Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Gunter v. Agents For International Monetary Fund Internal Revenue Service

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

January 18, 2017

RONNITA JEWEL GUNTER, Plaintiff,
v.
AGENTS FOR INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Paul W. Grimm United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Ronnita Jewel Gunter, also known as Bouyea Khalilah Y'ewel Amen-El, “obtain[ed] a $254, 308.00 mortgage loan secured by Plaintiff's principal residence, ” 13119 Overbrook Lane, Bowie, MD 20715 (the “Property”), and a Deed of Trust on the Property in favor of the lender. Compl. ¶ 111, ECF No. 1. While a foreclosure action (“Foreclosure Action”) was pending against her in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County[1] with regard to the Property, based on a default on the loan that Gunter contests, id. ¶ 100, Plaintiff filed suit, pro se, against numerous defendants, including PennyMac Loan Services, LLC (“PennyMac”) and Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (“MERS”). Id. at 1. She claimed “lack of standing/wrongful foreclosure” (Count 1), fraud in the concealment (Count 2), fraud in the inducement (Count 3), intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count 4), slander of title (Count 5), quiet title (Count 6), violations of the Truth in Lending Act (“TILA”) and the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act (“HOEPA”), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1601-1693r (Count 8), and violations of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”), 12 U.S.C. §§ 2601-2617 (Count 9). Id. at 1, 13, 18-20, 22. Her seventh count was for declaratory relief, and her tenth count was for rescission. Id. at 1.[2]

         On June 7, 2016, at which time the state court had awarded judgment of possession in favor of PennyMac, Gunter had appealed, and her appeal was pending, I issued an Order dismissing all of Gunter's claims for equitable relief. ECF No. 7. I reasoned that “[w]here equitable relief is sought regarding property that is already the subject of an ongoing in rem action in another court, the court controlling the property for purposes of the earlier-filed suit has exclusive jurisdiction over the property.” Id.

         Defendants have moved to dismiss the remaining claims, arguing that Gunter's “claims, to the extent they challenge the Foreclosure Action or PennyMac's standing to foreclose or status as the holder of the Note, must fail as a matter of law” under the doctrine of res judicata. Def.'s Mem. 12. Gunter has not opposed Defendants' motion, [3] and the time for doing so has passed. See Loc. R. 105.2(a). A hearing is not necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. Because I find that res judicata precludes this litigation, I will grant Defendants' motion and dismiss this case without reaching Defendants' alternative grounds for dismissal.

         Standard of Review

         Defendants move to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Under this Rule, Gunter's Complaint is subject to dismissal if it “fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and must state “a plausible claim for relief, ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Rule 12(b)(6)'s purpose “is to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” Velencia v. Drezhlo, No. RDB-12-237, 2012 WL 6562764, at *4 (D. Md. Dec. 13, 2012) (quoting Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006)). If an affirmative defense “clearly appears on the face of the complaint, ” however, the Court may rule on that defense when considering a motion to dismiss. Kalos v. Centennial Sur. Assocs., No. CCB-12-1532, 2012 WL 6210117, at *2 (D. Md. Dec. 12, 2012) (quoting Andrews v. Daw, 201 F.3d 521, 524 n. 1 (4th Cir. 2000) (citation and quotation marks omitted)). One such affirmative defense is res judicata.

         Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, and her Complaint is to be construed liberally. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, liberal construction does not absolve Plaintiff from pleading plausible claims. See Holsey v. Collins, 90 F.R.D. 122, 128 (D. Md. 1981) (citing Inmates v. Owens, 561 F.2d 560, 562-63 (4th Cir. 1977)).

         Although at this stage of the proceedings, I accept the facts as alleged in Gunter's Complaint as true, see Aziz v. Alcolac, 658 F.3d 388, 390 (4th Cir. 2011), when reviewing a motion to dismiss, I “may consider documents attached to the complaint, as well as documents attached to the motion to dismiss, if they are integral to the complaint and their authenticity is not disputed.” Sposato v. First Mariner Bank, No. CCB-12-1569, 2013 WL 1308582, at *2 (D. Md. Mar. 28, 2013); see CACI Int'l v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 566 F.3d 150, 154 (4th Cir. 2009); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(c) (“A copy of a written instrument that is an exhibit to a pleading is a part of the pleading for all purposes.”). Defendants cite state court documents, of which I may take judicial notice, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 201, 803(8)(a)(i), but they do not attach any to their motion. Consideration of documents that the plaintiff references and relies upon does not convert a motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. See Sec'y of State for Defence v. Trimble Navigation Ltd., 484 F.3d 700, 705 (4th Cir. 2007).

