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Williams v. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 2, 2018

FAITH E. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
WELLS FARGO HOME MORTGAGE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          Ellen Lipton Hollander United States District Judge.

         Self-represented plaintiff Faith Williams filed suit against Wells Fargo Home Mortgage (“Wells Fargo”), alleging that “Wells Fargo is not acting in GOOD FAITH according to the United States Constitution.” ECF 1 (“Complaint”) at 4 (capitals in original). Williams avers that Wells Fargo “deceptively discharged” her “modification” (id. at 5), which I assume to mean a modification of a mortgage. Further, Williams asserts that Wells Fargo is “trying to take [her] home unjustly”, and that Wells Fargo “changed [her] mortgage without [her] permission back in 2014.” Id. at 9.

         Along with the Complaint, plaintiff filed a Motion for Temporary Restraining Order (ECF 3) (the “TRO Motion”), asking the Court to “stop the sale date of” plaintiff's home, which is allegedly scheduled for April 5, 2018, “until such time as [plaintiff's] lawsuit has been resolved.” Id. at 2. Plaintiff has also filed a motion asking for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”). ECF 2.

         This Memorandum resolves only the TRO Motion, and no hearing is necessary to do so. See Local Rule 105.6. The sufficiency of the Complaint and the IFP Motion is the subject of a separate Order. In resolving the TRO Motion, the Court is mindful of its obligation to construe liberally the filings of a pro se litigant, which are held to less stringent standards than submissions drafted by attorneys. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); see also White v. White, 886 F.2d 721, 722-23 (4th Cir. 1989). Nevertheless, for the reasons that follow, I shall deny the TRO Motion, without prejudice.

         Discussion

         I.

         The same analysis governs both a motion for preliminary injunction and a request for temporary restraining order. See Hoechst Diafoil Co. v. Nan Ya Plastics Corp., 174 F.3d 411, 422 (4th Cir. 1999). Therefore, in my discussion of the TRO Motion, I shall refer to cases addressing preliminary injunctions.

         “A preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy never awarded as of right.” Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 24 (2008) (citing Munaf v. Geren, 553 U.S. 674, 689-90 (2008)); Real Truth About Obama, Inc. v. Fed. Election Comm'n, 575 F.3d 342, 345 (4th Cir. 2009), vacated on other grounds and remanded, 559 U.S. 1089 (2010), reaff'd in part and remanded, 607 F.3d 355 (4th Cir. 2010). Rather, a preliminary injunction is “‘granted only sparingly and in limited circumstances.'” Micro Strategy, Inc. v. Motorola, Inc., 245 F.3d 335, 339 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting Direx Israel, Ltd. v. Breakthrough Med. Corp., 952 F.2d 802, 816 (4th Cir. 1991)).

         Thus, “[a] plaintiff seeking a preliminary injunction must establish that he is likely to succeed on the merits, that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of equities tips in his favor, and that an injunction is in the public interest.” Winter, 555 U.S. at 20 (citing Munaf v. Geren, 553 U.S. 674, 689-90 (2008); Amoco Prod Co. v. Gambell, 480 U.S. 531, 542 (1987); and Weinberger v. Romero-Barcelo, 456 U.S. 305, 311-12 (1982)); see also Real Truth About Obama, 575 F.3d at 345 (applying the standard for preliminary injunctions set forth in Winter). A preliminary injunction cannot be issued unless all four of these elements are met, and “‘[p]laintiff bears the burden of establishing that each of these factors supports granting the injunction.'” Direx Israel, 952 F.2d at 812 (quoting Tech. Publ'g Co. v. Lebhar-Friedman, Inc., 729 F.2d 1136, 1139 (7th Cir. 1984); Shaffer v. Globe Prod, Inc., 721 F.2d 1121, 1123 (7th Cir. 1983)).

         Williams has not demonstrated that she is likely to succeed on the merits of her claim. In her Complaint, she baldly asserts that Wells Fargo is “trying to take” her home “unjustly” and in bad faith. ECF 1 at 9. Additionally, she avers that Wells Fargo altered her mortgage in 2014, without her permission. Id. As indicated, plaintiff's TRO Motion asks the Court to enjoin the sale of her home until her lawsuit has been resolved. ECF 3 at 2. Neither the Complaint nor the TRO Motion suggests that plaintiff is likely to succeed on the merits of her claim. Cf. Williams v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, RDB-16-312, 2016 WL 509426, at *3 (D. Md. Feb. 4, 2016) (Hollander, J., as Chambers Judge) (concluding that the plaintiffs had failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim with respect to a TRO motion asking the Court to enjoin a foreclosure and eviction action).

         Moreover, plaintiff cannot pursue a suit in federal court unless the Court has subject matter jurisdiction. Federal question jurisdiction is established by 28 U.S.C. § 1331, which states, id. (emphasis added): “The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.”

         As noted, the Complaint alleges that Wells Fargo “is not acting in GOOD FAITH according to the United States Constitution.” ECF 1 at 4 (capitals in original). Although plaintiff avers that her claim arises under federal question jurisdiction (ECF 1 at 4), the Complaint does not clearly establish jurisdiction.

         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). Without jurisdiction of course, plaintiff is not likely succeed on the merits.

         Under the “well-pleaded complaint” rule, 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)). Put another way, “before a federal court can decide the merits of a claim, the claim must invoke the jurisdiction of the court.” Miller v. Brown, 462 F.3d 312, 316 (4th Cir. 2006). This means that “a claim of federal question jurisdiction is to be resolved on the basis of the allegations of the complaint itself.” Burgess v. Charlottesville Sav. & Loan Assoc., 477 F.2d 40, 43 (4th Cir. 1973). Therefore, a complaint must contain allegations ...


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