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Wright v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, National Association

United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Camden Vicinage

October 30, 2019

CHARMAINE WRIGHT, Plaintiff,
v.
JP MORGAN CHASE BANK, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION, and CHASE HOME FINANCE LLC, Defendants.

          JOSHUA L. THOMAS & ASSOCIATES By: Joshua Louis Thomas, Esq. Counsel for Plaintiff Charmaine Wright

          PARKER IBRAHIM & BERG LLP By: Scott W. Parker, Esq.; Brian M. Gaynor, Esq. Counsel for Defendants JPMorgan Chase Bank, National Association and Chase Home Finance LLC

          OPINION

          RENÉE MARIE BUMB, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court upon a Motion to Dismiss [Dkt. No. 20], filed by Defendants JPMorgan Chase Bank, National Association (“JPMorgan”) and Chase Home Finance LLC (“Chase Home Finance”)(together, “Defendants”), seeking dismissal of Plaintiff Charmaine Wright's Complaint [Dkt. No. 1] in its entirety. Defendants also move for sanctions and for Plaintiff, as a “vexatious litigant, ” to be enjoined from filing new actions [Dkt. No. 23]. Specifically, Defendants argue that dismissal and sanctions are warranted because “Plaintiff has previously filed four versions of this same complaint in various New Jersey state courts” and the previous version of the complaint was dismissed with prejudice, with the dismissal affirmed by the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division. The Court agrees with Defendants that dismissal is warranted and that Plaintiff and her counsel should be precluded from initiating new actions in this Court. This Court will also impose sanctions on Plaintiff's counsel, Joshua Louis Thomas, Esq.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On April 25, 2018, Plaintiff commenced this action, alleging claims that stem from her August 10, 2007 mortgage (the “Original Purchase Mortgage”) to purchase the property at 3 Farragut Court, Willingboro, New Jersey 08046 (the “Farragut Property”). Additionally, Plaintiff alleges impropriety in relation to a refinancing on February 18, 2008 (the “Refinance Mortgage”) and a modification to the mortgage on January 1, 2011 (the “Modification Agreement”). In the Complaint, Plaintiff attempts to assert six causes of action: (1) Violations of Regulation Z of the Truth in Lending Act (“Regulation Z”), 15 U.S.C. § 1601, et seq. and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”), 12 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq. (Count One); (2) Violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (15 U.S.C. § 1692)(Count Two); (3) Violations of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (“CFA”), N.J.S.A. § 56:8-1, et seq., and the False Claims Act (“FCA”), 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-3733 (Count Three); (4) Violations of both federal and state Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Acts (“RICO”), 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961-1968 and N.J.S.A. § 2C:21-17, et seq. (Count Four); (5) Fraud under 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341, 1343, 1344, & 1951(a) (Count Five); and (6) Fraud under New Jersey's law against tampering with public records or information, N.J.S.A. § 2C:28-7 (Count Six).

         A. Plaintiff's Prior State Court Actions

         By Plaintiff's own admission, she has filed four previous complaints against Defendants, in three separate New Jersey state court actions, within the past five years.

         On October 29, 2014, Plaintiff filed her first complaint against JP Morgan Chase, N.A. a/d/b/a Chase Home Finance (the same Defendants currently before this Court), among other defendants, in the Law Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey (Case No. BUR-L-2636-14)(the “First Complaint”). The First Complaint contained four causes of action, including conspiracy to commit fraud and unjust enrichment, related to allegations that JP Morgan Chase, on February 18, 2008, obtained a second mortgage on the Farragut Property and, on November 2, 2010, used a forged signature to obtain a loan modification effective January 1, 2011. After Chase moved to dismiss the First Complaint, on January 14, 2015, the Superior Court ordered Plaintiff to file an amended complaint. Plaintiff filed her First Amended Complaint (the “Second Complaint”) on January 16, 2015, which alleged ten additional causes of action, including fraud and New Jersey Civil RICO, but contained substantially similar factual allegations to the First Complaint. After Chase moved for dismissal, the Honorable Marc M. Baldwin, J.S.C., dismissed Plaintiff's Second Complaint without prejudice on March 31, 2015.

