Torrey v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER. (See Full Order.) IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendants' second motion to dismiss [# 8 ] is GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff's motion for leave to file second verified amended relief by an independent a ction in equity [# 11 ] and motion to file verified second amended complaint to add newly discovered material [# 26 ] are DENIED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that all other pending motions in this matter are DENIED as moot. Signed by District Judge Catherine D. Perry on 04/29/2015. (CBL)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
CLORIS BANKS TORREY,
JPMORGAN CHASE BANK, N.A.,
Case No. 4:14 CV 1676 CDP
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
In July 2013, plaintiff Cloris Banks Torrey filed a lawsuit in Missouri state
court against the same parties who are defendants to this lawsuit. The state court
action was dismissed with prejudice on March 13, 2014. In Torrey’s current
lawsuit before this court, she claims the defendants perpetrated various acts of
fraud upon the state court, and she seeks review and vacation of the of the state
court’s decision to dismiss her case. The defendants have filed a motion to dismiss
Torrey’s claims based on this court’s lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Under Rooker-Feldman, federal district courts do not
have subject matter jurisdiction to consider appeals from state court judgments.
Because I conclude that Torrey’s complaint essentially asks this court to review
and overturn the Missouri state court’s earlier decision, I agree that I do not have
jurisdiction in this matter, and I will grant defendants’ motion to dismiss.
Additionally, Torrey has filed two motions for leave to file amended
complaints. Because I find that Torrey’s proposed amended complaints fail to
remedy the deficiencies of her current complaint and, to the extent they assert new
claims, would be subject to dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6), Fed. R. Civ. P., her
motions for leave to amend are denied. Additionally Torrey’s numerous
miscellaneous motions provide nothing that could change the outcome of the case,
and all will be denied as moot.
A dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction requires that the complaint
be successfully challenged on its face or on the factual truthfulness of its
averments. Titus v. Sullivan, 4 F.3d 590, 593 (8th Cir.1993). In a facial attack, the
court restricts itself to the face of the pleadings, and all of the factual allegations
concerning jurisdiction are presumed to be true. Id. In a factual challenge, the
court considers matters outside of the pleadings, and no presumptive truthfulness
attaches to the plaintiff's allegations. Osborn v. United States, 918 F.2d 724, 729
n. 6 (8th Cir.1990). Furthermore, the existence of disputed material facts does not
preclude the trial court from evaluating for itself the merits of jurisdictional claims.
Id. at 729. “Because at issue in a factual 12(b)(1) motion is the trial court's
jurisdiction—its very power to hear the case—there is substantial authority that the
trial court is free to weigh the evidence and satisfy itself as to the existence of its
power to hear the case.” Id.
Factual and Procedural Background
Torrey’s claims all appear to originate with her assertion that she is the
rightful owner of a St. Louis County home, located at 9422 Westchester Drive, that
one or more of the defendants has fraudulently attempted to foreclose on.
(Complaint ¶ 13). In her July 2013 state court lawsuit, Torrey v. JP Morgan, Case
No. 13 SL-CC02395 (St. Louis County, Missouri), Torrey asserted four causes of
action, seeking generally, to quiet title to the subject property for redress from
defendants’ allegedly wrongful foreclosure. In its March 2014 order granting
defendant JPMorgan Chase’s motion to dismiss these counts, the state court found
that Torrey had failed to provide a sufficient factual basis to support her claims.
Because Torrey had been given two opportunities to amend her pleadings as well
as a hearing on the motion to dismiss, the court concluded her case should be
dismissed with prejudice.1 Torrey filed a notice of appeal in the state appellate
court but that court ultimately issued an order dismissing Torrey’s case based on
her failure to comply with appellate procedures.
The court also noted that plaintiff had filed a very similar state lawsuit against various other
defendants in October 2012. (Torrey Ex. N). The 2012 lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice
in March 2013.
In August 2013, a month after filing her state court action, Torrey also filed
a lawsuit in this court concerning the Westchester Drive property. Defendants in
that case included the same parties who are defendants in this action and who were
defendants in the state court action. In the 2013 federal lawsuit, Torrey asserted
the defendants had engaged in an unconstitutional taking of her property. She
alleged various federal statutory violations as well as state-law claims for lack of
standing, wrongful foreclosure, quiet title, slander of title, fraudulent inducement,
and an accounting. Torrey v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, No. 4:13CV1611 CEJ, 2014
WL 1648791, at *3-*4 (E.D. Mo. April 24, 2014). In April 2014, after the state
court’s dismissal of Torrey’s case with prejudice, this court also dismissed her
federal lawsuit, holding that most of plaintiff’s claims were barred by the doctrine
of res judicata and the remainder failed to state a claim for relief. Id. at *4-*5.
