United States District Court, E.D. California
April 10, 2014
MADONNA YAGUIL, Plaintiff,
GARY LEE, et al., Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS
JOHN A. MENDEZ, District Judge.
This matter is before the Court on Defendant Gary Lee's ("Defendant") Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. #8). Plaintiff Madonna Yaguil ("Plaintiff") opposes the motion (Doc. #9) and Defendant replied (Doc. #10). For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint is GRANTED.
I. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Plaintiff originally filed this action on January 16, 2014, against Defendant. In the complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant has breached the I-864 Affidavit of Support.
Plaintiff is a Philippine citizen. She married Defendant, a United States Citizen, on April 28, 2011. As part of Plaintiff's naturalization process, Defendant signed United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Form I-864 ("I-864 Affidavit"). See generally Aff., Compl. Ex. A, Doc. #2. By signing the I-864 Affidavit, Defendant promised to provide any support necessary to maintain Plaintiff at an income of no less than 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Id . As the form explains, the I-864 Affidavit "create[s] a contract between [the sponsor] and the U.S. Government, " which can be enforced by the sponsored immigrant. Aff. at 6. The sponsor's obligation ends if the sponsored immigrant (1) becomes a U.S. citizen, (2) works 40 quarters as defined by the Social Security Act, (3) no longer has lawful permanent resident status and permanently leaves the United States, (4) receives a new grant of adjustment of status based on a new Affidavit of Support, or (5) dies. Id. at 7. The form states, "Note that divorce does not terminate your obligations under this Form I-864." Id.
On November 7, 2013, a Judgment of Divorce was entered in the Superior Court for the State of California, County of Sacramento. Compl. ¶ 13. Plaintiff alleges that since at least November 7, 2013, Defendant has not maintained Plaintiff at an income that is at least 125 percent of Federal Poverty Guidelines. Id . ¶ 14.
A. Judicial Notice
Defendant requests judicial notice of four filings in Gary T. Lee Jr. v. Madonna Yaguil Lee, 12FL06880, Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento: Respondent's Statement of Issues, Family Law Stipulation and Order, Judgment for Dissolution, and Notice of Entry of Judgment. Exs. A-D, Defendant's Request for Judicial Notice ("DRJN"), Doc. #8-1. These documents are appropriate for judicial notice because federal courts are allowed to take judicial notice of proceedings in other courts. U.S. ex rel Robinson Rancheria Citizens Council v. Boerno, Inc. , 971 F.2d 244, 248 (9th Cir. 1992) (citing St. Louis Baptist Temple, Inc. v. FDIC , 605 F.2d 1169 (10th Cir. 1979)). Accordingly, the Court grants Defendant's request for judicial notice.
Defendant contends that res judicata applies to this action because the parties have already litigated the issue of support in state court during the divorce proceedings. Plaintiff responds that the divorce judgment has no preclusive effect in this instance because the state court did not decide the I-864 Affidavit support issue.
Res judicata, also known as claim preclusion, prohibits lawsuits on "any claims that were raised or could have been raised" in a prior action. Owens v. Kaiser Found. Health Plan, Inc. , 244 F.3d 708, 713 (9th Cir. 2001) (quoting W. Radio Servs. Co. v. Glickman , 123 F.3d 1189, 1192 (9th Cir. 1997)). In order for a claim to be barred by res judicata, there must be "(1) an identity of claims, (2) a final judgment on the merits, and (3) identity or privity between parties." Id.
Plaintiff only disputes the first requirement, identity of claims, arguing that spousal support is different from I-864 Affidavit support. However, in the statement of issues filed by Plaintiff in the parties' marital dissolution action, Plaintiff stated that Defendant should pay spousal support because "[s]ince the separation (19months) my sponsor Mr. Gary Lee failed to comply the I-864 [sic]." Respondent's Statement of Issues, Ex. A, Doc. #8-1, at 5. Plaintiff acknowledges that the I-864 Affidavit was part of the documents for the settlement conference, but then argues that at the settlement conference, "the issue was apparently dropped." Opp. at 2. In addition, in her declaration, Plaintiff states that she did not waive or intend to waive any right to support under the I-864 Affidavit. Declaration of Madonna Yaguil, Doc. #9-3, ¶ 3. However, there is no evidence that the issue was dropped. Therefore, even if spousal support is different from I-864 Affidavit support, Plaintiff raised it as an issue in the marital dissolution action under the heading for spousal support thereby removing any distinction between the two. For example, in Nguyen v. Dean, the court rejected the plaintiff's argument that spousal support was different from I-864 financial support because the exhibits attached showed that the plaintiff presented evidence and argued that the divorce court should award plaintiff support based on the I-864 Affidavit. Nguyen v. Dean, CIV. 10-6138-AA, 2011 WL 130241, *2-3 (D. Or. Jan. 14, 2011).
Because Plaintiff raised this issue in state court, this case is different from the cases cited by Plaintiff: Erler v. Erler, CV-12-2793-CRB , 2013 WL 6139721 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 21, 2013) and Shah v. Shah, CIV. 12-4648 RBK/KMW, 2014 WL 185914 (D.N.J. Jan. 14, 2014). In Erler, the court held that the divorce judgment did not void the I-864 Affidavit because the divorce judgment was based on the premarital agreement and the Affidavit did not go to the validity of the premarital agreement. Erler, CV-12-2793-CRB , 2013 WL 6139721, at *3. In Shah, the court held that the there was no evidence in the record that the plaintiff's claim was litigated and decided by another court. Shah, CIV. 12-4648 RBK/KMW, 2014 WL 185914, at *3. Here, contrastingly, there was no premarital agreement and Defendant has provided evidence that this issue was previously litigated.
Accordingly, because there is identity of claims, res judicata applies. The Court does not grant Plaintiff leave to amend because the claim cannot be saved by amendment. Consequently, the Court need not address Defendant's alternative Rooker-Feldman argument.
For the reasons set forth above, the Court GRANTS WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.
IT IS SO ORDERED.