LIVINGLIFE et al v. DEUTSCHE BANK NATIONAL TRUST COMPANY BANK OF AMERICA et al
ORDER THAT THE LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS IS GRANTED. THE "REQUEST STAY AND SUBSTANTIVE RELIEF ORDER BE GRANTING ON IMPENDING EVICTION UNDER RULE TO SHOW CAUSE PA. R. C. P. RULE 206.6" IS DENIED. THE CLERK OF COURT SHALL NOT ISSUE SUMMONSES AT THIS TIME SO THAT THE COURT MAY SCREEN THE COMPLAINT PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2)(B). SIGNED BY HONORABLE GERALD J. PAPPERT ON 3/9/2016. 3/9/2016 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PRO SES.(sg, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
DEUTSCHE BANK NATIONAL TRUST :
COMPANY, et al.
March 9, 2016
Alexandrea Semrau (“Semrau”) brings this civil action on behalf of herself, an entity
identified as Living Life, which appears to be a business of hers, and several additional plaintiffs,
including her husband and employees of Living Life. She named as defendants Deutsche Bank
National Trust Company, Bank of America, Goldbeck McCafferty and McKeever, Ed Sweeney,
Carolyn B. Welsh, and Bryan Walters. The gist of Semrau’s complaint seems to be that the
defendants deprived her of ownership rights in property on which she lives and on which she
intended to run her business (“the property”). She also alleges violations of federal laws
requiring, among other things, certain disclosures in lending. Currently before the Court are
Semrau’s motion to proceed in forma pauperis and her filing entitled “Request Stay and
Substantive Relief Order be Granted on Impending Eviction Under Rule to Show Cause PA. R.
C. P. Rule 206.6,” which the Court interprets to be a request to enjoin her and her co-plaintiffs’
eviction from the property pursuant to an order of the Chester County Court of Common Pleas.
The eviction has apparently been scheduled for today. For the following reasons, the Court will
grant Semrau leave to proceed in forma pauperis and deny her motion to stay the eviction.1
In federal court, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, rather than the Pennsylvania Rules
of Civil Procedure, apply. Accordingly, the Court construes Semrau’s filing as a motion for a
preliminary injunction prohibiting her eviction from the property, pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 65. A party seeking the “extraordinary remedy” of a preliminary injunction
must establish: “(1) a likelihood of success on the merits; (2) that it will suffer irreparable harm
if the injunction is denied; (3) that granting preliminary relief will not result in even greater harm
to the nonmoving party; and (4) that the public interest favors such relief.” Kos Pharm., Inc. v.
Andrx Corp., 369 F.3d 700, 708 (3d Cir. 2004).
Underlying Semrau’s claims is an ongoing property dispute that culminated in Deutsche
Bank prevailing in an ejectment action filed against Semrau and her co-plaintiffs in the Chester
County Court of Common Pleas. Although the complaint is difficult to understand, Semrau
appears to be contending that the defendants violated federal and state law by fraudulently
misrepresenting that they own the property when, in fact, she and her husband (and possibly
others) are the rightful owners.2 She also alleges that the Chester County Court of Common
Pleas has refused to acknowledge her interest in the property and indicates that the state court, in
As Semrau’s income is comprised solely of disability payments and public assistance, the Court will grant her
leave to proceed in forma pauperis. With respect to Living Life, an artificial entity may appear in federal court only
through licensed counsel and, in any event, is not a “person” within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. Section 1915, the
statute that allows a “person” to proceed in forma pauperis. See Rowland v. California Men’s Colony, Unit II Men’s
Advisory Council, 506 U.S. 194, 201–02 (1993); see also Dukes v. Lancer Ins. Co., 390 F. App’x 159, 161 n.1 (3d
Cir. 2010) (per curiam). Furthermore, a pro se litigant who is not an attorney may not represent someone else in
federal court. See Osei-Afriyie ex rel. Osei-Afriyie v. Med. Coll. of Pa., 937 F.2d 876, 882–83 (3d Cir. 1991); see
also C.E. Pope Equity Trust v. United States, 818 F.2d 696, 697 (9th Cir. 1987). Accordingly, Semrau may not
pursue claims on behalf of Living Life or the other plaintiffs referenced in the complaint. The Court will therefore
address the pending motion only as it pertains to Semrau’s claims.