Torrey’s amended complaint in the instant matter is titled “Verified
Amended Relief Independent Action in Equity to Set Aside Final State Court
March 13, 2014 Order/Judgment.” Torrey appears to assert two counts, but both
counts are labeled “Count 1” and entitled “Relief by Independent Action in Equity
to Relief State Court Order Judgment of March 13, 2014 Fraud upon the Court.”
The substance of the complaint is often incomprehensible but it generally asserts
various allegedly fraudulent acts undertaken by defendants in order to stop
Torrey’s state court action. Torrey claims defendants fraudulently recorded a Deed
of Trust on the subject property, thereby falsely representing to Torrey and the
state court that they had the right to collect Torrey’s mortgage payments. She
alleges that they fraudulently attempted to foreclose on the property and fabricated
and forged documents on the property to “undermine the integrity of the judicial
Torrey goes on to claim that during the state court action defendant
committed fraud on the court by filing improper and/or bogus documents including
the defendants’ motion to dismiss and an application for change of judge. She
asserts that these acts constituted an unconscionable plan or scheme designed to
improperly influence the court in its decision. In her second count, Torrey claims
that defendants perpetrated a fraud on the court by influencing the court with a
falsified transcript and with defendants’ counsel’s authorship of a December 23,
2013 order which was “perpetrated to mislead the court.” She appears to also
allege defendants’ counsel wrongfully did not enter an appearance in the case
and/or improperly entered an appearance six months into the case. She seems to
claim that defendants’ procurement of the state court judgment in their favor was
related to JPMorgan Chase’s “purchase force placed insurance on [her] subject
property.” At the conclusion of her complaint, Torrey “prays that this Court will
vacate prior State Court Order/Final Judgment of March 13, 2014, judgment
procured by fraud upon the court.” She asks the court to for a ruling that
defendants perpetrated a fraud upon the court through use of a “falsified transcript
a fictitious not a legal entity of being sued the alleged parties named in summons
was jurisdiction defect in the case.” She also requests that this court vacate a
March 27, 2013 Trustee Sale, and “force placed Insurance on Plaintiff’s property
based upon unjust enrichment.” Torrey asks this court to award her damages,
attorneys’ fees and costs of litigation.
Torrey’s First Amended Complaint
Defendants argue that this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over
Torrey’s claims under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.2 The Rooker-Feldman
doctrine precludes lower federal courts from hearing claims that “in effect
constitute a challenge to a state court decision.” Ballinger v. Culotta, 322 F.3d
546, 548 (8th Cir. 2003). Except for habeas petitions, the United States Supreme
Court is the only federal court with jurisdiction to consider the appeal of a state
court judgment. Skit Int’l., Ltd. v. DAC Technologies of Arkansas, Inc., 487 F.3d
1154, 1156 (8th Cir. 2007). This does not mean a district court is deprived of
jurisdiction in every case in which a plaintiff seeks a result different from the one it
obtained in state court. Id. at 1157. “Rather, Rooker-Feldman is implicated in that
The Rooker-Feldman doctrine is derived from two United States Supreme Court cases: Rooker
v. Fidelity Trust Co. 263 U.S. 413 (1923) and District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman,
460 U.S. 462 (1983).
subset of cases where the losing party in a state court action subsequently
complains about that judgment and seeks review and rejection of it.” Id.
The 8th Circuit has held that the doctrine applies to preclude a federal action
if the relief requested in the federal action would effectively reverse the state court
decision or void its ruling. Ballinger, 322 F.3d at 549 citing Bechtold v. City of
Rosemount, 104 F.3d 1062, 1065 (8th Cir. 1997). “This jurisdictional bar extends
not only to straightforward appeals but also to more indirect attempts by federal
plaintiffs to undermine state court decisions.” Ballinger, 322 F.3d at 548 (quoted
case omitted). The state and federal claims need not be identical for the doctrine to
apply. Lemonds v. St. Louis Cnty., 222 F.3d 488, 493 (8th Cir. 2000).
To assess whether Rooker-Feldman applies in a particular case, a federal
court must determine whether the claim before it is “inextricably intertwined” with
the claim already decided in the state court. Silverman v. Silverman, 338 F.3d 886,
893 (8th Cir. 2003). A claim is inextricably intertwined “if it succeeds only to the
extent that the state court wrongly decided the issues before it or if the relief
requested would effectively reverse the state court decision or void its ruling.”
Fielder v. Credit Acceptance Corp., 188 F.3d 1031, 1034-35 (8th Cir. 1999).
