United States District Court, D. New Jersey
BELLE FLAMER Pro Se Appellant
EISENBERG PERKINS COIE LLP
THOMAS YUSKO KNUCKLES KOMOSINSKI & MANFRO LLP On behalf
L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.
before the Court is the debtor's appeal of the bankruptcy
court's dismissal of her adversary proceeding. For the
reasons expressed below, the decision of the bankruptcy court
will be affirmed, and the debtor's appeal will be
August 13, 1997, appellant, Lulu Belle Flamer, borrowed $60,
000.00 by using the home she owned at 240 24th Avenue,
Elwood, New Jersey as security. The loan included a mortgage
and promissory note, which were eventually assigned to
appellant, U.S. Bank Trust, N.A.
August 28, 2015, U.S. Bank commenced a foreclosure action in
the Superior Court of New Jersey, Atlantic County. On October
1, 2015, Flamer filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition in this
District. On December 4, 2015, Flamer filed an
answer to the foreclosure action denying the default and
alleging accord and satisfaction.
January 8, 2016, the bankruptcy court issued an Order of
Discharge under 11 U.S.C. § 727 to Flamer. The Discharge
Order specifically stated, “a creditor with a lien may
enforce a claim against the debtors' property subject to
that lien unless the lien was avoided or eliminated. For
example, a creditor may have the right to foreclose a home
mortgage or repossess an automobile.” After extensive
motion practice in the foreclosure action, on June 2, 2017,
the Superior Court ordered U.S. Bank to issue a certification
regarding Flamer's payment history, late charges and
default interest arguments. The Superior Court subsequently
heard oral argument on the amount due for final judgment, and
the court found against Flamer.
September 18, 2017, in the Superior Court of New Jersey, the
Honorable Michael J. Blee, P.J.Ch., entered an Order of
Judgment in the foreclosure for U.S. Bank. On October 2,
2017, Flamer filed a motion to vacate the final judgment,
which was opposed and ultimately denied on October 27, 2017.
In Flamer's motion to vacate the final judgment, she
argued that the mortgage loan was discharged prior to the
issuance of the final judgment of foreclosure without
objection from U.S. Bank, and therefore the lien had been
cancelled prior to the judgment of foreclosure. Judge Blee
denied Flamer's motion for reconsideration on December 4,
2017. On December 18, 2017, Flamer filed another motion to
stay the foreclosure, in which she again argued that U.S.
Bank failed to levy on Flamer's property during
bankruptcy and that a lien discharge was granted.
Flamer's motion was denied on January 19, 2018.
March 8, 2018, Flamer filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy
petition and a day later filed an adversary
proceeding against U.S. Bank. Flamer sought the bankruptcy
court's determination as to the validity of U.S.
Bank's lien underlying the foreclosure action. U.S. Bank
filed a motion to dismiss, which was granted on May 22, 2018,
and again on reconsideration on June 26, 2018. The bankruptcy
court dismissed Flamer's adversary proceeding based on
res judicata principles and the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine. Flamer has appealed the bankruptcy
court's decision to this Court.
Jurisdiction and Standard of Review
Court has jurisdiction over the appeal from the bankruptcy
court's May 22, 2018 and June 26, 2018 orders pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 158(a), which provides in relevant part:
“The district courts of the United States shall have
jurisdiction to hear appeals from final judgments, orders and
decrees . . . of bankruptcy judges entered in cases and
proceedings referred to the bankruptcy judges under section
157 of this title. An appeal under this subsection shall be
taken only to the district court for the judicial district in
which the bankruptcy judge is serving.” In reviewing a
determination of the bankruptcy court, the district court
subjects the bankruptcy court's legal determinations to
plenary review, reviewing its factual findings for clear
error, and considering its exercise of discretion for abuse
thereof. In re United Healthcare Sys., Inc., 396
F.3d 247, 249 (3d Cir. 2005).
argues that the bankruptcy court erred in several (3d Cir.
2005) (“The Rooker-Feldman doctrine prevents
‘inferior' federal courts from sitting as appellate
courts for state court judgments.”). ways: (1) it
applied the incorrect standard in dismissing her adversary
complaint and it improperly considered matters outside of her
complaint; (2) the decisions of the state court in the
foreclosure action should not have precluded the bankruptcy
court from using its core ...