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O'Connell v. Glastonbury Landowners Association Inc.

United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division

November 19, 2018

DANIEL K. O'CONNELL, VALERY A. O'CONNELL, CHRISTAL O'CONNELL, SHANNON O'CONNELL, VESTA O'CONNELL Petitioners,
v.
GLASTONBURY LANDOWNERS ASSOCIATION INCORPORATED, GLASTONBURY LANDOWNERS BOARD OF DIRECTORS, Respondents.

          ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          TIMOTHY J. CAVAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiffs Daniel K. O'Connell, Valery A. O'Connell, Christal O'Connell, Shannon O'Connell, and Vesta O'Connell filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis (Doc. 1), and a proposed Complaint alleging constitutional violations stemming from their state court proceedings. (Doc. 2.) The motion to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted, but the Complaint should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

         I. Motion To Proceed In Forma Pauperis

         The O'Connells filed their motion to proceed in forma pauperis and submitted an account statement sufficient to make the showing required by 28 U.S.C. §1915(a). (Docs. 1 &1-1.) Because it appears the O'Connells lack sufficient funds to prosecute this action, the motion to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted.

         II. Analysis

         As explained below, the O'Connells' complaint should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.[1]

         A. State Court Proceedings

         The O'Connells have been engaged in protracted litigation with the Glastonbury Landowners Association and its Board of Directors. On May 8, 2017, judgment was entered against Daniel and Valery O'Connell in Montana's Sixth Judicial District Court, Park County. (Doc. 2 at 31-33.) Defendant Glastonbury Landowners Association, Inc. was awarded its attorney's fees in the amount of $18, 128.75, for which Daniel and Valery were held jointly and severally liable. Id. at 32. In addition, Valery, Daniel, and their children, Christal, Shannon, and Vesta, were all declared to be vexatious litigants, and were ordered to obtain approval from a Montana State court prior to making future filings. Id.

         Following post-judgment proceedings, the O'Connells filed a motion for an out-of-time appeal with the Montana Supreme Court. First, the O'Connells challenged the Montana Supreme Court's prior determination that their appeal was untimely. Next, the O'Connells asserted an out-of-time appeal was warranted for the children because they were not properly served prior to the district court's determination that the children were vexatious litigants. See, O'Connell, et. al. v. Glastonbury Landowners Ass'n, et. al., DA 18-0483, Or. at 2 (filed Sep. 4, 2018);[2]see also (Doc. 2 at 15-28.)

         The Montana Supreme Court did not find the first issue advanced by the O'Connells to be persuasive. Id. The Court did, however, grant an out-of-time appeal relative to the issue surrounding the children and specifically limited the appeal to the following claim: Whether the District Court properly entered the vexatious litigant order against the O'Connell Children in DV-2011-114. Id. at 3 (emphasis in original). That matter is currently pending; the O'Connell children were directed to file a notice of appeal, through counsel, by November 5, 2018. Id. at 3-4.[3]

         B. The O'Connells' Allegations

         The O'Connells claim their 5th Amendment right to Due Process and 6th Amendment right to a fair trial and hearing have been violated by the state district court and the Montana Supreme Court as a result of the actions outlined above. (Doc. 2 at 10, ¶ (A)(1)). In support of the claims, the O'Connells have attached the bulk of the appellate brief they filed with the Montana Supreme Court in support of their motion for an out-of-time appeal. Cf., (Doc. 2 at 15-28) with O 'Connell, et. al. v. Glastonbury Landowners Ass'n, et. al., DA 18-0483, Motion (filed Aug. 15, 2018). The O'Connells allege these constitutional violations have resulted in monetary injury in the amount of $18, 128.75 - the amount of attorney's fees awarded to the Glastonbury Landowners Association, Inc. in the underlying state court case, Cause No. DV-2011-114. (Doc. 2 at 11, ¶ (V)); see also, (Doc. 2 at 32, ¶ 3.)

         The O'Connells ask this Court to: reverse the constitutional violations; reverse the state court judgment entered against them; allow punitive damages and costs against the Glastonbury Landowners Association; and assume jurisdiction of O'Connell, et. al. v. Glastonbury Landowners Association, et. al., Cause No. DV-2011-114. (Doc. 2 at 11, ¶ (VI)).

         C. Screening Pursuant to 28 ...


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