Rooker-Feldman applies in this case to bar Torrey’s claims. Her amended
complaint is designated an “action in equity,” alleges that her state court judgment
was procured by fraud and should not be enforced, and explicitly asks this court to
award her relief by vacating the state court’s order against her. Even if, in her final
prayer for relief, Torrey had not specifically requested vacation of the state court
decision, it is clear that deciding in her favor would void that decision. Torrey
claims that her action is brought pursuant to Rule 60(d), which in pertinent part,
gives a court the power to “entertain an independent action to relieve a party from
a judgment, order or proceeding” and/or “set aside a judgment for fraud on the
court.” There is no other relief provided for by Rule 60(d), and Torrey does not
appear to have requested any alternative relief. She further asserts in her complaint
that she is seeking to stop the defendants’ fraudulent behavior and “commence” (or
re-commence) her July 2013 action in state court. In light of all of this, I conclude
that Torrey’s federal court action essentially, if not explicitly, amounts to a
“prohibited appeal of the state-court judgment” and is barred by the RookerFeldman doctrine. See Ballinger, 322 F.3d at 549.
In her response to the motion to dismiss, Torrey cited Seventh Circuit case
law holding that Rooker-Feldman does not bar a federal plaintiff from asserting a
claim for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on the violation of her
constitutional rights in a state court proceeding. Even assuming that Torrey’s
argument were supported by Eighth Circuit case law; compare Riehm v. Engelking,
538 F.3d 952, 965 (8th Cir. 2008) with Prince v. Arkansas, Bd. of Examiners in
Psychology, 380 F.3d 337, 340-342 (8th Cir. 2004); Torrey’s argument fails
because she has not asserted a § 1983 damages claim for violation of her
constitutional rights in this case. She has asserted a fraud on the court claim,
pursuant to Rule 60(d), asking for direct review and vacation of a state court
decision. This court does not have jurisdiction over such a claim. See Fielder, 188
F.3d at 1035-36. 3
Torrey’s Motions to File Additional Amended Complaints
After filing her first amended complaint, Torrey has filed two motions for
leave to file additional amended complaints. Each motion attaches the proposed
complaint Torrey wishes to file. Defendants have opposed these motions on the
ground of futility, arguing that each proposed amended complaint would lead to
another motion to dismiss that the court would have to grant. I agree.
Under Rule 15(a)(2), if a party does not have the right to amend its pleading
as a matter of course, it may amend with the opposing party's written consent or
leave of court. Although leave to amend is to be freely granted under Rule
15(a)(2), a court has discretion whether or not to grant leave to amend. Zenith
Radio Corp. v. Hazeltine Research, Inc., 401 U.S. 321, 330–32, (1971). “[D]enial
of leave to amend may be justified by undue delay, bad faith on the part of the
There is some division among the federal circuit courts regarding the existence of a “fraudulent
procurement” or “fraud on the court” exception to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. See Anctil v.
Ally financial, Inc., 998 F. Supp. 2d 127, 137 (S.D.N.Y. 2014) (discussing the circuit split on this
issue). The Eighth Circuit has seemingly held that there is no such exception. Fielder, 188 F.3d
moving party, futility of the amendment or unfair prejudice to the opposing party.”
Crest Construction II, Inc. v. Doe, 660 F.3d 346, 358 (8th Cir.2011) (quoted case
omitted). Where leave to amend is denied on the basis of futility, it means the court
has reached the legal conclusion that the amended complaint could not withstand a
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules. Cornelia I. Crowell
GST Trust v. Possis Medical, Inc., 519 F.3d 778, 82 (8th Cir.2008). See also
Weimer v. Amen, 870 F.2d 1400, 1407 (8th Cir. 1989) (“[i]t is settled law that
district courts have the power to deny leave to amend if the proposed changes
would not save the complaint”).
The first proposed amended complaint is not substantively different from the
first amended complaint, does not remedy the deficiencies of the first amended
complaint, and would fail based on the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Therefore,
Torrey’s first motion to file an amended complaint is denied due to futility. See id.
In her second proposed complaint, Torrey again brings her claims as an
“independent action in equity.” She alleges the defendants procured the state court
judgment by a fraud upon the court, seeks relief by an independent action under
Rule 60(d)(1), and states that the “judgment should not, in good conscience be
enforced.” The complaint asserts what appear to be three separate claims. The
first and second counts are entitled “Fraud upon the Court” and “Perpetrated a
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Fraud on the Court Use of Falsified Transcript,” respectively. These counts allege
many of the same facts as the first amended complaint.
