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Torrey v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

April 29, 2015

JPMORGAN CHASE BANK, N.A., et al., Defendants.


CATHERINE D. PERRY, District Judge.

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.

I. Legal Standard

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.

II. 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 ΒΆ 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.

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 system."

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.

IV. Discussion

A. 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 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 ...

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