         Following the dismissal of the Second Complaint, Plaintiff commenced a new action in the Superior Court on May 7, 2015, under a new case number (BUR-L-1175-15), against JP Morgan Case, N.A. a/d/b/a Chase Home Finance (the same Defendants currently before this Court), among others (the “Third Complaint”). In the Third Complaint, Plaintiff alleged sixteen causes of action, including violations of Regulation Z and RESPA, regarding the same alleged fraudulent mortgages and modifications related to the Farragut Property. On December 31, 2015, Judge Baldwin dismissed the Third Complaint without prejudice, giving Plaintiff thirty days to file an amended complaint. In his opinion, Judge Baldwin stated, in part, as follows:

The Complaint is as uninformative to the Defendants as the prior three attempts were. Plaintiff makes very few factual assertions and the ones that she does make are against multiple Defendants in the same paragraph. Courts are very reluctant to dismiss pleadings with prejudice because of their obtuseness (The Pleading's)[.] Thus I am going to give the Plaintiff one last try. This Complaint is going to be dismissed without prejudice because of its complete failure to advise the movants as to the theories and factual underpinnings against them.

See Dkt. No. 20-12, at 4.

         Instead of amending her Complaint, over eight months later, on September 9, 2016, Plaintiff filed another new complaint in the Superior Court against JPMorgan Chase Bank, National Association and Chase Home Finance, LLC (the same Defendants currently before this Court), once again under a new case number (BUR-L-2157-16)(the “Fourth Complaint”). In the Fourth Complaint, Plaintiff alleged nineteen causes of action (the “Fourth Complaint”), including New Jersey Civil RICO, various fraud claims, and violations of the Fourteenth Amendment, the New Jersey Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act. Plaintiff's allegations again related to her mortgage, refinancing, and the modification of her loan. Plaintiff also claimed violations of various federal criminal statutes (18 U.S.C. §§ 4, 241-42, 1341-43, 1956, 2314, 2331).

         On December 16, 2016, the Honorable Janet Z. Smith, J.S.C., granted Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Fourth Complaint with prejudice. On February 21, 2018, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division affirmed the dismissal of the Fourth Complaint, with prejudice. Specifically, the three-judge panel concluded that Plaintiff's arguments, that the trial court erred and abused its discretion by dismissing the complaint with prejudice, prohibiting her from amending the complaint or bringing any claims in the future, were “meritless and do not require discussion in a written opinion.” See Wright v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, NA, 2018 WL 987852, at *1 ( N.J.Super.Ct.App.Div. Feb. 21, 2018). The Appellate Division added as follows:

Wright contests the court's decision to dismiss her fourth complaint with prejudice. Notwithstanding the opportunity to provide sufficient facts to sustain a cause of action in her first three pleadings, Wright could not meet her minimal burden. In the circumstances presented, we are satisfied that “further opportunity to amend would not be fruitful.” Johnson v. Glassman, 401 N.J.Super. 222, 247 (App. Div. 2008). Plaintiffs who have no further facts to plead may not continue to file pleadings “in the hope that [they] could use the tools of discovery to uncover evidence of wrongdoing.” Nostrame v. Santiago, 213 N.J. 109, 128 (2013). In such a context, dismissal with prejudice is “entirely appropriate.” Ibid.
The decision to dismiss with prejudice and to deny further amendment are matters left to the discretion of the court. Id. at 127; See also Hoffman v. Hampshire Labs, Inc., 405 N.J.Super. 105, 116 (App. Div. 2009). Here, we hold the court's decision was within the sound exercise of discretion.

Wright, 2018 WL 987852, at *1.

         B. The Pending ...


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