The Friendly Vessal Therese Anne Steuber v. Walter Investment Management Corp. et al
MEMORANDUM re Petn for Writ of Prohibition 1 and resps' mtn to dismiss 4 (Order to follow as separate docket entry)Signed by Honorable William W. Caldwell on 5/23/17. (ma)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
THE FRIENDLY VESSAL
THERESE ANNE STEUBER,
MANAGEMENT CORP., et al.,
CASE NO. 1:17-MC-164
Petitioner, The Friendly Vessal Therese Anne Steuber, filed a Petition for
Writ of Prohibition in this court. (Doc. 1). Presently before this court is an unopposed
motion (Doc. 4) to dismiss the Petition for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and for failure
to state a claim filed by Respondents Walter Investment Management Corp., Denmar J.
Dixon, Gary L. Tillet, and Ditech Financial, LLC. For the reasons that follow, we will grant
Respondents’ motion and dismiss the Petition for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.
On March 10, 2017, Petitioner filed a pro se Petition for Writ of Prohibition,
apparently seeking relief from a mortgage foreclosure action filed in the Delaware County
Court of Common Pleas on November 2, 2015, by Respondent Ditech Financial, LLC.
(Doc. 1 at 2-3); (Doc. 5-1). The factual allegations in the Petition are difficult to
comprehend, but a civil docket sheet appended to Respondents’ motion to dismiss reveals
that the foreclosure action concerns property located in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, and
that, on March 8, 2017, Petitioner was served with a reinstated foreclosure complaint.
(Doc. 5-1). On May 10, 2017, a $195,362.06 judgment was entered against Petitioner in
the underlying foreclosure action for failure to answer the reinstated complaint. (Id.)
In her largely unintelligible Petition, Petitioner appears to assert that she has
been denied relief in the foreclosure action in violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendment
of the United States Constitution, that she is in “ongoing danger of lo[s]ing private property
[due] to [a] . . . bogus foreclosure sale,” that she is “injured by [the] false terms of an
unenforceable . . . mortgage note . . . [filed by] ro[g]ue . . . agents under hostile military
apparatus,” that she has been denied due process, and that Respondents have “no claim”
to the property at issue because they purportedly engaged in “fraud[,] misrepresentation[,]
and deceptive practices.” (Id. ¶¶ 6, 8). Petitioner seeks an order to indefinitely enjoin
execution of Respondents’ foreclosure lien, to dismiss the foreclosure action, to bind the
Delaware County Court of Common Pleas “to obey the rules of court,” and, alternatively,
to remove the foreclosure action “out of [the] military rule” of state court. (Id. ¶¶ 6, 10-12).
On April 4, 2017, Respondents filed a motion to dismiss the Petition for lack
of subject-matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), respectively.
(Doc. 4). On May 2, 2017, we issued an order advising Petitioner that she had failed to
respond to Respondents’ motion to dismiss within fourteen days in accord with Middle
District of Pennsylvania Local Rule 7.6. (Doc. 8). In that same order, we directed
Petitioner to respond to the motion to dismiss by May 16, 2017, and notified her that,
pursuant to Local Rule 7.6, a failure to respond would result in the motion being treated as
unopposed. (Id.) Having received no response from Petitioner, Respondents’ unopposed
motion to dismiss is now ripe for disposition.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) provides that a court may dismiss a
complaint for “lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1). “A motion to
dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) . . . challenges the power of a federal court to hear a claim or
case.” Rolon v. Lackawanna County, 1 F. Supp. 3d 300, 303 (M.D. Pa. 2014) (citing
Petruska v. Gannon Univ., 462 F.3d 294, 302 (3d Cir.2006)). Under Rule 12(b)(1), a claim
fails to invoke a District Court’s jurisdiction only if it is “wholly insubstantial and frivolous”
on its face. Lunderstadt v. Colafella, 885 F.2d 66, 70 (3d Cir. 1989). “In the face of a
[Rule] 12(b)(1) motion, the plaintiff has the burden to ‘convince the court it has
jurisdiction.’” Rolon, 1 F. Supp. 3d at 303 (quoting Gould Elecs., Inc. v. United States, 220
F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir.2000)).
“A challenge to subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) may be either
a facial or a factual attack.” Davis v. Wells Fargo, 824 F.3d 333, 346 (3d Cir. 2016). A
facial attack “challenges subject matter jurisdiction without disputing the facts alleged in
the complaint, and it requires the court to ‘consider the allegations of the complaint as
true.’” Id. (quoting Petruska, 462 F.3d at 302 n.3). A factual challenge “attacks the factual
allegations underlying the complaint’s assertion of jurisdiction, either through the filing of
an answer or ‘otherwise present[ing] competing facts.’” Id. (quoting Constitution Party of
Pa. v. Aichele, 757 F.3d 347, 358 (3d Cir. 2014)).
Here, Petitioner alleges that jurisdiction and venue are proper for her Petition
for Writ of Prohibition under the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 4-5). In their
motion to dismiss, Respondents challenge this court’s subject-matter jurisdiction to hear
the Petition, arguing that because Petitioner “ostensibly seek[s] to halt the state court
foreclosure action,” and therefore seeks to prohibit the Delaware County Court of
Common Pleas and the Delaware County Recorder’s Office from effectuating
Respondents’ mortgage foreclosure lien, this court lacks jurisdiction to issue a writ of
prohibition against these state entities and officials. (Doc. 5 at 2 & 5-6).
