United States District Court, D. New Jersey
C. CECCHI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
February 6, 2018, pro se Plaintiff instituted the
within action seeking to recover damages stemming from an
"August 2009" lawsuit she alleges was
"fraudulently" instituted by "Attorney David
Kaplan on behalf of his client, Shauyn Copeland." (ECF
No. 1 ("Compl.") at 1) (citing Civ. Action No.
09-4675)). As further discussed below, Plaintiff has been
involved in multiple actions relating to the subject mortgage
transaction. In this action, Plaintiff explains that
"[t]he purpose of this lawsuit was [sic] to
stop Ms. Copeland's foreclosure after her Bankruptcy
Action failed to do so." (Id.). Additionally,
Plaintiff explains that "[d]ue to [Plaintiffs] loss of a
Surety Bond and loss of income due to the [alleged] fraud and
other charges against [her], Plaintiff filed a State Court
Complaint for fraud against the parties in the initial
lawsuit." (Id.). Plaintiff further remarks that
for all the reasons set forth in her Complaint, "all
Judges ruled incorrectly based on bias, prejudice and
incorrect 'facts' (a/k/a misrepresentations) by
Defendants." (Id.). As such, Plaintiff brought
this Complaint asserting the following causes of action:
Counts I-XI - Violations of the Racketeer Influenced and
Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO") by various
Defendants; and Counts XII-XIV - "Aiding and Abetting,
Violations of the Constitution, the Due Process Clause and
Violation of 42 U.S.C § 1983" by various
Defendants. (Compl. ¶¶ 30-238).
Since the filing of the Complaint, both Plaintiff and
Defendants have filed various motions. (ECF Nos. 51, 58, 69,
72). Specifically, on April 17, 2018, Plaintiff filed a
Motion for Default Judgment as to one Defendant. (ECF No.
51). Additionally, on May 15, 2018, Defendants filed a Motion
to Dismiss Plaintiffs Complaint. (ECF No. 58). On July 12,
2018, presumably in response to Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to Amend her
Complaint and to Transfer Venue. (ECF No. 59). The Honorable
Steven C. Mannion, U.S.M.J. denied Plaintiffs Motion for
Leave to Amend her Complaint and Transfer Venue on September
4, 2018. (ECF No. 71). On September 13, 2018, Plaintiff filed
a Motion for Reconsideration. (ECF No. 72). The Motions that
are currently pending before the Court are Plaintiffs Motions
for Default Judgment and Reconsideration (ECF Nos. 51, 72),
as well as Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 58).
Plaintiff s action stems from two prior, separate lawsuits.
The first was a 2009 New Jersey State Court Action that was
later removed to this Court ("Prior Federal Action).
(See Civ. Action No. 09-4675). Said lawsuit was
brought by some of Defendants against, inter alia,
Plaintiff. (Id.). The Prior Federal Action was
settled in August of 2010 and the action was dismissed with
prejudice. (Id. at ECF Nos. 30-32). The second prior
action was a New Jersey State Court Action instituted by
Plaintiff against the same individuals and entities that are
Defendants in this Action ("Prior State Court
Action"). (See English v. Bank of Am., N.J.
Case No. ESX-L-10269-10). The Prior State Court Action
related to the same mortgage transaction that was the subject
of the Prior Federal Action. (Id.). After several
years of litigation, the State Court dismissed the Prior
State Court Action on summary judgment. (Id.).
Plaintiff appealed the dismissal and the Appellate Division
affirmed same. (See English v. Bank of Am., N.J.
App. No. A-4524-12T1).
noted above, approximately two-and-a-half years later,
Plaintiff filed the within action asserting various RICO
claims against all of the same Defendants. (See
generally ECF No. 1). It is obvious to this Court that
Plaintiff is complaining about the same exact mortgage
transaction that was the subject of the Prior Federal Action
as well as the Prior State Court Action. (Compare
ECF No. 1 with Civ. Action No. 09-4675 and N.J. Case
Herein, Plaintiff seeks to hold the same Defendants liable
for their participation in the underlying mortgage
transaction as well as their involvement in the Prior Federal
Action and Prior State Court Action. (ECF No. 1).
proper way for Plaintiff to proceed would be for her to seek
review and relief through the motion and appellate procedures
of the respective Federal and New Jersey State Courts.