         Discussion

         Res judicata “bars a party from suing on a claim that has already been litigated to a final judgment by that party or such party's privies and precludes the assertion by such parties of any legal theory, cause of action, or defense which could have been asserted in that action.” Reid v. New Century Mortg. Corp., No. AW-12-2083, 2012 WL 6562887, at *3 (D. Md. Dec. 13, 2012) (quoting Ohio Valley Envtl. Coal. v. Aracoma Coal Co., 556 F.3d 177, 210 (4th Cir. 2009)) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). When considering this defense, “a court may take judicial notice of facts from a prior judicial proceeding when the res judicata defense raises no disputed issue of fact.” Kalos, 2012 WL 6210117, at *2 (quoting Andrews, 201 F.3d at 524 n.1). And, when a federal court litigant asserts res judicata based on a state court judgment, “[the] federal court must give to [the] state court judgment the same preclusive effect as would be given that judgment under the law of the State in which the judgment was rendered.” Migra v. Warren City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., 465 U.S. 75, 81 (1984). Under Maryland law, res judicata, or claim preclusion, provides grounds for dismissal if a defendant establishes that “(1) the present parties are the same or in privity with the parties to the earlier dispute, (2) the claim presented is identical to the one determined in the prior adjudication, and (3) there has been a final judgment on the merits.” Capel v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., No. WDQ-09-2374, 2010 WL 457534, at *3 (D. Md. Feb. 3, 2010) (citing Anne Arundel County Bd. of Educ. v. Norville, 887 A.2d 1029, 1037 (Md. 2005)).

         1. Same parties

         In the Foreclosure Action, Gunter was the defendant and Devan, Gloth, Drexel and McNair, Substitute Trustee, was the plaintiff. Here, Gunter sues Agents for International Monetary Fund Internal Revenue Service, Century Lending Company (“Century”), Government National Mortgage Association (“Ginnie Mae”), PennyMac Loan Services, LLC, and Mortgage Electronic Registration System.[4] Compl. 1. Defendants argue that “the parties involved in this litigation are . . . exactly the same, or in privity with the[] parties in the Foreclosure Action.” Defs.' Mem. 12. According to Gunter, Century, the lender, sold the loan to Ginnie Mae and assigned the Deed of Trust to PennyMac. See Compl. Ex. 5, ECF No. 1-5, at 9, 12. MERS acted “as a ‘nominee' for the lender as the beneficiary of the [Deed of Trust].” Id. at 13. According to Defendants, “[t]he Deed of Trust named MERS as the beneficiary, ” and “MERS executed and recorded an assignment of deed of trust . . ., which reflected that the Deed of Trust had been assigned to PennyMac.” Defs.' Mem. 2-3. Then, “PennyMac retained the Substitute Trustees to initiate the Foreclosure Action, as reflected in a May 12, 2014 Declaration of Substitution of Trustees, recorded among the Land Records of Prince George's County, Maryland on May 7, 2014 at Liber 35974, folio 269 et seq.Id. at 12. They also assert that “the documents submitted by the Substitute Trustees in the Foreclosure Action establish PennyMac's standing and status as the holder of the Note.” Id. Gunter, in failing to oppose Defendants' motion, does not argue otherwise. I am satisfied that the litigation was between the same parties or their privies.

         2. Identical claims

         Under Maryland law, courts apply the transaction test to determine whether claims are identical. See Kent Cnty. Bd. of Educ. v. Bilbrough, 525 A.2d 232, 238 (Md. 1987). “Under the transaction test, a ‘claim' includes all rights of the plaintiff to remedies against the defendant with respect to all or any part of the transaction, or series of connected transactions, out of which the claim arose.” Boyd v. Bowen, 806 A.2d 314, 325 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 2002) (citing FWB Bank v. Richman,731 A.2d 916, 928 (Md. 1999)). Notably, res judicata bars not only claims from the original litigation, but also other claims that could have been brought in the original litigation. Id. (citing Gertz v. Anne Arundel Cnty.,661 A.2d 1157, 1161 (Md. 1995)). This Court consistently has held that res judicata bars collateral attack on foreclosure judgments. SeePrudencio v. Capital One, N.A., No. PWG-16-2693, 2016 WL 6947016, at *3 (D. Md. Nov. 28, 2016) (concluding that the second element was satisfied because “all of Plaintiffs' present claims” of violations of the FDCPA, the RESPA, and the Racketeer Influences and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1961 et seq.; negligence; breach of fiduciary duties; fraud and misrepresentation; civil conspiracy; and intentional infliction of emotional distress “could have been raised in the foreclosure action”); Jones v. HSBC Bank USA, N.A., No. RWT 09CV2904, 2011 WL 382371, at *5 (D. Md. Feb. 3, 2011) (holding that claims for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, breach of ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.