The complaint is titled “Petition for Stay and Substantive Relife [sic] Writ of Habeas Corpus PA R. Civ. P. Rule
206.1(A)2.” Although that title suggests that Semrau is seeking habeas relief, the complaint reveals that she is not
challenging a state court judgment pursuant to which she is in custody such that habeas jurisdiction would be
appropriate. 28 U.S.C. § 2254.
rendering certain rulings, unlawfully assigned the property and/or her debt to the defendants.
Semrau also lists various provisions of federal law that she believes to have been violated,
apparently in her acquisition of an interest in the property.
The complaint asserts eighteen counts: a count entitled “Rule to Show Cause PA R. C.P.
Rule 206.6 violation of FDIC Consumer Protection Paragraph 19(b)(2)viii;” ten counts alleging
violations of the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and related regulations; a count for violation of
the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA); a count for violations of the Real Estate
Settlement Practices Act (RESPA); a state law claim to quiet title; a count under Pennsylvania’s
Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law; a claim for negligent supervision; and a
count for “common law fraud and injurious falsehood.” The complaint also includes a “motion
to strike all of Defendants False Claims of Ownership of Plaintiff's Property,” in which Semrau
appears to ask the Court to strike documents entered in a state court action pertaining to the
property. Semrau attached various documents to her complaint including a writ of possession
issued to Deutsche Bank by the Chester County Court of Common Pleas in the ejectment action,
and a transcript from a 2013 quiet title action she initiated in state court against Bank of
The Rooker-Feldman doctrine deprives federal district courts of jurisdiction over claims
that are essentially appeals from state court judgments. See Great W. Mining & MIneral Co. v.
Fox Rothschild L.L.P., 615 F.3d 159, 165 (3d Cir. 2010). “[F]our requirements . . . must be met
for the Rooker-Feldman doctrine to apply: (1) the federal plaintiff lost in state court; (2) the
plaintiff ‘complain[s] of injuries caused by [the] state-court judgments;’ (3) those judgments
were rendered before the federal suit was filed; and (4) the plaintiff is inviting the district court
to review and reject the state judgments.” Id. at 166. Although it is difficult to discern,
Semrau’s effort to enjoin her eviction appears to be based, at least in part, on a challenge to the
legality of the state court’s eviction order. Faced with similar allegations, the Third Circuit
Court of Appeals has concluded that Rooker-Feldman applies.3 See Gilarmo v. US Bank NA ex
rel. CSAB Mortgage Backed Trust 2006-1, No. 15-3321, 2016 WL 456717, at *2 (3d Cir. Feb. 5,
2016) (per curiam) (“[T]o the extent that Gilarmo complained of injuries caused by the state
court foreclosure judgment and invited the Court to review it and reject it, subject matter
jurisdiction was lacking.”); see also Pondexter v. Allegheny Cnty. Hous. Auth., 329 F. App’x
347, 350 (3d Cir. 2009) (per curiam) (Rooker-Feldman barred claims that would “undermine that
state court’s judgment that [plaintiff’s] eviction was lawful.”). Accordingly, to the extent
Semrau is attacking the validity of the ejectment proceedings and seeking rejection of the state
Although Third Circuit cases apply Rooker-Feldman somewhat inconsistently in federal actions related to
foreclosure or eviction proceedings, it is apparent that claims challenging the state-court judgment itself are barred.
Compare Gage v. Wells Fargo Bank, NA AS, 521 F. App’x 49, 51 (3d Cir. 2013) (per curiam) (“Gage cannot evade
Rooker–Feldman by arguing on appeal that he was not injured by the foreclosure judgment, but rather by Wells
Fargo's purportedly fraudulent actions. The complaint reveals the nature of Gage's claims against Wells Fargo: that
the bank had no right to foreclose on the property and therefore committed ‘criminal acts’ by enforcing the
foreclosure judgment (Counts I and IV). These claims are in essence an attack on the state court judgment of
foreclosure.”); Manu v. Nat’l City Bank of Indiana, 471 F. App’x 101, 105 (3d Cir. 2012) (per curiam) (“[Plaintiff’s]
allegations that various statutes and rights were violated because the defendants threatened, and followed through
with, foreclosure when they had no right to do so is nothing more than an attack on the state court judgment.”);
Robinson v. Porges, 382 F. App’x 133, 135 (3d Cir. 2010) (per curiam) (“Robinson’s complaint ‘demands the return
of his home as his own property with free and clear deed and title,’ as well as actual and punitive damages. Such an
award could only be made by reviewing and rejecting the state court judgments.”); Jacobowitz v. M & T Mortgage
Corp., 372 F. App’x 225, 227 (3d Cir. 2010) (per curiam) (agreeing that Rooker-Feldman barred TILA claims “as a
favorable decision for the Jacobowitzes in the District Court would prevent the Court of Common Pleas from
enforcing its order to foreclose the mortgage”); In re Madera, 586 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir. 2009) (finding that
Rooker-Feldman barred recission claim that would negate state court’s foreclosure judgment) with Conklin v.
