United States District Court, D. Maryland
JOHN S. BURSON, et al., Plaintiffs,
WILBUR L. DANIELS, et al., Defendants. WILBUR L. DANIELS, et al., Plaintiffs,
STATE OF MARYLAND, et al., Defendants.
W. TITUS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
and Kathern Daniels removed an 8-year-old foreclosure
proceeding to this Court from the Circuit Court for Prince
George's County on June 10, 2016. Case No. RWT
16-cv-2013. On the same day, they also filed a Complaint
"against all persons claiming an interest in and to
property known as 9717 Dale Drive, Upper Marlboro, MD
20772." Case No. RWT 16-cv-2014. This is the same
property that is the subject of the foreclosure proceedings.
See Case No. RWT 16-cv-2013, ECF No. 2. For the
reasons that follow, the removed foreclosure proceeding will
be remanded and the new Complaint filed in this Court will be
Background Facts and Procedural History
2008, an Order to Docket foreclosure was filed in the Circuit
Court for Prince George's County for the Dale Drive
property. Id. From that point, the state court
docket reveals multiple suggestions of bankruptcy and stays.
Ultimately, the property was auctioned off and the court
ratified the sale on April 13, 2015. CAE-08-29938, Dkt. 48. A
writ of possession was issued on March 14, 2016.
CAE-08-29938, Dkt. 62. Wilbur and Kathern Daniels, who were
the mortgagors, allege that they own the property and that
the foreclosure proceedings were permeated by fraud and
discrimination. Case No. RWT 16-cv-2014, ECF No. 1, at 4.
Their Complaint asserts numerous claims against all those
involved in the foreclosure proceedings, including the judge
and the State of Maryland. Id. They request a stay
or injunction forbidding the continuation of the foreclosure
proceeding, as well as other relief.
federal district court must liberally construe a complaint
filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a
potentially meritorious case. Hughes v. Rowe, 449
U.S. 5, 9 (1980). Nonetheless, liberal construction does not
mean that a court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading
to allege facts which set forth a claim cognizable in a
federal district court. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990). The mandated
liberal construction afforded to pro se pleadings means that
if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a
valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should
do so; however, a district court may not rewrite a complaint.
See Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278
(4th Cir. 1985). To this end, the majority of the
Complaint and Notice of Removal is unintelligible. The Court
has attempted to discern the alleged causes of action and
preliminary matter, the removal of the foreclosure proceeding
was untimely. A proceeding must typically be removed within
30 days of the receipt of the initial pleading by the
defendant. 28 U.S.C. § 1446 (b) (2014). Proceedings
removed based on diversity cannot be removed more than a year
after commencement. Id. § 1446 (c). Applying
either requirement, the removal in this case occurred eight
years after the action commenced and was therefore
the removal were timely, this Court nevertheless lacks
subject matter jurisdiction over the foreclosure proceeding
under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. "The
Rooker-Feldman doctrine is a jurisdictional rule
providing that lower federal courts generally cannot review
state court decisions." Holliday Amusement Co. of
Charleston v. State of S. Carolina, 401 F.3d 534, 537
(4th Cir. 2005). This is true whether the claims have been
"actually decided" in state court or are
"inextricably intertwined" with a state court
decision. See Brown & Root, Inc. v. Breckenridge,
211 F.3d 194, 198 (4th Cir. 2000). "A federal claim is
considered to be ‘inextricably intertwined' with a
state court judgment when ‘the federal claim succeeds
only to the extent that the state court wrongly decided the
issues before it.'" Holliday Amusement Co.,
401 F.3d at 437 (quoting Allstate Ins. Co. v. W.Va. State
Bar, 233 F.3d 813, 819 (4th Cir. 2000)). In either case,
"a party losing in state court is barred from seeking
what in substance would be appellate review of the state
judgment in a United States district court, based on the
losing party's claim that the state judgment itself
violates the loser's federal rights." Johnson v.
De Grandy, 512 U.S. 997, 1005-06 (1994).
have consistently applied the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine to dismiss claims requesting federal district court
review of a state court's eviction and foreclosure
proceedings." Sanders v. Cohn, Goldberg & Deutsch,
LLC, No. CV DKC 15-1571, 2016 WL 223040, at *4 (D. Md.
Jan. 19, 2016) (internal quotations and citations omitted);
see Id. (listing cases). Here, Wilbur and Kathern
Daniels have already challenged the foreclosure sale in state
court and are once again attempting to challenge the state
court's judgments. Any adjudication of the current claims
would require review of the state court's determinations
throughout the foreclosure proceeding. See Sanders,
No. CV DKC 15-1571, 2016 WL 223040, at *5 (internal citations
omitted). Such a review is within the purview of the state
appellate court, but not this Court. See Brown, 211
F.3d at 198-99. Thus, this Court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction over Wilbur and Kathern Daniels' foreclosure
action and must remand it back to state court.
if, hypothetically, the Court determined that the removal was
timely and that subject matter jurisdiction did exist, Wilbur
and Kathern Daniels are not entitled to a stay or injunction
of the foreclosure proceeding. In deciding whether to issue
an injunction, a district court must consider: (1) the
balance of likely harm to both plaintiffs and defendants; (2)
the likelihood that the party requesting an injunction will
succeed on the merits; and (3) public interest.
Steakhouse, Inc. v. City of Raleigh, N.C. , 166 F.3d
634, 637 (4th Cir. 1999). The decision to grant a stay also
requires considering "competing interests and
maintain[ing] an even balance." Landis v. N. Am.
Co., 299 U.S. 248, 255 (1936). The foreclosure
proceeding in this case was commenced in 2008 and Wilbur and
Kathern Daniels have actively opposed it. Nonetheless, a writ
of possession has been issued for the property. S ...