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Hollowell v. Bornkamp

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

March 26, 2018

Terrance Hollowell Plaintiff, pro se,
v.
Joel E. Bornkamp, Timothy D. McKay, Robert E. Altman III, April N. Pinder, Phyllis A. Carmer, Bradley C. Crosley of Reisenfeld & Associates, LPA, LLC; David J. Jurkiewicz, Christina M. Bruno of Bose, McKinney & Evans, LLP; and Louis Chronowski, Jordan Huttenlocker, Maria A. Diakoumakis of Dykema Gossett PLLC, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JON E. DEGUILIO JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Plaintiff Terrance Hollowell filed a pro se complaint against a number of Defendants, asking this Court to find that a prior state court foreclosure on his residence was wrongful, to vacate and set aside the resulting foreclosure sale, to cancel the related sheriff's sale[1], and to quiet title in his favor against all defendants. [DE 1 at 9] Basically, he wants to return to his same position before the state foreclosure proceeding. As far as causes of action go, Hollowell first alleges that each of the defendants violated his Constitutional rights by “preparing and filing false documents, and foreclosing upon the Subject Property without having legal authority and/or proper documentation to do so.” [DE 1 ¶ 23] He also alleges that the defendants knew or should have known about this lack of legal authority, and that they thereby committed fraud by facilitating the foreclosure. [DE 1 ¶¶ 25-47][2]

         Defendants in this case are various attorneys from three law firms that played a part in the underlying state court foreclosure action: the “Reisenfeld” defendants (Joel E. Bornkamp, Timothy D. McKay, Robert E. Altman III, April N. Pinder, Phyllis A. Carmer, and Bradley C. Crosley); the “Bose” defendants (David J. Jurkiewicz and Christina M. Bruno); and the “Dykema” defendants (Louis Chronowski, Jordan Huttenlocker, and Maria A. Diakoumakis).

         The defendants have filed three separate motions to dismiss. [DE 8; 20; 32] All three sets of defendants advance the arguments that Hollowell's complaint should either be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine or precluded via res judicata. [DE 9; 21; 33] The Bose and Dykema defendants further argue that Hollowell has failed to state claims for fraud and for a constitutional deprivation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. [DE 21; 33] For the reasons stated herein, the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear this case because doing so would amount to entertaining an appeal of Hollowell's state foreclosure action. Therefore, his complaint will be dismissed by way of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND [3]

         On February 29, 2008, Hollowell executed and delivered a promissory note to Residential Loan Centers of America, Inc. (“RLCA”). As security for the debt created by the note, Hollowell executed a mortgage on the subject property (1314 Hudson Street, Elkhart, Indiana) in favor of Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (“MERS”) as nominee for RLCA. The mortgage was recorded in the Office of the Recorder of Elkhart County, Indiana on March 3, 2008 as Instrument No. 2008-05486.

         RLCA endorsed the note specially to JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. (“JPM”). JPM endorsed the note in blank. MERS, as nominee for RLCA, assigned its interest in the mortgage to Chase Home Finance, LLC (“Chase”) on October 24, 2008. The Assignment was recorded in the Elkhart County Recorder's Office on November 5, 2008 as Instrument No. 2008-26093. Hollowell contests the validity of this assignment.

         On April 16, 2012, JPM filed a Complaint on Note and to Foreclose Mortgage against Hollowell and Cynthia Harris (a co-borrower) in Elkhart Superior Court, Cause No. 20D01-1204-MF-00304. JPM was represented therein by the Reisenfeld and Bose defendants, and by defendant Huttenlocker. Hollowell and Ms. Harris were served on April 24, 2012, however, they failed to timely answer the foreclosure complaint and the state court granted a default judgment and decree of foreclosure on November 14, 2012.[4]

         The instant matter is but the latest installment in a string of lawsuits (filed by Hollowell) related to and challenging the state foreclosure action. On May 25, 2013, Hollowell and Ms. Harris filed a federal lawsuit against JPM in this District, Case No. 3:13-cv-490. The court dismissed that case on the basis of res judicata. Then, Hollowell pursued two distinct adversary proceedings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for this District, one in 2013 (Case No. 13-03028) and the other in 2015 (Case No. 15-03048). The court dismissed both actions, describing Hollowell's filings and conduct in the second case as “abusive” because he used the court “as a vehicle to obstruct the Defendants' efforts to enforce their judgments and to unnecessarily protract the proceedings.” [Case No. 15-03048, DE 29 at 2-3] More recently, on March 17, 2017, Hollowell filed a state court action in Elkhart Superior Court (Cause No. 200002-1703-cc-432) against the exact same defendants as here. The state court dismissed that action a month later on the basis of res judicata; essentially, Hollowell brought the same claims as in his earlier federal case, and merely substituted JPM's former foreclosure counsel for the bank itself. Finally, Hollowell filed the instant lawsuit on August 7, 2017. [DE 1]

         STANDARD

         Rule 12(b)(1)[5] authorizes dismissal of claims over which the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. In analyzing a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept as true all well-pled factual allegations and must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Long v. Shorebank Dev. Corp., 182 F.3d 548, 554 (7th Cir. 1999). Further, “[t]he district court may properly look beyond the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint and view whatever evidence has been submitted on the issue to determine whether in fact subject matter jurisdiction exists.” Id. (citations omitted). The burden of establishing proper federal subject matter jurisdiction rests on the party asserting it, which in this case is Mr. Hollowell. Muscarello v. Ogle Cnty. Bd. of Comm'rs, 610 F.3d 416, 425 (7th Cir. 2010).

         Even in the absence of a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the Court is “obligated to review its own jurisdiction sua sponte.” Caterpillar Fin. Servs. Corp. v. Peoples Nat. Bank, N.A., Civil No. 10-298, 2011 WL 5403501, *1 (S.D. Ill. Nov. 8, 2011) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3); Hammes v. AAMCO Transmissions, Inc., 33 F.3d 774, 778 (7th Cir. 1994) (“the court has an independent duty to satisfy itself that it has subject-matter jurisdiction”).

         DISCUSSION

         The Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this action under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which holds that “lower federal courts do not have subject matter jurisdiction over claims seeking review of state court judgments.” Long v. Shorebank Dev. Corp., 182 F.3d 548, 554 (7th Cir. 1999). This doctrine “requires a party seeking review of a state court judgment or presenting a claim that a state judicial proceeding has violated their constitutional rights to pursue relief through the state court system and ultimately to the Supreme Court.” Id. “Simply put, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine precludes lower federal court jurisdiction over claims seeking review of state court judgments because no matter how erroneous or unconstitutional the state court judgment may be, the Supreme Court of the United States is the only federal court that could have jurisdiction to review a state court judgment.” Taylor v. Fed. Nat'l Mortg. Ass'n, 374 F.3d 529, 532 (7th Cir. 2004) (internal quotations and alterations omitted). That is true even where, as here, a plaintiff asserts that the state court judgment violated his civil rights. Holt v. Lake Cnty. Bd. of ...


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