United States District Court, D. Maryland
LENNOX E. MONTROSE Plaintiff
GROUNDLEASE MGMT, LLC Defendant
L. Hollander United States District Judge
plaintiff Lennox Montrose filed suit against
“Groundlease Mgmt., LLC, ” invoking the
court's diversity jurisdiction. ECF 1; id. at 4.
Plaintiff claims that he received a discharge from bankruptcy
in this court on May 5, 2003. ECF 1 at 10 (citing case
#03-50581). Despite the bankruptcy decree, Montrose asserts
that defendant “submitted an erroneous claim” in
another court on January 29, 2010, causing a lender to deny
plaintiff's loan application for home refinancing.
Id. He states: “Defendant, under false colors
of entity identity and imperfect status as owner of record
submitted an erroneous claim as against Plaintiff in another
court venue on January 29, 2010.” Id.
included with his complaint a motion for a hearing on a claim
of abuse of process (ECF 2), as well as exhibits. ECF 2-1 to
2-7. In his motion, Montrose explains that among the
“Schedule D - Creditors Holding Secured Claims”
provided to the Bankruptcy Court was a creditor known as
“Security Management Corporation, ” which owned a
ground rent, a secured interest in the amount of $315. ECF 2
at 1. Seven years later, in the District Court for Baltimore
City, by “a different party” than that listed as
a secured creditor in the bankruptcy proceedings, Montrose
was sued for ground rent in the amount of $315. Id.
at 2; see also Groundlease Management, LLC v. Lennox
Montrose, Case No. 010100034222010 (Balt. City Dist.
Ct., Jan. 29, 2010);
asserts that the filing of this claim was unauthorized
because his debt was discharged in the bankruptcy proceedings
and because the party pursuing the debt was not the proper
party to file such a claim.
reasons that follow, the complaint must be dismissed and the
has paid the filing fee. He is neither a prisoner nor is he
proceeding in forma pauperis. Therefore, the provisions of 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A (2006), permitting sua
sponte dismissal of a complaint that fails to state a claim,
are inapplicable. See Stafford v. United States, 208
F.3d 1177, 1179 n.4 (10th Cir. 2000); Porter v. Fox,
99 F.3d 271, 273 n.1 (8th Cir. 1996). However, this court has
the inherent authority to dismiss a case over which it does
not have jurisdiction or which asserts a frivolous claim.
See, e.g., Mallard v. United States Dist.
Court, 490 U.S. 296, 307-08 (1989) (“Section
1915(d) . . . authorizes courts to dismiss a 'frivolous
or malicious' action, but there is little doubt they
would have the power to do so even in the absence of this
statutory provision.”); Fitzgerald v. First E.
Seventh St., 221 F.3d 362, 364 (2d Cir. 2000); see
also Ricketts v. Midwest Nat'l Bank, 874 F.2d 1177,
1181-83 (7th Cir. 1989); Franklin v. Or. State Welfare
Div., 662 F.2d 1337, 1342-43 (9th Cir. 1981).
noted, Montrose invokes this court's diversity
jurisdiction as a basis for filing the instant complaint. ECF
1 at 1. Section 1332(a) of 28 U.S.C. grants jurisdiction over
“civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds
the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and
costs, and is between . . . citizens of different
States[.]” Id. § 1332(a) (emphasis
added). Jurisdiction under § 1332 “requires
complete diversity among parties, meaning that the
citizenship of every plaintiff must be different from the
citizenship of every defendant.” Cent. W.Va. Energy
Co. v. Mountain State Carbon, LLC, 636 F.3d 101, 103
(4th Cir. 2011) (emphasis added). And, “[f]or purposes
of diversity jurisdiction, the citizenship of a limited
liability company . . . is determined by the citizenship of
all of its members.” Mountain State, 636 F.3d
at 103. Notably, the citizenship of an LLC or other
unincorporated association “must be traced through
however many layers of partners or members there may
be.” Hart v. Terminex Int'l, 336 F.3d 541,
543 (7th Cir. 2003).
has not provided information as to the citizenship of the
members of the defendant, a LLC. Federal courts are courts of
limited jurisdiction and “may not exercise jurisdiction
absent a statutory basis.” Exxon Mobil Corp. v.
Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 552 (2005). They
“have an independent obligation to determine whether
subject-matter jurisdiction exists, even when no party
challenges it.” Hertz Corp. v. Friend, 559
U.S. 77, 94 (2010). Under the “well-pleaded
complaint” rule, the facts showing the existence of
subject matter jurisdiction “must be affirmatively
alleged in the complaint.” Pinkley, Inc. v. City of
Frederick, 191 F.3d 394, 399 (4th Cir.1999) (citing
McNutt v. Gen'l Motors Acceptance Corp., 298
U.S. 178 (1936)). “A court is to presume, therefore,
that a case lies outside its limited jurisdiction unless and
until jurisdiction has been shown to be proper.”
United States v. Poole, 531 F.3d 263, 274 (4th Cir.
2008) (citing Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co.,
511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)).
the “burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction
is on . . . the party asserting jurisdiction.” Robb
Evans & Assocs., LLC v. Holibaugh, 609 F.3d 359, 362
(4th Cir. 2010); accord McBurney v. Cuccinelli, 616
F.3d 393, 408 (4th Cir. 2010). As indicated, plaintiff has
not met this burden, because he has not identified the
citizenship of the members of the LLC.
addition, Montrose claims damages of $113, 294. ECF 1 at 11.
He bases this claim on the amount of money he claims he would
have received for the loan he was denied as a result of the
2010 judgment against him. “The test for determining
jurisdiction based upon the amount involved is primarily one
of good faith.” Gauldin v. Va. Winn-Dixie,
Inc., 370 F.2d 167, 170 n.1 (4th Cir. 1966). “[I]f
it appears to a legal certainty that the plaintiff cannot
recover the jurisdictional amount, ” the case should be
dismissed for want of jurisdiction. McDonald v.
Patton, 240 F.2d 424, 426 (4th Cir. 1957) (citing
St. Paul Mercury Indemnity Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303
U.S. 283, 289 (1938)). Plaintiff's good faith cannot be
assumed by this court where, as here, it appears to a legal
certainty that the claim is really less than the
jurisdictional amount of $75, 000. See St. Paul, 303
U.S. at 289 (“It must appear to a legal certainty that
the claim is really for less than the jurisdictional amount
to justify dismissal”).
claim of entitlement to damages in the amount of a debt he
was prepared to incur defies any logical analysis of the
value of this claim. Were this method of determining damages
followed to its logical end, a plaintiff could apply for any
loan amount, be denied the loan based on a bad credit report,
sue for the loan amount, and secure a “loan”
without incurring a debt. At most, Montrose's claim is
worth $314, or the amount he claims was improperly collected.
Montrose had satisfied the jurisdictional requirements for
filing a claim in this court, this court would abstain from
hearing this claim. Review of the State court's
electronic docket establishes two crucial facts: (1) Montrose
was served with the complaint filed in the state court
proceedings and filed pleadings in opposition to the
complaint; and (2) a final judgment was entered against
Montrose on April 30, 2010, following a trial. Further,
Montrose never appealed the judgment. See Groundlease
Management, LLC v. Lennox Montrose, Case
No.010100034222010 (Balt. City Dist. Ct, Jan. 29, 2010);
the Rooker-Feldman [abstention] doctrine, 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.'” Am. Reliable
Ins. v. Stillwell, 336 F.3d 311, 316 (4th Cir. 2003)
(quoting Johnson v. De Grandy, 512 U.S. 997, 1005-06
(1994)). The Rooker-Feldman doctrine is
jurisdictional Am. Reliable Ins. v. Stillwell, 336
F.3d 311, 316 (4th Cir. 2003) and, as such, this court is
free to raise it sua sponte. See Jordahl v. Democratic
Party of Va., 122 F.3d 192, 197 n.5 (4th Cir.
1997). The state court judgment in this case was
never appealed; Montrose cannot revive what is now a settled
matter by filing a separate claim in this court which
necessarily requires examination of the propriety of the
state court's judgment.
the claim is likely barred under the doctrine of res
judicata, which precludes the assertion of a claim after a
judgment on the merits in a prior suit by the same parties on
the same cause of action. See Meekins v. United Transp.
Union,946 F.2d 1054, 1057 (4th Cir. 1991) (citing
Harnett v. Billman,800 F.2d 1308, 1312 (4th Cir.
1986)). In addition, “'[n]ot only does res judicata
bar claims that were raised and fully litigated, it prevents
litigation of all grounds for, or defenses to, recovery that
were previously available to the parties, regardless of
whether they were asserted ...