Lucarelli v. PennyMac Loan Services, LLC et al
Memorandum Opinion and Order For the reasons stated in the Order, the 2 Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis is granted, and this action is dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). The Court certifies, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3), that an appeal from this decision could not be taken in good faith. Signed by Judge Dan Aaron Polster on 8/21/2017. (K,K)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
PENNYMAC LOAN SERVICES, et al.,
CASE NO. 1:17 CV 1667
JUDGE DAN AARON POLSTER
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION
On August 9, 2017, pro se Plaintiff Andrea Lucarelli Sealey filed this in forma pauperis
action against the following Defendants: PennyMac Loan Services, LLC, David A. Sector, John
C. Dugan, Michael S. Piwowar, Kara M. Stein, Secretary of State, Maverick Funding Corp., bill
Beckmann, Jennifer N. Templeton, Esq., Bethany L. Suttinger, Ginnie Mae, Tom Yoshida,
Clifford Pinkney, and Jane and John Does. Plaintiff challenges a judgment of foreclosure against
her and the prospective sale of the property foreclosed upon pursuant to a judgment in the
Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. See PennyMac Loan Services, LLC v. Lucarelli,
http/cpdocket.cp.cuyahogacounty.us/CV., Cuy. Cty. Comm. Pls. No. CV-15-844833. She asserts
violation of her civil rights and numerous statutory and state law theories to support this
challenge. For the reasons stated below, this action is dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e).
Although pro se pleadings are liberally construed, Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364,
365 (1982) (per curiam), the district court is required to dismiss an action under 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e) if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or if it lacks an arguable basis
in law or fact.1 Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319 (1989); Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470 (6th
A cause of action fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted when it lacks
“plausibility in the complaint.” Bell At. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 564 (2007). A
pleading must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009). The factual allegations in the
pleading must be sufficient to raise the right to relief above the speculative level on the
assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The
plaintiff is not required to include detailed factual allegations, but must provide more than “an
An in forma pauperis claim may be dismissed sua sponte, without prior notice to
the plaintiff and without service of process on the defendant, if the court explicitly
states that it is invoking section 1915(e) [formerly 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d)] and is
dismissing the claim for one of the reasons set forth in the statute. Chase Manhattan
Mortg. Corp. v. Smith, 507 F.3d 910, 915 (6th Cir. 2007); Gibson v. R.G. Smith Co.,
915 F.2d 260, 261 (6th Cir. 1990); Harris v. Johnson, 784 F.2d 222, 224 (6th Cir.
unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678 (2009). A
pleading that offers legal conclusions or a simple recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not meet this pleading standard. Id.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
United States District Courts do not have jurisdiction to overturn state court decisions
even if the request to reverse the state court judgment is based on an allegation that the state
court’s action was unconstitutional. Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S.
280, 292 (2005). Federal appellate review of state court judgments can only occur in the United
States Supreme Court, by appeal or by writ of certiorari. Id. Under this principle, generally
referred to as the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, a party losing her case in state court is barred from
seeking what in substance would be appellate review of the state judgment in a United States
District Court based on the party’s claim that the state judgment itself violates her federal rights.
Berry v. Schmitt, 688 F.3d 290, 298-99 (6th Cir. 2012).
