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Burson v. Daniels

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 22, 2016

JOHN S. BURSON, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
WILBUR L. DANIELS, et al., Defendants. WILBUR L. DANIELS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
STATE OF MARYLAND, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ROGER W. TITUS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Wilbur 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 dismissed.

         I. Background Facts and Procedural History

         In 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.

         II. Analysis

         A 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 supporting facts.

         A. The Foreclosure Proceeding

         1. Case No. 16-cv-2013

         a. Timeliness

         As a 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 exceedingly untimely.

         b. Rooker-Feldman

         Even if the removal were timely, this Court nevertheless lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the foreclosure proceeding under the Rooker-Feldman[1] 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).

         "Courts 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.

         Even 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 ...


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