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Mergia v. Adams

June 4, 2009

AYALEW MERGIA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ANNE MARIE ADAMS, DEFENDANT.



FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The parties' cross-motions for summary judgment came on regularly for hearing June 4, 2009. Plaintiff appeared telephonically in propria person. Christie B. Mitchell appeared for defendant. Upon review of the motion and the documents in support and opposition, upon hearing the arguments of plaintiff and counsel and good cause appearing therefor, THE COURT FINDS AS FOLLOWS:

This court has jurisdiction over the complaint pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1183a(e)(1), which provides, in pertinent part:

An action to enforce an affidavit of support executed under subsection (a) of this section may be brought against the sponsor in any appropriate court . . . by a sponsored alien, with respect to financial support.

Id.

Defendant seeks summary judgment on the grounds that plaintiff has already litigated the issue of the Affidavit of Support, as well as his constitutional claims, and asks the court to enforce the terms of the family law judgment entered August 7, 2007, in which the parties stipulated that spousal support would forever terminate on October 31, 2007. Defendant also contends that the Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) was "bilaterally rescinded on May 9, 2007" and is unenforceable because it would change the terms of the judicially supervised marital settlement agreement entered into judgment on August 7, 2007. Defendant argues that plaintiff's civil rights claim fails because defendant is not a state actor and did not act under color of state law.

In his cross-motion for summary judgment, plaintiff contends defendant and her attorneys have engaged in "fraudulent and deceptive acts" that have caused both state and bankruptcy courts to engage in unconstitutional conduct.*fn1 Plaintiff argues he was deprived of a reasonable opportunity to have his federal claims heard in both state and bankruptcy courts. As plaintiff argued in bankruptcy court, plaintiff renews his request to have the state court judgment declared null and void, based on the deprivation of his right to have his federal claim heard, rather than denied based on a lack of jurisdiction. Plaintiff also asks this court to enforce the Affidavit of Support.

Undisputed Facts*fn2

Plaintiff is an Australian citizen. Defendant is a United States citizen. On June 30, 2005, defendant signed a Federal Affidavit of Support (Form I-864)(hereafter "Affidavit of Support.") (Deft.'s Ex. F at 7 [Docket No. 36-4 at 7.])

Plaintiff and defendant were married on September 27, 2004. Plaintiff was admitted to the United States under a family visa on October 10, 2005.

Plaintiff and defendant separated on April 17, 2006, and defendant filed a dissolution petition in the Sacramento Court Superior Court in 2006. (Case No. 06FL0391.) The record is unclear whether either party listed the Affidavit of Support in their moving papers in the divorce action. However, plaintiff states that

During the pendency of the dissolution proceeding, I sought enforcement of the Affidavit against Defendant. The Sacramento Superior Family Court, however, abused its discretion; refused and denied my right to enforce the Affidavit on jurisdiction grounds.

(Complt. at ¶ 13.)

On June 20, 2006, the Sacramento County Superior Court ordered defendant to pay plaintiff $3,500.00 each month in spousal support. On April 25, 2007, the status of the marriage was bifurcated and the marriage was dissolved. (Docket No. 35-2 at 2.)

On May 9, 2007, the parties attended a mandatory settlement conference in California Superior Court, and entered into the following stipulation:

Petitioner will pay to Respondent the sum of three thousand five hundred dollars ($3,500.00) per month on the lst day of each month starting May 12, 2006 and continuing until and through October 31, 2007. The parties stipulate and agree that spousal support will forever terminate on October 31, 2007. At that time, no court will have jurisdiction to award spousal support to either party. The duration of support shall not be continued for any reason, no matter if there is a change in circumstances.

(Deft.'s Ex. A at 4 and 13.) This handwritten agreement was initialed by both parties and signed by both parties. (Id., at 13.) This stipulation was finalized and entered into judgment on August 7, 2007.*fn3 (Id.)

Plaintiff's family law attorney presented the Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) as evidence in the state court action on November 29, 2007. (Docket No. 45 at 3.) Plaintiff contends he was not aware of the Affidavit of Support on May 9, 2007. (Docket No. 45 at 3.) Plaintiff avers that defendant's attorney argued the state court lacked jurisdiction as it was an immigration issue; the court declined to hear the issue, stating it must be heard by the federal court. (Docket No. 45 at 3.)

On January 24, 2008, trial was held in the pending dissolution proceeding in state court. (Docket No. 36-7 at 10.)

Plaintiff contends he attempted to submit the Affidavit of Support again and the relief judge who presided at the final dissolution trial declined to hear the issue on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction. (Docket No. 45 at 4.)

On February 5, 2008, plaintiff filed for bankruptcy. (Case No. 08-21325-B-7.)*fn4 Plaintiff did not list the Affidavit of Support as an asset in the bankruptcy proceedings. (Id., Petition filed February 5, 2008, at Schedule B, page 1.)*fn5

For some unexplained reason, two judgments were entered on the reserved issues in the dissolution action:

1. On February 14, 2008, judgment on reserved issues was entered in the Sacramento County Superior Court Case No. 06FL03291. (Docket No. 36-7 at 9.) Trial was held on January 24, 2008 before Judge Michael Byrne. (Docket No. 36-7 at 10.) Defendant and her attorney and plaintiff were present in court. (Docket No. 36-7 at 10.) Judge Byrne signed this judgment on February 14, 2008. (Docket No. 36-7 at 11.)

2. On March 17, 2008, judgment on reserved issues was entered in the Sacramento County Superior Court Case No. 06FL03291. (Docket No. 36-7 at 6.) This judgment noted that trial was held on January 24, 2008 in Department 120 before Judge Michael Byrne; defendant and her attorney and plaintiff were present in court. (Docket No. 36-7 ...


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