered against him by the New Hampshire Circuit Court. He also asks the court to declare that the state statute pursuant to which that stalking order was issued is both facially overbroad and void for vagueness. He seeks injunctive and declaratory relief, invalidating the stalking order and preventing defendants from enforcing the terms of that stalking order. As defendants, Maravelias has named the state court judge who entered the stalking order, and various people and organizations he fears may enforce that order against him: the New Hampshire Attorney General, the Rockingham County Attorney, the Town of Windham, and the Windham Police Department.

         Defendants move to dismiss Maravelias's amended complaint asserting, among other things, that this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to entertain his claims under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Maravelias objects. For the reasons discussed, defendants' motions to dismiss are granted and the case is dismissed.

         Background

         This case has been extensively litigated over the years and the relevant factual background has been set forth at length in earlier judicial opinions. See, e.g., DePamphilis v. Maravelias, No. 2018-0483 (N.H. Jan. 16, 2019) (document no. 26-1). See also DePamphilis v. Maravelias, 2017 WL 3468651 (N.H. July 28, 2017). That background need not be recounted in detail here. It is sufficient to note that those opinions describe a history of disturbing behavior by Maravelias, stemming from his years-long obsession with a young woman named Christina, who is significantly younger than he - an obsession that began when Christina was only 11 years old.[1]

         Maravelias's obsession with Christina has not abated over the years and has been punctuated by events that include, for example, his attempt to give Christina a new Maserati sports car when she was a sophomore in high school - an offer that was rejected in unambiguous terms. Subsequently, Maravelias either wrote or, as he claims, merely “aided the composition” of, an “anonymous” letter that was sent to Christina. The New Hampshire Supreme Court described that letter as containing “graphic allegations concerning sexual behavior” and what can best be described as ranting, abusive, and vulgar language attacking Christina, her mother, and her father. See DePamphilis v. Maravelias, No. 2018-0483, slip op. at 4 (N.H. Jan. 16, 2019). More recently, Maravelias sent an email to four teachers at Christina's high school, demanding that she be removed from the school's chapter of the National Honor Society and accusing Christina of various criminal and anti-social behaviors. It is sufficient to note that Christina has a well-founded fear for her personal safety. Indeed, she testified that she was afraid that Maravelias's fixation on her had turned “from a love obsession to now a hate obsession.” DePamphilis v. Maravelias, No. 2018-0483, slip op. at 6 (N.H. Jan. 16, 2019).

         By January of 2018, Maravelias was already subject to a civil stalking order that had been issued by the New Hampshire Circuit Court, pursuant to N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. (“RSA”) 633:3-a. That order prevented Maravelias from, among other things, having any contact with Christina. Maravelias challenged that order when it was first issued (resulting in an appeal that was denied on the merits by the New Hampshire Supreme Court) and he pushed the restrictions embodied in that order to their very limits. On January 5, 2018, Christina moved the state court to extend the stalking order for another year. Following a three-day evidentiary hearing (at which Maravelias appeared, pro se, and extensively cross-examined Christina), the court granted Christina's motion and extended the protective order.

         Maravelias again pushed the limits of that order, prompting Christina to petition the court to modify it by imposing greater limitations on Maravelias (including restrictions that prevent him from accessing, possessing, and disseminating materials from Christina's social media accounts). Maravelias objected, asserting numerous claims, including: (1) that the proposed restrictions would violate his free speech rights under the state and federal constitutions; (2) that the modification was unconstitutionally vague and overbroad; and, (3) if entered, the modified stalking order would deny him due process.[2]

         The court (Coughlin, J. - a named defendant in this litigation) rejected Maravelias's arguments and, on August 7, 2018, granted Christina's request to modify the stalking order. That order (the “Modified Stalking Order”) is the subject of this litigation.

         Maravelias appealed the Modified Stalking Order to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, where he challenged the substance, scope, and constitutionality of the order itself, as well as the constitutionality of the statute under which it had been issued (RSA 633:3-a). His various claims were extensively briefed, in both his original appellate brief and his reply brief. In a lengthy order dated January 16, 2019, the New Hampshire Supreme Court rejected Maravelias's legal arguments and affirmed both the trial court's extension of the pre-existing stalking order, as well as its subsequent decision to enter the Modified Stalking Order. DePamphilis v. Maravelias, No. 2018-0483 (N.H. Jan. 16, 2019).

         It does not appear that Maravelias filed a petition seeking certiorari review in the United States Supreme Court. Instead, it would seem, he proceeded directly to this court, raising essentially the same claims he pressed in state court and seeking a judicial declaration that the Modified Stalking Order: (1) violates his free speech rights, as guaranteed by both the state and federal constitutions; (2) violates both his procedural and substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment; (3) violates his equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment; (4) violates the Ex Post Facto clause of the Constitution; and (5) exceeds the statutory authority vested in state courts by RSA 633:3-a. Also, in an apparent attempt to avoid the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, Maravelias's amended complaint includes a request that the court declare RSA 633:3-a both unconstitutionally broad and unconstitutionally vague on its face. Finally, as noted above, he seeks an injunction preventing any of the named defendants from enforcing the terms of the Modified Stalking Order against him.

         Discussion

         While each of Maravelias's claims appears to be frivolous, meritless, and misguided, this court lacks jurisdiction to address them on the merits, given the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Generally speaking, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine prevents a losing party in state court - like Maravelias - from seeking subsequent federal court review of that state court judgment by asserting that the state court judgment violated the loser's federally-protected rights. See Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 416 (1923); District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 476 (1983). See also Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005) (“The Rooker-Feldman doctrine, we hold today, is confined to cases of the kind from which the doctrine acquired its name: cases brought by state-court losers complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings commenced and inviting district court review and rejection of those judgments.”). Review of such state-court judgments can only be obtained in the United States Supreme Court. See Feldman, 460 U.S. at 476. See generally 28 U.S.C. § 1257.[3]

         Here, the thrust of Maravelias's lawsuit is undeniably an effort to invalidate the Modified Stalking Order that was upheld by the state supreme court before Maravelias instituted this action. Indeed, his prayer for relief makes that abundantly clear: he seeks a judicial declaration that the Modified Stalking Order is invalid and unconstitutional, and he also seeks an injunction preventing any of the named defendants from enforcing its terms against him. Under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, this court plainly lacks subject matter jurisdiction to entertain those claims, since doing so would necessarily involve a review of the New Hampshire Supreme Court's judgment upholding the validity and enforceability of both the extended stalking order and the Modified Stalking Order. See generally Exxon Mobil Corp.,544 U.S. 280; Sinapi v. R.I. Bd. of Bar ...


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