United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga Division
KEITH C. CELEBREZZE, Plaintiff,
JOHN P. KONVALINKA, Defendant.
Jordan United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for
Leave to Amend Complaint [doc. 12] and Defendant's
Response in Opposition [doc. 14]. For the reasons herein, the
Court will grant the motion, and the Court will deny as moot
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [doc. 6] and
Defendant's Motion for Sanctions [doc. 10].
Keith C. Celebrezze (“Mr. Celebrezze”) alleges
that in a state court proceeding John P. Konvalinka, Esq.
(“Mr. Konvalinka”) snookered the trial judge into
entering an award of attorney's fees against him.
[Compl., doc. 1, at 4, 5]. Specifically, he maintains that
Mr. Konvalinka committed fraud by “deleting and
omitting” the terms of an unspecified contract and
“replacing them with fraudulent terms he
invented.” [Id. at 4]. As a result, he brings
this pro-se action against Mr. Konvalinka for what appears to
be fraud upon the court, claiming that Mr. Konvalinka's
alleged “fraudulent misrepresentation of the
contract” “mislead [sic] the trial judge”
and caused her to enter an “erroneous order.”
[Id. at 4-5].
Konvalinka moved to dismiss Mr. Celebrezze's Complaint
and moved for sanctions based on the Complaint's
allegations. [Mot. Dismiss at 1-3; Mot. Sanctions at 1-3].
Mr. Celebrezze then requested leave to amend his Complaint so
he could “more appropriately describe Defendant's
tortious misconduct.” [Mot. Amend at 1]. He also asks
to add other claims, including intentional misrepresentation,
conversion, civil conspiracy, constructive fraud, gross
negligence, inducement to breach a contract, malicious
harassment, misrepresentation by concealment, and negligence
per se. [Id. at 2-11]. Mr. Konvalinka opposes Mr.
Celebrezze's request to amend his Complaint, arguing that
his newly proposed claims are futile because they cannot
survive a motion to dismiss. [Def.'s Resp. at 4-8].
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15
Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2) states that if a party can
no longer amend his pleading as a matter of course, he may do
so “only with the opposing party's written consent
or the court's leave.” Rule 15(a)(2)
“embodies a ‘liberal amendment policy,
'” requiring courts to “freely give leave
when justice so requires.” Brown v. Chapman,
814 F.3d 436, 442-43 (6th Cir. 2016) (quotation omitted). To
determine whether to grant leave under this liberal policy,
courts weigh several factors: “[u]ndue delay in filing,
lack of notice to the opposing party, bad faith by the moving
party, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by previous
amendments, undue prejudice to the opposing party, and
futility of amendment.” Wade v. Knoxville Utils.
Bd., 259 F.3d 452, 458-59 (6th Cir. 2001) (quotation
motion for leave to amend may be denied for futility
‘if the court concludes that the pleading as amended
could not withstand a motion to dismiss.'”
Midkiff v. Adams Cty. Reg'l Water Dist., 409
F.3d 758, 767 (6th Cir. 2005) (quotation omitted). In
determining whether to dismiss a complaint under Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a court accepts the factual
allegations in the complaint as true and construes them in a
light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Mixon
v. Ohio, 193 F.3d 389, 400 (6th Cir. 1999). In cases in
which a plaintiff is acting pro se, a court must
“liberally construe” the pleading and not
reject it because it is “unartfully pleaded.”
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)
arguing that Mr. Celebrezze's proposed amendment is
futile, Mr. Konvalinka asserts that the Court lacks subject
matter jurisdiction over the newly conceived claims under the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine, [Def.'s Resp. at 4-9],
which “prevents a federal court from exercising
jurisdiction over a claim alleging error in a state court
decision, ” Luber v. Sprague, 90 Fed.Appx.