Anthou, 495 F. App’x 257, 262 (3d Cir. 2012) (per curiam) (stating that Rooker-Feldman did not bar plaintiff from
“attacking the parties to the foreclosure proceedings or alleging that the methods and evidence employed were the
product of fraud or conspiracy, regardless of whether his success on those claims might call the veracity of the statecourt judgments into question”); Turner v. Crawford Square Apartments III, L.P., 449 F.3d 542, 547 (3d Cir. 2006)
(“Turner’s complaint raised federal claims, grounded on the FHA, not caused by the state-court judgment but
instead attributable to defendants’ alleged FHA violations that preceded the state-court judgment.”); Hersh v.
CityMortgage, Inc., 16 F. Supp. 3d 556, 572–73, n.2 (W.D. Pa. 2014) (noting the inconsistent approaches).
court’s ruling against her, she is unlikely to succeed on the merits because the Court lacks
jurisdiction over those claims.4
To the extent the Rooker-Feldman does not apply, the Anti-Injunction Act prohibits the
Court from enjoining the state court’s eviction order. Pursuant to the Anti-Injunction Act, “[a]
court of the United States may not grant an injunction to stay proceedings in a State court except
as expressly authorized by Act of Congress, or where necessary in aid of its jurisdiction, or to
protect or effectuate its judgments.” 28 U.S.C. § 2283. Semrau’s filings do not establish a
plausible basis for concluding that any of those exceptions are met here. Indeed, several district
courts in this circuit have held that the Anti-Injunction Act precludes a federal court from
enjoining state court eviction or foreclosure proceedings.5 Similarly, the Anti-Injunction Act
prohibits this Court from enjoining Semrau’s eviction pursuant to the state court’s order.
To the extent Semrau’s motion seeks relief in the form of an order requiring defendants
to make an evidentiary showing, she essentially seeks discovery that can be obtained at a later
date after the complaint is served. Accordingly, the Court denies those requests without
prejudice as premature.
It is also appears likely that res judicata, which bars claims that were brought or could have been brought in a
previous action, precludes several of plaintiff’s claims.
See, e.g., Coppedge v. Conway, No. 14-1477, 2015 WL 168839, at *1–2 (D. Del. Jan. 12, 2015) (finding that the
Anti-Injunction Act prohibited federal court from enjoining sheriff’s sale ordered by state court); Rhett v. Div. of
Hous., Dep’t of Cmty. Affairs, No. 14-5055, 2014 WL 7051787, at *3 (D.N.J. Dec. 12, 2014) (“[T]o the extent
Plaintiff requests that this Court dismiss the eviction proceedings or order them transferred to this Court, the AntiInjunction Act prohibits this Court from taking such action.”); E. Liggon–Redding v. Generations, No. 14–3191,
2014 WL 2805097, at *2 (D.N.J. June 20, 2014) (holding that under the Anti–Injunction Act, federal courts
generally “lack the authority to stay any state court proceedings, including Eviction Actions”); Mason v. Bank of
Am., N.A., No. 13-3966, 2013 WL 5574439, at *7 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 10, 2013) (“Courts within the Eastern District of
Pennsylvania have declined to enjoin state court proceedings involving foreclosures and sheriff's sales pursuant to
the Anti-Injunction Act.”).
AND NOW, this 9th day of March, 2016, upon consideration of plaintiff’s motion to
proceed in forma pauperis (Document No. 1) and “Request Stay and Substantive Relief Order be
Granted on Impending Eviction Under Rule to Show Cause PA. R. C. P. Rule 206.6” (Document
No. 1-1) and in accordance with the above analysis, it is ORDERED that:
Leave to proceed in forma pauperis is GRANTED.
The “Request Stay and Substantive Relief Order be Granted on Impending
Eviction Under Rule to Show Cause PA. R. C. P. Rule 206.6,” is DENIED.
The Clerk of Court shall not issue summonses at this time so that the Court may
screen the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
BY THE COURT:
/s/ Gerald J. Pappert
GERALD J. PAPPERT, J.
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