United States District Court, D. Maryland
March 13, 2014
DeALVA GRAVES and RODNEY GRAVES
ONE WEST BANK, FSB
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW, District Judge.
Presently pending and ready for resolution in this action is a motion for reconsideration filed by pro se Plaintiffs DeAlva Graves and Rodney Graves ("Plaintiffs"). (ECF No. 4). No hearing is necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, the motion for reconsideration will be denied.
Plaintiffs filed a complaint on November 8, 2013 against One West Bank, FSB ("Defendant") in connection with a foreclosure proceeding initiated in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland involving property owned by Plaintiff DeAlva Graves. Plaintiffs asserted that Defendant used fraudulent documents in connection with the purchase and reassignment of a promissory note or mortgage used to finance the property, which is the subject of the pending foreclosure proceeding in state court. In the complaint, Plaintiffs alleged claims for fraud, defamation, unjust enrichment, age discrimination, and requested, inter alia, injunctive relief. On November 15, 2013, the undersigned dismissed Plaintiffs' complaint, holding that granting relief would violate the Anti-Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2283. (ECF No. 3). On November 20, 2013, Plaintiffs moved for reconsideration (ECF No. 4) and also filed an amended complaint (ECF No. 5). In the amended complaint, Plaintiffs no longer seek injunctive relief, but proffer the same factual allegations. In the proposed amended complaint, Plaintiffs again lodge defamation, unjust enrichment, age discrimination, and fraud claims, and also include claims alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692 et seq., the Maryland Mortgage Fraud Protection Act ("MMFPA"), Md.Code, Real Prop. §§ 7-401 et seq., the Maryland Collection Agency Licensing Act ("MCALA"), Md.Code Ann., Bus. Reg., § 7-101, et seq., and various provisions of the Uniform Commercial Code.
Plaintiffs have moved for reconsideration and submitted an amended complaint with their motion. In Katyle v. Penn Nat. Gaming, Inc., 637 F.3d 462, 470 (4th Cir. 2011), the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit explained that a district court may not grant a post-judgment motion to amend the complaint unless the court first vacates its judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) or 60(b). See also Calvary Christian Center v. City of Fredericksburg, Virginia, 710 F.3d 536, 539 (4th Cir. 2013). The Fourth Circuit further stated that "[t]o determine whether vacatur is warranted, [ ], the court need not concern itself with either of those rules' legal standards." Katyle, 637 F.3d at 471. Katyle held that:
[t]he court need only ask whether the amendment should be granted, just as it would on a prejudgment motion to amend pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). In other words, a court should evaluate a postjudgment motion to amend the complaint under the same legal standard as a similar motion filed before judgment was entered - for prejudice, bad faith, or futility.' [ Laber v. Harvey, 438 F.3d 404, 427 (4th Cir. 2006)]; accord Matrix Capital Mgmt. Fund, LP v. BearingPoint, Inc., 576 F.3d 172, 193 (4th Cir. 2009).
Katyle, 637 F.3d at 471; United States v. Shabazz, 509 F'Appx. 265, 266 (4th Cir. 2013) (same). Futility is apparent if the proposed amended complaint fails to state a claim under the applicable rules and accompanying standards: "[A] district court may deny leave if amending the complaint would be futile - that is, if the proposed amended complaint fails to satisfy the requirements of the federal rules." United States ex rel. Wilson v. Kellogg Brown & Root, Inc., 525 F.3d 370, 376 (4th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). In assessing whether a proposed amendment is clearly futile, a district court may look to "substantive or procedural considerations." Davis v. Piper Aircraft, 615 F.2d 606, 613 (4th Cir. 1980).
Allowing Plaintiffs to amend the complaint would be futile. The Younger abstention doctrine, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), "requires a federal court to abstain from interfering in state proceedings, even if jurisdiction exists, " if there is: "(1) an ongoing state judicial proceeding, instituted prior to any substantial progress in the federal proceeding; that (2) implicates important, substantial, or vital state interests; and (3) provides an adequate opportunity for the plaintiff to raise the lawsuit." Laurel Sand & Gravel, Inc. v. Wilson, 519 F.3d 156, 165 (4th Cir. 2008). " Younger is not merely a principle of abstention; rather, the case sets forth a mandatory rule of equitable restraint, requiring the dismissal of a federal action.'" Williams v. Lubin, 516 F.Supp.2d 535, 539 (D.Md. 2007) ( quoting Nivens v. Gilchrist, 444 F.3d 237, 247 (4th Cir. 2006)).
Here, foreclosure proceedings against Plaintiff are ongoing in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, satisfying the first element. Specifically, Plaintiffs moved to stay the foreclosure sale on May 8, 2013 and filed a request to move the case to the United States District Court on May 23, 2013. See Sullivan, et al. v. DeAlva Graves, Case No. 376661V. Judge Robert Greenberg denied both motions on July 15, 2013. Ms. Graves then moved for reconsideration, which Judge Greenberg denied on September 17, 2013. Ms. Graves's subsequent appeal to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland on October 11, 2013 remains pending. The second element of Younger is also satisfied because Maryland has a substantial interest in its property law. See Harper v. Pub. Serv. Comm'n of W.Va., 396 F.3d 348, 352 (4th Cir. 2005) ("[P]roperty law concerns, such as land use and zoning questions, are frequently important' state interests justifying Younger abstention."); Fisher v. Fed. Nat. Mortg. Ass'n, 360 F.Supp. 207, 210 (D.Md. 1973). Finally, Plaintiffs do not raise any federal constitutional claims. Although Plaintiffs raise several federal claims for violations of the FDCPA, MMFPA, and MCALA, as stated in the original dismissal order, Plaintiffs have an opportunity to raise these claims in the state court proceeding.
Because the Younger abstention doctrine prohibits the undersigned from entertaining the claims asserted in Plaintiffs' proposed amended complaint, amending the complaint would be futile. See, e.g., Barilone v. Onewest Bank, FSB, Civil Action No. ELH-13-00752, 2013 WL 6909423, at *5 (D.Md. Dec. 31, 2013) (dismissing plaintiff's claims under Younger where there was a pending foreclosure action in state court).
For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration will be denied. A separate order will follow.