908, 910 (6th Cir. 2004) (citations omitted). But there is
“an exception to the general rule that precludes a
lower federal court from reviewing a state's judicial
proceedings.” In re Sun Valley Foods Co., 801
F.2d 186, 189 (6th Cir. 1986). “A federal court
‘may entertain a collateral attack on a state court
judgment which is alleged to have been procured through
fraud, deception, accident, or mistake[.]'”
Id. (quoting Resolute Ins. Co. v. North
Carolina, 397 F.2d 586, 589 (4th Cir. 1968)); see
Simon v. S. Ry. Co., 236 U.S. 115, 116, 122 (1915)
(concluding that the federal courts have jurisdiction to
enjoin a party “from enforcing a judgment alleged to
have been fraudulently obtained by him in a state
least some of Mr. Celebrezze's new claims, taken as true,
meet this exception because he asserts that Mr. Konvalinka
procured the state-court judgment by fraudulent means. [Mot.
Amend. at 2-3, 6]. As a result, the Court is loath to reject
Mr. Celebrezze's proposed amendment as futile, even if
his remaining non-fraud-based claims could not withstand a
motion to dismiss. See Synthes USA Sales, Inc. v.
Taylor, No. 3:10-1102, 2012 WL 928190, at *3 (M.D. Tenn.
Mar. 19, 2012) (“[W]hether an amended [complaint] is
futile depends upon whether the complaint states any
claim that entitles the pleader to relief.” (citations
omitted)); see also Optigen, LLC v. Int'l Genetics,
Inc., 777 F.Supp.2d 390, 399 (N.D.N.Y. 2011)
(“With regard to the futility prong, ‘the
proposed amended complaint [need only be] sufficient as to
some claims' for the request to not be futile.”
(quoting Kassner v. 2nd Ave. Delicatessen Inc., 496
F.3d 229, 244 (2d Cir. 2007))).
Court will therefore permit Mr. Celebrezze to amend his
Complaint, and in doing so, it will deny as moot Mr.
Konvalinka's Motion to Dismiss. See In re Refrigerant
Compressors Antitrust Litig., 731 F.3d 586, 589 (6th
Cir. 2013) (“An amended complaint supersedes an earlier
complaint for all purposes.” (citation omitted));
Ky. Press Ass'n, Inc. v. Kentucky, 355 F.Supp.2d
853, 857 (E.D. Ky. 2005) (“Plaintiff's amended
complaint supercedes the original complaint, thus making the
motion to dismiss the original complaint moot.”)
(citing Parry v. Mohawk Motors of Mich., Inc., 236
F.3d 299, 306 (6th Cir. 2000))). Because “[a]n amended
complaint supersedes an earlier complaint for all purposes,
” In re Refrigerant Compressors, 731 F.3d at
589, the Court will also deny as moot Mr. Konvalinka's
Motion for Sanctions, which concerns the merit of the
allegations in the original Complaint,  see Essroc
Cement Corp. v. CPRIN, Inc., No. 1:08-cv-974, 2009 WL
129809, at *2 (W.D. Mich. Jan. 20, 2009) (“Because the
original ‘complaint has been superseded and nullified,
there is no longer a live dispute about the propriety or
merit of [the] claims . . . asserted therein.'”
(quotation omitted)); cf. Faulkner v. Transp. Made
Simple, Inc., No. 09-2233- D/P, 2010 WL 711152, at *1
(W.D. Tenn. Jan. 28, 2010) (“A motion for default
judgment based on an entry of default on an earlier complaint
becomes moot once the amended complaint is filed.”
(citations omitted)); Riley v. Fritz, No.
1:08-cv-828, 2009 WL 261257, at *2 (W.D. Mich. Feb. 4, 2009)
(“[J]ust as a motion to dismiss a complaint becomes
moot when the complaint is superseded, the R&R here
became moot when the original complaint was
superseded.” (footnote and citations omitted)).
Celebrezze is entitled to amend his Complaint under Rule
15(a)(2)'s liberal amendment ...