United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
W. Grimm United States District Judge
Ben and Damita Lewis, who are proceeding without counsel,
filed an unsigned, thirteen-count Complaint in this Court
against the State of Maryland, by and through its Attorney
General Brian Frosh; HSBC Mortgage Services, Inc.
(“HSBC”); U.S. Bank, N.A. (“U.S.
Bank”); Rushmore Loan Management Services, LLC
(“Rushmore”); Fisher Law Group
(“Fisher”); Equifax, Experian, Trans Union, and
Does 1-20 on June 15, 2017. ECF No. 1. The Complaint has 180
paragraphs, much of it devoted to legal argument and citation
to numerous cases and statutes, as opposed to pleading
plausible claims. Briefly stated, Plaintiffs allege that
Defendants are co-conspirators that are interfering with
Plaintiffs' rights with regard to their property at 14575
Woodville Road, Waldorf, Maryland 20601 (the
“Property”), by relying on a fraudulent Note
purportedly encumbering the Property to demand payments in
excess of what Plaintiffs actually owe, to report inaccurate
credit information, and to attempt to foreclose on the
Property. Id. They claim violations of the
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15
U.S.C. § 1692 et seq.; Racketeer Influenced and
Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), 18 U.S.C.
§ 1961 et seq.; Fair Credit Reporting Act
(“FCRA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq.;
and of their due process and equal protection rights under
the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States
Constitution, along with state law claims, and they seek a
declaratory judgment, injunctive relief to prevent future
debt collection and foreclosure proceedings, and an
Frosh, HSBC, U.S. Bank, Rushmore, Equifax and Trans Union
have moved to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a
claim, and they have filed memoranda in support. ECF Nos. 24,
24-2, 27, 27-1, 28, 41, 41-1, 42 & 42-1. Notably, U.S.
Bank and Rushmore also raised Plaintiffs' failure to sign
the Complaint as a basis for striking the Complaint if
Plaintiffs did not remedy the deficiency, as Rule 11(a)
requires. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(a). I held two
pre-motion conferences in which Ben Lewis, but not Damita
Lewis, participated, ECF Nos. 19 & 39, and I issued two
letter orders setting deadlines for briefing the motions, ECF
Nos. 21 & 40. Defendants mailed copies of their motions
to Plaintiffs. See Certifs. of Serv. (Frosh Mot. 2;
HSBC Mot. 2; Equifax Mot. 10; Trans Union Mot. 3; U.S. Bank
& Rushmore Mot. 3). Additionally, the Court notified
Plaintiffs of their right to respond to the motions and the
deadlines for doing so, ECF Nos. 25, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 43,
44, 45 & 46. Despite this ample notification, Plaintiffs
have not opposed any of the motions or filed a signed version
of the Complaint. Consequently, there is not a proper
Complaint before the Court. Moreover, Plaintiffs fail to
state a federal claim against any of the Defendants.
Accordingly, I will dismiss those claims and decline to
exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims.
Every pleading, written motion, and other paper must be
signed by at least one attorney of record in the
attorney's name--or by a party personally if the party is
unrepresented. The paper must state the signer's address,
e-mail address, and telephone number. Unless a rule or
statute specifically states otherwise, a pleading need not be
verified or accompanied by an affidavit. The court must
strike an unsigned paper unless the omission is promptly
corrected after being called to the attorney's or
Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(a) (emphasis added).
failed to sign their Complaint. In U.S. Bank and
Rushmore's memorandum, filed October 6, 2017, as well as
the cover letter Defendants sent with their motion,
Defendants called this deficiency to Plaintiff's
attention. See U.S. Bank and Rushmore's Mem. 5
(“Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 requires that
‘[e]very pleading . . . must be signed by . . . a party
personally if the party is unrepresented.' Rule 11
further provides that the Court ‘must strike an
unsigned paper unless the omission is promptly corrected
after being called to the . . . party's attention.'
The Complaint is not signed by either of the Plaintiffs (who
proceed pro se). This filing, together with the
cover letter addressing the service copy of this motion to
the Plaintiffs,  calls this omission to the Plaintiffs'
attention.”); Oct. 6, 2017 Ltr., ECF No. 42-2
(“Please take notice that the Complaint for Damages
and Equitable Relief which you filed commencing this
action is not signed, and was therefore filed in violation of
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11. You are hereby notified
that you must promptly cure the omitted signatures by filing
a fully signed copy of your pleading. My clients have
requested that the Court strike your Complaint if you do not
not clear that Plaintiffs' failure to cure after this
notice, without any notice from the Court or showing of
severe prejudice, is sufficient to warrant striking the
Complaint under Rule 11(a). See Bey v. Genano, No.
PWG-16-2800, 2017 WL 1315530, at *1 (D. Md. Apr. 10, 2017)
(“Defendants note that Bey omitted the final page of
his Complaint when he filed it and failed to sign the filing.
Defs.' Mem. 5. They urge me to dismiss the Complaint
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(a). Id. If I dismissed
the Complaint for Bey's failure to comply with Rule
11(a), I would need to give him an opportunity to submit an
amended complaint. It is doubtful that this is the relief
that the Defendants seek. Because of the substantive
deficiencies in Bey's filings, I need not reach the
failure-to-sign issue.”); Steamship Trade Ass'n
of Baltimore, Inc. v. Peters, No. WDQ-09-109, 2009 WL
2924810, at *2 (D. Md. Sept. 9, 2009) (report and
recommendation noting that “[t]he Defendant received
notice of the deficiency in his [unsigned motion] through the
Plaintiff's Second Motion in Opposition, ” but not
recommending striking the filing because the plaintiff had
“not shown that it ha[d] been ‘severely
prejudiced' by the Defendant's failure to
sign”; citing Kovilic Constr. Co. v.
Missbrenner, 106 F.3d 768, 772 (7th Cir. 1997)
(“[D]ocuments should be struck [under Rule 11(a)] where
the failure to sign severely prejudiced the opposing
party.”)). Here, I note that the Complaint cannot
proceed without signature but, as in Bey, I will
dismiss on the merits rather than striking Plaintiffs'
Complaint. See Bey, 2017 WL 1315530, at *1;
to State a Claim
move to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), pursuant to which
a 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)).
Ultimately, a complaint must “‘permit[ ] the
court to infer more than the mere possibility of
misconduct' based upon ‘its judicial experience and
common sense.' ” Coleman v. Md. Court of
Appeals, 626 F.3d 187, 190 (4th Cir. 2010) (quoting
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). To this end, “while a
plaintiff [in an employment discrimination case] is not
required to plead facts that constitute a prima
facie case in order to survive a motion to dismiss,
[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level.” Id.
(citing Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506,
510-15 (2002); [Be ...