Watts et al v. Regions Financial Corporation et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins on 8/23/2016. (AVC)
2016 Aug-23 PM 03:36
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
ROGER W. WATTS, and ROGER
W. WATTS, JR.,
CORPORATION ET AL.,
) Case No.: 4:16-CV-740-VEH
The Sisyphean task of clearing the court’s high-Wattage docket continues.
Roger W. Watts [hereinafter, “Senior”] and Roger W. Watts, Jr [hereinafter, “Junior”]
[hereinafter and collectively, “the Watts”] have sued Regions Financial Corporation,
Regions Bank1 [collectively, “Regions”], Etowah County Commission, Sheriff Todd
Entrekin, and RREF RB SBL-AL, LLC [hereinafter, “RREF”]. All defendants have
moved to dismiss the Watts’ complaint, and the motions will be GRANTED IN
PART. All federal claims will be DISMISSED. Any state claims raised by the Watts
and not otherwise dismissed herein will be DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
Incorrectly denominated “Regions Banks” in the complaint.
STATEMENT OF FACTS
In 2002, Regions Bank loaned $49,745.92 to Senior and his company,
Enrestoration, Inc. (Doc. 11-1 at 1). The loan was secured by two parcels of real
property. Id. On August 13, 2013, Regions Bank sued Senior and Enrestoration to
recover the amount owed. Id. The state court granted summary judgment in Regions’
favor on January 16, 2014. (Doc. 10-4 at 10). In the meantime, Regions (or so the
Watts believed) attempted to foreclose on the parcels of real property.
On December 19, 2013, Senior and Enrestoration moved in state court for a
temporary restraint of Regions’ (purported) foreclosure on the mortgaged property.
(See generally doc. 11-2). The state court judge granted the motion on December 20,
2013 and temporarily restrained Regions’ right to foreclose; the matter was then set
for a hearing on a preliminary injunction, to be held on December 30, 2013. (See
doc.11-3). But unbeknownst to the state judge (and, it seems, Senior), Regions had
assigned the mortgage to RREF RB Acquisitions, LLC, a Delaware limited liability
company, around July 17, 2012, doc. 10-3 at 2–5, which then assigned the mortgage
to RREF, an Alabama limited liability company, in June 2013, id. at 6–10—meaning
RREF was the true foreclosing party. So RREF hummed along on its foreclosure,
unburdened by the restraining order, which, by its terms, applied only to Regions. The
hearing was held on December 31, 2013, but RREF had completed the foreclosure on
December 20, 2013, so the hearing was not fruitful for the Watts. (See doc. 11-4).
After securing foreclosure, RREF sought possession of the properties and filed
unlawful detainer actions against a number of individuals whose names are irrelevant,
as well as “[a]ll [o]ther [o]ccupants” of the subject properties. (Doc. 10-2 at 2). Junior
was among these “[o]ther [o]ccupants,” so he defended the action. (Id.). And he lost
when the state district court entered an unlawful detainer order. (Id. at 2). So Junior
appealed the order to the Etowah County Circuit Court, where, on January 4, 2016,
he lost again. (Id. at 7). The state circuit judge issued a writ of possession in that
judgment. (Id.). The Etowah County Sheriff’s Office has issued notice to the Watts
to vacate the property.
Although some may say that Junior and Senior have a blithe disregard for the
line between pugnacity and contumacy, see, e.g., doc. 10-1 at 4, the Watts do not take
bad news lying down, so they filed a new lawsuit in state court on March 28, 2016.
(Doc. 11-7). Therein, they requested a temporary restraining order of the execution
of the writs of possession. The complaint in that case is, for all intents and purposes,
the same as the one in this case. (Compare doc. 1, with doc. 11-7).
THE CURRENT CLAIMS, SO FAR AS THE COURT CAN TELL
This action was filed on May 6, 2016. As the defendants have pointed out, the
complaint “is not a model of the careful drafter’s art,” United States v. Hayes, 555
U.S. 415, 429 (2009), so—aside from the fact that the Watts are unhappy about the
foreclosure—it is difficult to tell exactly what their beef is. This failing could warrant
dismissal with prejudice on its own, if the court were willing to give the Watts
another shot (or two) at drafting the complaint. See Weiland v. Palm Beach Cty.
Sheriff’s Office, 792 F.3d 1313, 1325 (11th Cir. 2015) (quoting Anderson v. Dist. Bd.
of Tr. of Cent. Fla. Cmty. Coll., 77 F.3d 364, 366 (11th Cir. 1996) (Sua sponte
dismissal is warranted where “it is virtually impossible to know which allegations of
fact are intended to support which claim(s) for relief). Alas, because the defendants
have moved for dismissal, the court will attempt to figure out the federal claims
The Watts invoke 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which “is not itself a source of substantive
rights but a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.” Backer v.
McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n. 3 (1979). A similar principal applies to their request
for declaratory relief, which is merely a procedural mechanism, not a substantive
right. See Aetna Life Ins. Co. Of Hartford v. Haworth, 300 U.S. 227, 240 (1937).
Senior and Junior seek remedies in the form of damages, injunctive relief, and
declaratory relief. They additionally request that the court “enjoin case with case in
the district court for Etowah County, Alabama,” doc. 9 at 3 which the court takes to
be a request that this action be consolidated with the pending and identical Alabama
action. The Watts, as plaintiffs, may always voluntarily dismiss their state court case,
see ALA. R. CIV. P. 41(a)(1), but this court cannot order the Alabama court to
withhold the exercise of its jurisdiction in this case. This case and the state case will
not be “enjoin[ed].”
For substantive violations, the Watts appear to allege that they were denied the
process due under the Fourteenth Amendment in either the foreclosure itself or the
judgment issuing the writ of possession [hereinafter, “JWP”]. They also appear to
claim that the foreclosure and the JWP violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices
Act, codified at 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692–92p [hereinafter, “FDCPA”]. Additionally, they
appear to assert that, in some way, the JWP and the foreclosure violated the
Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause. Further, they argue that their
eviction from the property by the sheriff’s office would violate the Third
Amendment,2 or at least the court takes this to be the import of their statement that
the sheriff has threatened a “hostile military takeover” of the property. (Doc. 1 at 15,
The court assumes that each claim is asserted against each defendant, so, for
“No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the
Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.” U.S. CONST. amend III.
ease of reference, here are the claims3 in issue:
42 U.S.C. § 1983 to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause by
Monetary and Injunctive Relief
42 U.S.C. § 1983 to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause
by Monetary and Injunctive Relief
42 U.S.C. § 1983 to enforce the Third Amendment by Injunctive Relief
15 U.S.C. § 1692k to enforce the provisions of the FDCPA by Monetary and
42 U.S.C. § 1983 conspiracy to violate the Watts’ Civil Rights
The Watts may also assert divers claims under Alabama law.4 The court need
not reach these, whatever they may be, because any remaining state claims will be
dismissed without prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c) after the resolution of
The complaint features a section titled “Corruption of Authority,” doc. 1 at 17, the
content of which is mostly an argle-bargle string cite. But, to the extent it can be understood to
mean anything at all, the court reads this provision as a perfunctory allegation that whoever did
whatever in this case did so under color of state law.
Among these is a notice of dishonor and opportunity to cure, doc. 1 at 29, but the
historic remedy for dishonor—a duel—has been outlawed in this state since at least 1807, when
it was still the Alabama Territory. See Smith v. State, 1 Stew. 506, 507 (Ala. 1828). Additionally,
based on the rest of the complaint, it does not appear that the Watts are invoking the UCC’s
doctrine of dishonor of negotiable instruments. Otherwise, dishonor is not a cause of action in
Alabama, nor is it a federal claim, so the complaint cannot survive on this ground.
the federal claims. As to the other things in the complaint—the flapdoodle about
“UNITED STATES (INC)” being bankrupt, doc. 1 at 23, as well as boilerplate string
cites about judicial immunity and judicial bias, among others—they are too
disconnected to any of the facts in the case to state a claim.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Generally, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require only that the complaint
provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief.” FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2). However, to survive a motion to dismiss brought
under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In ruling on a motion to
dismiss, all facts (but not legal conclusions) alleged in the complaint are presumed
to true. See id. at 555.
The five defendants filed three motions to dismiss. Regions filed its motion to
dismiss, then Entrekin and Etowah County, and finally RREF. Each has alleged
different grounds for dismissal, but, because “jurisdiction [must] be established as a
threshold matter,” Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Environment, 523 U.S. 83, 94
(1998), the first issues that the court must consider are the grounds for dismissal that
implicate the court’s subject matter jurisdiction. In particular, RREF raises the
Rooker-Feldman jurisdictional bar, and Entrekin raises the Eleventh Amendment.
Claims Barred by the Rooker-Feldman Doctrine
28 U.S.C. § 1257 grants exclusive jurisdiction over appeals from final state
court judgments to the Supreme Court of the United States. See District of Columbia
Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 482 (1983). Accordingly, “[t]he [socalled] Rooker–Feldman doctrine prevents the lower federal courts from exercising
jurisdiction over cases brought by state-court losers challenging state-court judgments
rendered before the district court proceedings commenced.” Lance v. Dennis, 546
U.S. 459, 460 (2006) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). The
jurisdictional bar extends to claims first raised in state court and again in federal court
and “to those inextricably intertwined with the state court’s judgment.” Casale v.
