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Helen E. Ryan and John J. Ryan v. Timothy M. Hyden et al

October 9, 2012

HELEN E. RYAN AND JOHN J. RYAN,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
TIMOTHY M. HYDEN ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Michael M. Anello United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS [Doc. Nos. 4, 21, 22, 24, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31, 32, 35.]

This case arises out of circumstances surrounding a pending default judgment being entered against Plaintiffs Helen E. Ryan ("Helen") and John J. Ryan ("John") in the Eastern District of Virginia. The complaint names over twenty Defendants, and includes roughly the same number of claims. Most of the Defendants appeared and have moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims. [Doc. Nos. 4, 21, 22, 24, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31, 32, 35.] Among other issues, the Court is confronted here with the pervasive and unauthorized involvement of Plaintiffs' son, Mykal Ryan ("Mykal"), in this case. For all the reasons stated herein, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motions to dismiss in their entirety, and DISMISSES Plaintiffs' complaint with prejudice.

I. BACKGROUND*fn1

On March 29, 1999, the John and Christy Ryan Family Trust (the "Family Trust") was created. The Estate of John M. Ryan funded the trust, following John M. Ryan's death on March 19, 2005. John M. Ryan's minor son, JER, was the sole beneficiary of the trust. Mykal, John M. Ryan's brother, served as the executor of John's estate, and as successor trustee of the Family Trust.

A. Past Related Proceedings

In September 2006, Christy Babbitt-Ryan, the mother and guardian ad litem of JER, filed a petition with the Superior Court of the State of California, Alameda County. Ms. Babbitt-Ryan sought to remove Mykal as trustee of the Family Trust on grounds that he committed various breaches of his fiduciary duties and obligations, including using the trust assets for his own personal benefit. The court granted the petition, and entered a total judgment against Mykal in the amount of $1,031,764.81. Thereafter, on November 27, 2007, the Superior Court of the State of Arizona entered a separate judgment against Mykal in favor of the Family Trust in the amount of $56,431.89. The combined judgments entered against Mykal totaled $1,088,196.70.

On July 16, 2008, Mykal filed a voluntary petition under Chapter 7 of Title 11 of the United States Code. Relief was ordered. David R. Ruby, a defendant in the present case, was appointed as Chapter 7 Trustee.

Later, Mr. Ruby, as trustee of the bankruptcy estate, filed an adversary proceeding [Case No. APN-10-05026-FJS] in the Eastern District of Virginia against Mykal's parents, Helen and John J. Ryan, seeking: (1) to avoid and recover fraudulent transfers, fraudulent conveyances and voluntary conveyances; (2) to avoid and recover preferential transfers; (3) to avoid and recover post-petition transfers; (4) turnover of assets; and (5) a judgment of sums determined to be due the bankruptcy estate by Helen and John. The essence of the case involved recovering property Mykal transferred to Helen and John to hinder the Family Trust's efforts to recover missing trust property.

After the repeated failure of Helen and John to participate in the case, the Court initially entered default judgment against them in the amount of $352,524.31.*fn2 However, this order was later vacated by the Court. On May 24, 2012, the Bankruptcy Court issued its findings of fact and conclusions of law to the United States District Court recommending that default judgment be entered against Helen and John, and awarding damages totaling $352,524.31. To date, the District Court has yet to rule on the matter.

B. The Present Case

The present case, filed June 18, 2012, is by best estimation a collateral attack on the default judgment entered (though subsequently vacated) in Virginia against Helen and John. The complaint, which includes much rambling and little clarity, claims that the default judgment was the result of widespread fraud committed by Defendants at the above-referenced court proceedings. [See generally Compl., Doc. No. 1.] The complaint also includes a litany of other causes of action, including due process and equal protection claims. Attempting to discern the specific allegations of Plaintiffs' complaint is a demanding, if not impossible, exercise.

Defendants responded with motions to dismiss and motions to strike on various grounds, including lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1); lack of personal jurisdiction under 12(b)(2); improper venue under 12(b)(3); failure to state a claim under 12(b)(6); and failure to comply with the pleading requirements of Rule 8. It seems Defendants have suffered the same obstacles as the court in discerning what, if any, cognizable claims have been asserted against them. Each 12(b)(6) motion includes arguments for dismissal based on the vague and conclusory nature of the allegations in the complaint.

C. Mykal Ryan's Unauthorized Involvement

While considering Defendants' motions, the Court became aware of Mykal's ubiquitous involvement in this action.*fn3 Mykal is not a party to this action, nor is he an attorney. Nonetheless, Mykal--not his parents--appears to be the primary player in the case. For instance, Mykal, purporting to be John J. Ryan's attorney-in-fact, signed the complaint for John, who passed away on April 21, 2012.*fn4 Additionally, Mykal frequently contacts chambers to inquire about the status of the case: on Friday, September 21, he called to discuss "his" upcoming hearing; on Wednesday, September 26, he again called to request a hearing date. Mykal also attended the Show Cause hearing held by the Court on October 1 regarding these issues, and admitted to drafting the documents filed by Helen. Further, Mykal plays a starring role in the complaint, while his parents--the named plaintiffs--are mere extras. Indeed, the complaint repeatedly requests relief for harms suffered by Mykal and not his parents. For instance, the complaint appears to request that the underlying California and Arizona judgments against Mykal be vacated. [Compl. Doc. No. 1, pp. 10-11.] Mykal, not his mother or deceased father, would be the person to benefit if relief of this kind were granted.

The oral and written submissions received to date from both Mykal and Helen make reference to their reputable personal histories, which include significant government service. In particular, Mykal makes reference to his honorable service in the U.S. Army, including deployments to Iraq, for which both this Court and this nation are certainly grateful. As the Court mentioned in the October 1 Show Cause hearing, nothing that has been said or done, or that will be said or done, in this proceeding is intended in any way to detract from or diminish those personal accomplishments. However, that said, there is simply no justification for Mykal's unauthorized involvement in this litigation.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Mykal's Involvement Warrants Dismissal of the Case with Prejudice Mykal's involvement in this case is problematic, because: (1) he is a vexatious litigant; and (2) he is ...


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