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Peter Dipietro v. Landis Title Company

June 11, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hillman, District Judge


This case concerns plaintiff's claims that defendants violated numerous constitutional, statutory, and common law rights during their involvement in a state court foreclosure action. Currently pending before this Court are the motions of defendants to dismiss plaintiff's case, as well as motions by plaintiff for an injunction and for leave to file a second amended complaint.*fn2 For the reasons expressed below, defendants' motions will be granted, and plaintiff's motions will be denied.


In August 2007, plaintiff, Peter D. DiPietro, executed a fixed-rate five-year note and a first mortgage to Newfield National Bank, which secured his repayment of $240,000 plus interest within the term of the note. DiPietro defaulted in September 2008, and Newfield filed a complaint in New Jersey state court, Gloucester County, seeking foreclosure and possession. DiPietro filed an answer to the foreclosure complaint, and asserted four counterclaims seeking, among other things, damages for fraud.

On September 16, 2010, the chancery court judge assigned to the matter heard argument on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. Although DiPietro acknowledged signing the five-year note and mortgage and his failure to make the monthly payments required since 2008, he sought judgment primarily on the ground that he had applied for a thirty-year mortgage. After hearing argument, the judge granted summary judgment on the foreclosure to Newfield National Bank, but concluded that DiPietro's counterclaims could not be addressed on summary judgment and should be transferred to the Law Division. See Newfield Nat. Bank v. DiPietro, 2011 WL 5374967, *1 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2011).*fn3

Once his case was in the Law Division, DiPietro added as defendants Landis Title Corporation, and Landis Title employee Renee Gould. Landis Title had been engaged by Newfield National Bank to act as the title company in the August 2007 closing, and Gould prepared the HUD-1 Settlement Statement. DiPietro also added as defendants the law firm Ballard Spahr, LLP and associate attorney Mariah Murphy. Ballard Spahr and Murphy represented Newfield National Bank in the foreclosure proceedings. DiPietro's case was assigned to Judge Anne McDonnell, whose law clerk that term was Dan Long. Martina Hinman served as a court staff member in the Gloucester County Civil Case Management Office.

In his state court case, DiPietro made numerous allegations against Newfield, Landis Title, Gould, Ballard Spahr, and Murphy. DiPietro's complaints were that those parties conspired to hold court hearings without him, conceal documents, perpetrate a bait and switch on him, engage in predatory lending, and defraud him. After extensive motion practice, DiPietro's case, at his request, was transferred to Cumberland County before Judge Richard Geiger. Judge Geiger entered summary judgment in favor of all the defendants. DiPietro filed a motion for leave to appeal, which the Appellate Division denied on August 25, 2011.

On September 6, 2011, DiPietro filed his lawsuit here. He named as defendants Landis Title, Gould, Ballard Spahr, and Murphy, as well as Judge Anne McDonnell, her law clerk Dan Long, and state court employee Martina Hinman. Ballard Spahr and Murphy immediately filed a motion to dismiss, and DiPietro filed an amended complaint against the same defendants. DiPietro also filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and an injunction. The defendants opposed DiPietro's motion, and they all filed motions to dismiss DiPietro's amended complaint. DiPietro then filed a motion for leave to file a second amended complaint.*fn4 The proposed second amended complaint appears to be identical to DiPietro's amended complaint, except for the naming of Newfield National Bank and two of its employees as defendants.

The primary question raised by the pending motions is whether DiPietro's case here is an improper attempt to have this Court interfere with and overturn the state court proceedings. The Court finds that it is and therefore must abstain from considering DiPietro's case based on the principles announced by the United States Supreme Court in Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v. United States, 424 U.S. 800 (1976), Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), and Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923) and District of Columbia Ct. of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983).


A. Jurisdiction

This Court has jurisdiction over plaintiff's federal claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and supplemental jurisdiction to hear plaintiff's state law claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

B. Motion to Dismiss Standard*fn5

When considering a motion to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), a court must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 351 (3d Cir. 2005). It is well settled that a pleading is sufficient if it contains "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Under the liberal federal pleading rules, it is not necessary to plead evidence, and it is not necessary to plead all the facts that serve as a basis for the claim. Bogosian v. Gulf Oil Corp., 562 F.2d 434, 446 (3d Cir. 1977). However, "[a]lthough the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not require a claimant to set forth an intricately detailed description of the asserted basis for relief, they ...

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