See D.C. Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462,
482 (1983); Rooker v. Fid. Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413,
414-16 (1923). This Court is prohibited by the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine from providing relief that
would effectively reverse the decisions, directly or
indirectly invalidate the determinations, prevent the
enforcement of the orders, or void the rulings issued by the
State Court in the Prior State Court Action. See Jacobsen
v. CitiMortg. Inc., 715 Fed.Appx. 222, 223 (3d Or. 2018)
(affirming a district court's dismissal of the
claims that were brought in connection with a state
foreclosure action as being barred by the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine), pet. for reh 'g
& reh 'g en banc denied, No. 17-3267 (3d Cir.
Apr. 30, 2018); Todd v. U.S. Bank Nat'l
Ass'n, 685 Fed.Appx. 103, 105-06 (3d Cir. 2017)
(same), pet. for reh 'g & reh 'g en banc
denied, Nos. 16-1126 & 16-1255 (3d Cir. May 18,
2017), cert, denied, 138 S.Ct. 449 (2017). The
Rooker-Feldman bar also "encompass[es] final
decisions of lower state courts." E.B. v.
Verniero, 119 F.3d 1077, 1090 (3d Cir. 1997); see
also Port Auth. Police Benevolent Ass 'n, Inc. v. Port
Auth. of N.Y. & N.J. Police Dep't, 973 F.2d 169,
177-78 (3d Cir. 1992) (same).
addition, it appears that this Court should abstain from
exercising jurisdiction over this action pursuant to the
Younger abstention doctrine, because (a) the Prior
State Court Action may be ongoing, (b) important state
interests are implicated in the Prior State Court Action, and
(c) there is an adequate opportunity to raise federal claims
in the New Jersey State Courts. See Middlesex County
Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass 'n, 457 U.S.
423, 435 (1982); Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37,
43-54 (1971). This Court is barred from interfering with the
Prior State Court Action if it is indeed ongoing and
Plaintiff is seeking additional appellate review. See
Cunningham v. Mortg. Contracting Servs. LLC, 634
Fed.Appx. 361, 362 (3d Cir. 2016) (affirming dismissal of
claims brought in connection to a state foreclosure action as
being barred by Younger abstention); Jacques v.
Chase Bank USA, N.A., 668 Fed.Appx. 437, 438-39 (3d Cir.
2016) (same), pet. for reh 'g & reh 'g en
banc denied, No. 16-1318 (3d Cir. Oct. 17,
further appears that this Court is barred from adjudicating
any claims in this action that either have been or should
have been adjudicated in the Prior Federal Action and Prior
State Court Action pursuant to the well-established doctrines
of res judicata, collateral estoppel, and New
Jersey's entire controversy doctrine. See
Jacques, 668 Fed.Appx. at 438-39. A federal court is
authorized to sua sponte dispose of a case based on
those aforementioned reasons, even if the plaintiffs have
paid the filing fee, "when the allegations within the
complaint 'are so attenuated and unsubstantial as to be
absolutely devoid of merit, ... wholly insubstantial, ...
obviously frivolous, ... plainly unsubstantial, ... or no
longer open to discussion.'" DeGrazia v. Fed.
Bureau of Investigation, 316 Fed.Appx. 172, 173 (3d Cir.
2009) (quoting Hagans v. Lavine, 415 U.S. 528,
536-37 (1974)); see also Itiowe v. The Trentonian,
620 Fed.Appx. 65, 67 n.2 (3d Cir. 2015) (dismissing an appeal
pursuant to Hagans from a district court order that
dismissed the claims brought by a plaintiff who paid the
district court's filing fee); Boykin v. New
Jersey, No. 16-5543, 2017 WL 2560346, at *6 (D.N.J. June
12, 2017) (dismissing a case where a fee-paying plaintiff
brought a federal action to stop a foreclosure that was
proceeding in state court, and citing Hagans and
Finally, this Court is also without authority in general to
review and adjudicate issues that have arisen in New Jersey
State Courts in the Prior State Court Action. See Francis
v. TD Bank, N.A., 597 Fed.Appx. 58, 61 (3d Cir. 2014)
(affirming the dismissal of a borrower's claims alleging
misconduct by a bank in bringing a separate state foreclosure
action, and citing Atl. Coast Line R.R. Co. v. Bhd. of
Locomotive Eng'rs, 398 U.S. 281 (1970), and In
re Grand Jury Proceedings, 654 F.2d 268 (3d Cir. 1981)).
Thus, this Court orders Plaintiff to show cause why her
Complaint in this case should not be dismissed without
prejudice to Plaintiffs ability to seek to seek relief before
the New Jersey State Courts pursuant to the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the Younger
abstention doctrine, res judicata, and collateral
estoppel. For good cause shown:
on this 3rd day of October, 2018.
that Plaintiff will show cause why the Complaint should not
be dismissed without prejudice to seek relief before the
proper tribunal for ...