The Rooker-Feldman doctrine is based on two United States Supreme Court decisions
interpreting 28 U.S.C. § 1257(a).2 See District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460
28 U.S.C. § 1257(a) provides:
Final judgments or decrees rendered by the highest court of a State
in which a decision could be had, may be reviewed by the Supreme
Court by writ of certiorari where the validity of a treaty or statute of
the United States is drawn in question or where the validity of a
statute of any State is drawn in question on the ground of its being
repugnant to the Constitution, treaties, or laws of the United States,
or where any title, right, privilege, or immunity is specially set up or
U.S. 462, 103 S.Ct. 1303, 75 L.Ed.2d 206 (1983); Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 44
S.Ct. 149, 68 L.Ed. 362 (1923). This statute was enacted to prevent “end-runs around state court
judgments” by requiring litigants seeking review of that judgment to file a writ of certiorari with
the United States Supreme Court. The doctrine is based on the negative inference that, if
appellate court review of state judgments is vested in the United States Supreme Court, then such
review may not occur in the lower federal courts. Exxon Mobil Corp., 544 U.S. at 283-84;
Kovacic v. Cuyahoga County Dep't of Children and Family Services, 606 F.3d 301, 308-311
(6th Cir. 2010); Lawrence v. Welch, 531 F.3d 364, 369 (6th Cir. 2008). It applies where a party
losing her case in state court initiates an action in federal district court complaining of injury
caused by a state court judgment, and seeks review and rejection of that judgment. Berry, 688
F.3d 298-99; In re Cook, 551 F.3d 542, 548 (6th Cir.2009).
To determine whether Rooker-Feldman bars a claim, the Court must look to the “source
of the injury the plaintiff alleges in the federal complaint.” McCormick v. Braverman, 451 F.3d
382, 393 (6th Cir.2006); see Berry, 688 F.3d at 299; Kovacic, 606 F.3d at 310. If the source of
the plaintiff's injury is the state court judgment itself, then the Rooker–Feldman doctrine bars the
federal claim. McCormick, 451 F.3d at 393. “If there is some other source of injury, such as a
third party's actions, then the plaintiff asserts an independent claim.” Id.; see Lawrence, 531 F.3d
at 368–69. In conducting this inquiry, the federal court should also consider the plaintiff’s
requested relief. Evans v. Cordray, No. 09–3998, 2011 WL 2149547, at *1 (6th Cir. May 27,
claimed under the Constitution or the treaties or statutes of, or any
commission held or authority exercised under, the United States.
Plaintiff’s underlying assertion that the foreclosure action in state court was legally
improper is a direct attack on the state court’s decision. Any review of the claims asserted by
plaintiff in this context would require the Court to review the specific issues addressed in the
state court proceedings. This Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to conduct such a review or
grant the relief requested. Feldman, 460 U.S. at 483-84 n. 16; Catz v. Chalker, 142 F.3d 279,
293 (6th Cir. 1998).
Further, to the extent Plaintiff seeks to litigate the foreclosure matter anew, she cannot
proceed. A federal court must give a state court judgment the same preclusive effect it would
have in the courts of the rendering state. 28 U.S.C. § 1738; Dubuc v. Green Oak Township, 312
F.3d 736, 744 (6th Cir. 2002). The preclusive effect of the previous state court judgment is
therefore governed by Ohio law on preclusion. Id. Under Ohio law, an existing final judgment
or decree is conclusive as to all claims which were or might have been litigated in the first
lawsuit. National Amusement, Inc. v. Springdale, 53 Ohio St. 3d 60, 62 (1990). The doctrine of
res judicata requires a plaintiff to present every ground for relief, or forever be barred from
asserting it. Id. The purpose of this doctrine is to promote the finality of judgments and thereby
increase certainty, discourage multiple litigation, and conserve judicial resources. Allen v.
McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 94 (1980). The Ohio court has already determined that the mortgage was
valid and that Plaintiff was in default of her loan. This Court is bound to give full faith and
credit to the decision of that court. Plaintiff is therefore barred by the doctrine of res judicata
from litigating these questions again in federal court.
Principles requiring generous construction of pro se pleadings are not without limits.
Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1277 (4th Cir. 1985). Even construing the
Complaint liberally in a light most favorable to the Plaintiff, Brand v. Motley, 526 F.3d 921, 924
(6th Cir. 2008), it does not contain allegations reasonably suggesting she might have a valid
federal claim. Further, the Court declines to exercise jurisdiction over Plaintiff's pendent state
law claims. United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715 (1966).
Accordingly, the Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis is granted, and this action is
dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). The Court certifies, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(a)(3), that an appeal from this decision could not be taken in good faith.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DAN AARON POLSTER
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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