Tillman, 558 F.3d 1258, 1260 (11th Cir. 2009). “A claim is inextricably intertwined
if it would effectively nullify the state court judgment or it succeeds only to the extent
that the state court wrongly decided the issues.” Id. (citations and internal quotation
Rooker-Feldman is potentially applicable to the Watts’ section 1983 claims
against RREF, the motion for a temporary restraining order, and the section 1983
Third Amendment claim against all defendants. First up is the Watts’ motion for a
temporary restraining order, which the court construes as a motion for a preliminary
injunction [“MPI”]. Cf. Haitian Refugee Center, Inc. v. Baker, 950 F.2d 685, 686
(11th Cir. 1991) (construing “temporary restraining order” as preliminary injunction
where order issued after district court heard from all parties).
The Watts appear to advance two arguments to support their temporary
restraining order, and the first is that the foreclosure proceeding violated the FDCPA.
This ground will be taken up later because Rooker-Feldman does not bar it. Second,
they ask this court to void “and to set aside all orders and Judgments in the District
Court of Etowah County in [the unlawful detainer actions],” as well as to restrain the
enforcement of those judgments. (Doc. 9 at 3). One does not even have to reach the
“Feldman” in Rooker-Feldman to determine that the court lacks jurisdiction to issue
the injunction requested in the MPI. See Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413,
414–15 (1923) (holding that district court lacks jurisdiction to declare a state court
judgment “null and void”). The Watts’ motion must be denied as to this ground for
To the extent that any claims against RREF (Counts I, II, and V, as well as any
the court may have missed) in the complaint attack the validity of the JWP they will
be dismissed without prejudice as barred by Rooker-Feldman. See Exxon Mobil Corp.
v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005) (Rooker-Feldman deprives
district court of subject matter jurisdiction); Stalley v. Orlando Reg’l Healthcare Sys.,
524 F.3d 1229, 1232 (11th Cir. 2008) (dismissal for want of subject matter
jurisdiction is without prejudice). Additionally, Count III, against all defendants,5
which seeks to enjoin the “hostile military takeover” of the Watts’ property, is barred
by Rooker-Feldman, because a determination that the Sheriff’s forcible ejectment of
the Watts from the property would be unlawful would “succeed only to the extent the
state court wrongly decided the issues.” Casale, 558 F.3d at 1260.
Claims Barred by the Eleventh Amendment
The Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the
“judicial power of the United States” from “extend[ing] to any suit in law or equity”
against a state by citizens of other states, U.S. CONST. amend. XI, and against a state
by her own citizens. Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1 (1890). In short, the Eleventh
Amendment creates a “jurisdictional bar,” Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v.
Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984), against federal courts hearing actions in which
non-consenting states are defendants. See Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 517 U.S.
44, 67–69 (1996). A suit against a state officer in his official capacity, when damages
are sought, is a suit against the state. Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 653 (1974).
It may be nonsensical to imagine anyone other than Entrekin being enjoined from
performing a “military” coup on the property, but the Watts’ non-compliance with FED. R. CIV.
P. 10(b), which requires that individual claims for relief be limited to one defendant, compels the
court to do so.
An action seeking damages from an Alabama sheriff in his official capacity is barred
by the Eleventh Amendment. Carr v. City of Florence, 916 F.2d 1521, 1525 (11th
Cir. 1990). Accordingly, to the extent that any of the claims in this case are brought
against Sheriff Entrekin in his official capacity, they will be dismissed without
The FDCPA Claim(s)
Having cleared the jurisdictional briar patch, it’s on to the merits. Regions6
moves to dismiss the FDCPA claims on the ground that they are time-barred. The
statute provides that any claims to enforce the FDCPA must be brought “within one
year from the date on which the violation occurs.” 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(d). Regions
argues that the complaint’s allegedly unfair debt collection practices predate or are
contemporaneous with the date of foreclosure—December 20, 2013—so any FDCPA
claims would have expired in December 2014.
For their part, the Watts complain in their responsive filing that defense
counsel “is aware and understand the court rules but is willfully engaging in acts of
fraud, deception, trickery, and even necromancy in order to deprive and defraud
Because of the deep ambiguity of the complaint, reasonable minds could differ as to
which claims the Watts assert against which defendant(s). In light of the court’s decision to treat
each ground for relief as being brought against each defendant, the grounds for dismissal raised
by different defendants will be treated as applicable to all defendants, unless a particular ground
is necessarily limited to less than all defendants, such as the Eleventh Amendment.
Plaintiff(s).” (Doc. 17 at 2). While it is true that necromancy is disfavored in the law,
the Watts Boys are the only necromancers before this court; they incessantly and
vexatiously attempt to raise dead claims from the grave.7 But, they make no effort to
dispute the Defendants’ characterization of the allegedly wrongful acts. The FDCPA
claims will be dismissed as to all defendants.