The third count is entitled “Newly Discovered Material / Fraud.” This count
is difficult to understand but appears to assert that various representatives of
JPMorgan Chase indicated to Torrey that she was required to obtain hazard
insurance on her property. When she did not purchase such insurance, the
representatives allegedly indicated that JPMorgan Chase had purchased the
insurance for her. Torrey seems to claim that through its representatives’
correspondence, JPMorgan Chase falsely represented that it had an interest in her
property, that it purchased insurance for the property, and/or that Torrey was
required to purchase insurance for the property. Torrey goes on to state
“Defendants each of them made the above referenced false representation,
concealment and non-disclosure with knowledge of misrepresentation, intending to
induce Plaintiff’s reliance which the unsuspecting justifiably relied upon.”
In the prayer for relief at the end of this complaint, Torrey asks the court to
“review” the state court order/final judgment and rule that defendants “perpetrated
a fraud upon the court procured a state court judgment through the use of a
falsified transcript a fictitious not a legal entity of being sued the alleged parties
named in summons was jurisdiction defect in the case.” She asks for a declaratory
judgment that her “Deed of Trust and Promissory discharged in the United States
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Bankruptcy Court fully and fairly adjudicated in April 2002.” And she asks that
this court prevent the defendants “from benefiting from unjust enrichment force
placed Insurance placed on Plaintiff’s property based upon unjust enrichment.”
To the extent that Torrey’s proposed amended complaint alleges counts of
fraud on the state court and seeks review of that judgment, it would fail under the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine for the reasons discussed previously.
To the extent Torrey is alleging a new fraudulent misrepresentation claim
against defendants related to hazard insurance for her property, Torrey’s complaint
fails to state a claim for relief. The elements of a Missouri common law fraud
1) a false, material representation; 2) the speaker's knowledge of its
falsity or his/her ignorance of the truth; 3) the speaker's intent that
his/her representation should be acted upon by the hearer in the
manner reasonably contemplated; 4) the hearer's ignorance of the
falsity of the representation; 5) the hearer's reliance on the
representation being true; 6) the hearer's right to rely thereon; and 7)
the hearer's consequent and proximately-caused injuries.”
John Doe CS v. Capuchin Franciscan Friars, 520 F. Supp. 2d 1124, 1133 (E.D.
Mo. 2007). First, Torrey has failed to assert any facts showing she relied on the
truth of the misrepresentation and how, or whether, this reliance caused her injury.
She claims that the defendants “intended” for her to act on the false representation
and “induce [her] to enter into contract for policy of certificate of insurance on
[her] property,” but she does not allege that she ever entered such a contract.
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Furthermore, Torrey’s assertion that the representations made by JPMorgan Chase
were false is refuted by the terms of the Deed of Trust, which Torrey attached as an
exhibit to her proposed amended complaint. Section 5 of the Deed of Trust
requires Torrey to maintain hazard or property insurance and permits the lender to
obtain such coverage if the borrower fails to do so. This is exactly what Torrey
claims JPMorgan Chase represented to her. Lastly, in paragraph 36 of her
complaint Torrey states that she “knew the representation of force-placed
insurance on plaintiff’s property By Defendants was false,” but later, in paragraph
37, she states that she did not know the representation was false.
Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for a relief is a
“context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial
experience and common sense.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 566 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). The
Court must review the factual allegations in the complaint “to determine if they
plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.” Id. at 681. Torrey has not pled
sufficient, coherent, or even consistent facts demonstrating the elements of a
cognizable fraudulent misrepresentation claim against defendants. To the extent
she has alleged such a claim in her proposed complaint, I conclude she has not
“plausibly” suggested an entitlement to relief, and her claim would not withstand a
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.
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Finally, although much of Torrey’s second proposed amended complaint is
incoherent, there is some implication that she is attempting either to challenge
JPMorgan Chase’s rights to the subject property or to claim her own rightful
ownership of it.4 This court has already held that, in light of the state court action
discussed above, any such claim by plaintiff made against the parties to this
lawsuit is precluded by the doctrine of res judicata. See Torrey v. JPMorgan
Chase Bank, No. 4:13CV1611 CEJ, 2014 WL 1648791, at *3-*4 (E.D. Mo. April
Because none of Torrey’s claims in her second proposed amended complaint
would survive a motion to dismiss, I conclude that the proposed amendments
would be futile, and her motion to amend is denied.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendants’ second motion to dismiss
[#8] is GRANTED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff’s motion for leave to file
second verified amended relief by an independent action in equity [#11] and
motion to file verified second amended complaint to add newly discovered
material [#26] are DENIED.
For instance, Torrey has prayed for a declaratory judgment that her “Deed of Trust and
Promissory were discharged by the Bankruptcy Court in 2002.” This appears to be a backhanded
request for a declaratory judgment that Torrey holds free and clear title to the subject property.
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IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that all other pending motions in this matter
are DENIED as moot.
CATHERINE D. PERRY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated this 29th day of April, 2015.
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