COE v. MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEMS, INC. et al
ENTRY ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS: For the reasons set forth above, the Defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED and the Plaintiff's complaint is DISMISSED for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction ***SEE ENTRY FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION***. Signed by Judge William T. Lawrence on 5/21/2013. Copy sent to Michelle Coe via US Mail.(DW)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
MICHELLE Y. COE,
REGISTRATION SYSTEMS, INC., et al.
Cause No. 1:13-cv-240-WTL-TAB
ENTRY ON DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS
This cause is before the Court on the motion to dismiss filed by the Defendants,
Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (“MERS”), Crestar Mortgage (“Crestar”), and
Suntrust Mortgage, Inc. (“Suntrust”) (dkt. no. 9). The motion is fully briefed, and the Court,
being duly advised, GRANTS the motion to dismiss for the reasons set forth below.
Coe is proceeding pro se in this matter. As such, the Court is required to liberally
construe her complaint. Marshall v. Knight, 445 F.3d 965, 969 (7th Cir. 2006); Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (“[A] pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held
to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.”) (quotation marks and
Coe alleges in her “Complaint for Wrongful Foreclosure” that the Defendants foreclosed
on her home in 2003. Coe now argues that the Defendants “did not have standing and thus
wrongfully foreclosed [on] the property.” Compl. at ¶ 2. According to Coe, another mortgage
company, Bayview Financial Property Trust (“Bayview”), previously filed a foreclosure action
against her to recover the same home. Although Coe claims that the Bayview foreclosure action
was dismissed on January 15, 2003, Coe alleges that Bayview was the true owner of the note and
mortgage. Because there was “no conveyance from Bayview . . . to [Suntrust] or Bayview . . . to
MERS,” Coe believes that the Defendants did not have standing to foreclose on her home. Id. In
short, Coe argues that the Defendants’ lack of standing created a “fraud on the court,” such that
she “has the constitutional right to have the benefit of said property and damages.” Id. at ¶ 6.
The Defendants argue that Coe’s complaint should be dismissed because, according to
the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, this Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over the case.
Simply put, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine “precludes lower federal court
jurisdiction over claims seeking review of state court judgments . . . [because] no
matter how erroneous or unconstitutional the state court judgment may be, the
Supreme Court of the United States is the only federal court that could have
jurisdiction to review a state court judgment.” . . . Therefore, if a claim is barred
by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the federal court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction over the case.
Taylor v. Federal Nat. Mortg. Ass’n, 374 F.3d 529, 532 (7th Cir. 2004) (quoting Brokaw v.
Weaver, 305 F.3d 660, 664 (7th Cir. 2002)).
In applying the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the immediate inquiry is whether the
federal plaintiff seeks to set aside a state court judgment or whether he is, in fact,
presenting an independent claim. Claims that directly seek to set aside a state
court judgment are de facto appeals and are barred without additional inquiry.
However, federal claims presented to the district court that were not raised in state
court or that do not on their face require review of a state court’s decision may
still be subject to Rooker-Feldman if those claims are inextricably intertwined
with a state court judgment. . . . The determination hinges on whether the federal
claim alleges that the injury was caused by the state court judgment, or,
alternatively, whether the federal claim alleges an independent prior injury that
the state court failed to remedy.
Taylor, 374 F.3d at 533 (quotation marks and citations omitted). If the claim is inextricably
intertwined with the state court judgment, a court must then determine whether the plaintiff had
“‘a reasonable opportunity to raise the issue in state court proceedings.’” Id. (quoting Brokaw,
305 F.3d at 668). “If the plaintiff could have raised the issue in state court proceedings, the claim
is barred under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. If not, the suit is free to proceed in federal court
(subject to any claim preclusion defenses).” Taylor, 374 F.3d at 533.
In Taylor, after the plaintiff lost her home in a foreclosure action, she filed a lawsuit in
state court alleging, among other things, that the defendants in the foreclosure action had
committed a fraud on the court “by instituting a wrongful foreclosure action against her.” Id. at
531. The plaintiff sought “to recover her home, or equal monetary value plus interest of 10% per
annum, plus punitive damages.” Id. at 533. The defendants removed the matter to federal court
based on federal question jurisdiction. The district court, however, “dismissed [the] suit with
prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because it implicated the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine.” Id. at 531. On appeal, the Seventh Circuit agreed with the district court and held that
the Rooker-Feldman doctrine barred relief in federal district court because the plaintiff’s request
to recover her home was “tantamount to a request to vacate the state court’s judgment of
This case is almost identical to the case in Taylor. Here, Coe alleges that the Defendants
committed a “fraud on the court” and that “she should [have] been the prevailing party in [the
foreclosure] cause of action.” Compl. at ¶ 6. She also seeks “the benefit of [her] property and
damages.” Id. Coe’s request is clearly “tantamount to a request to vacate the state court’s
judgment of foreclosure.” Taylor, 374 F.3d at 533. Accordingly, the Court lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction over Coe’s claims pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.1
The Defendants alternatively argue that Coe’s complaint is barred by the applicable
statute of limitations. Because this Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over the case, the
Court need not and does not address Defendants’ statute of limitations argument.
For the reasons set forth above, the Defendants’ motion to dismiss is GRANTED and the
Plaintiff’s complaint is DISMISSED for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.
SO ORDERED: 05/21/2013
Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge
United States District Court
Southern District of Indiana
Copy by U.S. Mail to:
Michelle Y. Coe
733 E. 33rd Street
Indianapolis, IN 46205
Copies to all counsel of record via electronic communication.
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