“Federal courts have the power to issue writs of mandamus or prohibition
under the All Writs Act, which provides that ‘[t]he Supreme Court and all courts
established by Act of Congress may issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their
respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.’” In re Sch.
Asbestos Litig., 921 F.2d 1310, 1313 (3d Cir. 1990) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1651(a)). “The
All Writs Act does not itself confer any subject matter jurisdiction, but rather only allows a
federal court to issue writs ‘in aid of’ its existing jurisdiction.” United States v. Apple
MacPro Comput., 851 F.3d 238, 244 (3d Cir. 2017). “Therefore, a court has subject
matter jurisdiction over [a petition] for an All Writs Act order only when it has subject
matter jurisdiction over the underlying order that the All Writs Act order is intended to
effectuate.” Id. Accordingly, whether a petition is styled as one for mandamus or one for
prohibition, 1 it is well settled that courts “may issue such writs only if there is an
independent basis for subject matter jurisdiction.” In re Delbridge, No. 17-1229,
, 2017 WL 1437208, at *1 (3d Cir. Apr. 24, 2017) (per curiam) (citing United
States v. Christian, 660 F.2d 892, 894 (3d Cir.1981) (“Before entertaining the [petition],
then, we must identify a jurisdiction that the issuance of the writ might assist.”)).
“Although a writ of mandamus may appear more appropriate when the request is for an order
mandating action, and a writ of prohibition may be more accurate when the request is to prohibit
action, modern courts have shown little concern for the technical and historic differences between
the two writs.” In re Sch. Asbestos Litig., 921 F.2d at 1313. The two writs derive from the same
statutory basis and incorporate the same standards. See id. (noting that differences between two
writs are “unimportant” and do “not affect the relief requested”); see also In re Justices of Superior
Court Dep’t of Massachusetts Trial Court, 218 F.3d 11, 15 n.3 (1st Cir. 2000).
Here, regardless of whether Respondents’ jurisdictional challenge is
interpreted as a facial or factual attack, and regardless of whether the instant Petition is
one for a writ of mandamus or prohibition, we find that there is no independent basis for
our subject-matter jurisdiction over the Petition. Although her Petition names the plaintiffs
in the underlying foreclosure action as Respondents in this action, Petitioner nonetheless
seeks relief in the form of compelling the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas and
the Delaware County Recorder’s Office to dismiss the state court mortgage action or
otherwise enjoining such state entities from executing judgment in that state court action.
See, e.g., In re Rohland, 538 F. App’x 139, 140 (3d Cir. 2013) (per curiam) (“Although the
mandamus petition names our Clerk as the respondent, Rohland is in essence seeking an
order compelling state action with respect to state court records.”). However, a writ of
mandamus or prohibition in federal court only authorizes district courts to compel or
prohibit federal officials to perform a duty. See 28 U.S.C. § 1361 (“The district courts shall
have original jurisdiction of any action in the nature of mandamus to compel an officer or
employee of the United States or any agency thereof to perform a duty owed . . . .”).
In this case, Petitioner does not “allege any act or omission by a federal
officer, employee, or agency that a United States District Court might have prohibition or
mandamus jurisdiction to address in the first instance.” In re Whiteford, No. 13-1351,
2013 WL 979413, at *1 (3d Cir. Mar. 14, 2013) (per curiam) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1361).
Rather, Petitioner ostensibly seeks to compel state court judges and state officials to
dismiss the underlying mortgage foreclosure action against her or to prevent such state
officials from executing the foreclosure judgment entered against her. However, “[s]tate
courts are not ‘lower courts’ from this [c]ourt's perspective, and principles of comity and
federalism ensure that a federal court ‘ordinarily may not issue a writ of mandamus to
compel a state court to exercise a jurisdiction entrusted to it.’” Id. (quoting In re Grand
Jury Proceedings, 654 F.2d 268, 278 (3d Cir.1981)). As such, we do “not have jurisdiction
to issue a writ of mandamus [or prohibition] against a state officer or a state court,” and
therefore lack subject-matter jurisdiction over the instant Petition. In re Rohland, 538 F.
App’x at 140; see also Banks v. Guffy, No. 1:10-CV-2130, 2012 WL 72724, at *5 (M.D. Pa.
Jan. 10, 2012) (granting motion to dismiss writ of mandamus that sought order dismissing
state court mortgage foreclosure action for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction). 2 Therefore,
we will grant Respondents’ unopposed motion and will dismiss the instant Petition for Writ
of Prohibition for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. 3
Because the instant Petition for Writ of Prohibition fails to set forth facts from
which this court could find the prerequisites for issuing such a writ, and because this court
lacks subject-matter jurisdiction to grant the Petition’s requested relief, we will grant
Respondents’ unopposed motion to dismiss. We will issue an appropriate order.
/s/ William W. Caldwell
William W. Caldwell
United States District Judge
Date: May 23, 2017
In re Delbridge, 2017 WL 1437208, at *1 (“[Petitioner] asks us to exercise our mandamus
jurisdiction over a state court to compel it to act on his motion for return of property. We do not
have jurisdiction to grant that request.”); In re Wallace, 438 F. App’x 135, 137 (3d Cir. 2011)
(same); In re Wolenski, 324 F.2d 309, 309 (3d cir.1963) (per curiam) (explaining that district court
“had no jurisdiction” to “issue a writ of mandamus compelling action by a state official”).
We also note that venue appears to be improper in this case because the underlying foreclosure
action is in Delaware County, which is within the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
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