The reader will recall that the Watts proposed an alternative ground for the
MPI: that “Defendant(s)’ collective actions that violated several FDCPA.” (Doc. 9 at
2). A preliminary injunction may issue if the moving party shows “(1) it has a
substantial likelihood of success on the merits; (2) irreparable injury will be suffered
unless the injunction issues; (3) the threatened injury to the movant outweighs
whatever damage the proposed injunction may cause the opposing party; and (4) if
issued, the injunction would not be adverse to the public interest. Siegel v. LePore,
234 F.3d 1163, 1176 (11th Cir. 2000). Since the FDCPA claims are all time-barred,
there is no likelihood of success on the merits, and the Watts are not entitled to a
The Civil Rights Claims
Regions moves to dismiss any civil rights claims against it on the ground that
The court has no occasion to determine whether necromancy would ever not be
the Watts have not plausibly alleged that it has done anything, legal or illegal, under
color of law, which is a requirement to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See
District of Columbia v. Carter, 409 U.S. 418, 424–25 (1973). Regions is correct.
Accordingly, all section 1983 claims against Regions will be dismissed.
Sheriff Entrekin moves to dismiss the civil rights claims against him,
individually, on the ground that the complaint does not allege that he personally
participated in the putative constitutional violations, and, since there is no respondeat
superior liability under section 1983, Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009), the
Watts have not stated a claim against him. As to Counts I and II, the court agrees.
These claims will be dismissed as to Sheriff Entrekin in his individual capacity.
Etowah County moves to dismiss the section 1983 claims against it on two
grounds: the same respondeat superior ground as Sheriff Enrekin, and that any
possible wrongdoers in the complaint (the state court judges) are not employed by
Etowah County. To impose liability on a municipality, there must be “a direct causal
link between a municipal policy or custom and the alleged constitutional
deprivation.” City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 385 (1989). Finding no such
“policy or custom” plausibly alleged to have created the Watts’ injury, Counts I and
II against Etowah County will be dismissed.
As to Count V, the Watts allege that all defendants have conspired to deprive
them of their constitutional rights, and this allegation at least satisfies Iqbal’s
requirement of personal participation in a constitutional violation for liability to
attach. But Iqbal giveth and Iqbal taketh away, because these defendants also moved
to dismiss the complaint on the ground that the claims for relief were implausible—
which they are. As interpreted by Iqbal, FED R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2) requires the court to
take into account “obvious alternative explanation[s]” for allegedly unconstitutional
conduct before allowing a complaint to clear a motion to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
Here, the Watts’ allegation that Regions, RREF, Sheriff Entrekin, and the
Etowah County Commission conspired with a handful of state judges to deprive the
Watts of their constitutional rights by trumping-up a foreclosure is absurd on its face.
The logical alternative explanation is that Senior failed to pay on his note, so the
property was foreclosed, the foreclosing party (RREF) exercised its legal right to have
any squatters evicted, and the sheriff’s office did its job by attempting to convince the
squatters to leave. The Watts have pleaded no facts that plausibly suggest anything
has happened to them other than run-of-the-mill litigation and judgment execution.
Count V will be dismissed as to Etowah County and Sheriff Entrekin in his individual
Any Other Federal Claims
To the extent the Watts intend to raise any other federal claims, they have put
neither this court nor these defendants on notice of those claims. Therefore, those
claims were filed in violation of FED. R. CIV. P. 8–11, so the court will exercise its
power and do its duty to dismiss the claims without prejudice. Cf. Davis v. Coca-Cola
Bottling Co. Consolidated, 516 F.3d 955, 984 (11th Cir. 2008) (the court should sua
sponte strike unintelligible complaints).
The Other State Law Claims
A district court may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over state law
claims if “the district court has dismissed all claims over which it has original
jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3). All federal claims have been dismissed in this
matter, and there is no basis for the court to exercise original jurisdiction aside from
28 U.S.C. § 1331, so any remaining state claims in this case will be dismissed without
The Watts were entitled to their day in court, not every day in court. Cf. Wilson
v. Retail Credit Co., 474 F.2d 1260, 1261 (5th Cir. 1973)8 (“Every citizen is entitled
This authority is controlling in the Eleventh Circuit. See Bonner v. City of Prichard,
661 F.2d 1206, 1209 (11th Cir. 1981) (holding that decisions of the former Fifth Circuit handed
down prior to the close of business on September 30, 1981, are binding in the Eleventh Circuit).
to his day in court; however, our judicial system was not designed as an experimental
laboratory to license losing parties to bring vexatious and repetitive claims based on
the same transaction.”). They have had their day. A separate order will issue
dismissing the case.
DONE this 23rd day of August, 2016.
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS
United States District Judge
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