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Pieczynski v. Wells Fargo Bank N.A.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

February 28, 2017

PAUL PIECZYNSKI, Plaintiff,
v.
WELLS FARGO BANK N.A., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Robert D. Mariani United States District Judge

         I. Introduction and Procedural History

         The above captioned miscellaneous case began on August 31, 2016, when Plaintiff, Paul Pieczynski, filed an "Emergency Motion to Vacate Final Judgment and to Vacate Sheriff Sale Based upon Fraud on the Court and No Constitutional Authority." (Doc. 1). The Motion named Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., as the opposing party and sought to vacate a Pennsylvania state court decision involving the foreclosure of Plaintiffs house. (Doc. 1 at 1). On December 5, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Default Judgment against Wells Fargo. (Doc. 5). On January 6, 2017, this Court ordered Plaintiff to show cause why his action was not barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. (Doc. 8). That same day, the Court ordered Wells Fargo to respond to Plaintiff's Motion. Both parties submitted filings outlining their positions. (Docs. 11, 14, &16). For the reasons discussed below, this Court will dismiss the action because the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.

         II. Factual Background

         On April 4, 2014, a foreclosure action was commenced against Plaintiff[1] by Wells Fargo in the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County. (Doc. 1 at 1, 61). On October 1, 2015, summary judgment was entered in favor of Wells Fargo and against Plaintiff. (Id. at 1). While Plaintiff appealed the decision, his house was sold at a sheriff's sale. (id.). The Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed the lower court's decision, Weils Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Pieczynski, 2016 WL 4709060 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2016), and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declined to hear Plaintiffs appeal, Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Pieczynski, 2016 WL 6962795 (Pa. 2016).[2]

         Plaintiff then commenced the present action by filing an "Emergency Motion." (Doc. 1). With that Motion, Plaintiff alleges that Wells Fargo committed fraud upon the state court to obtain a favorable judgment. (Id. at 2-3). Plaintiff seeks an Order from this Court which would vacate the final judgment of the state court and vacate the sheriff sale. (Id. at 1-3; Doc. 1.1).

         III. Standard of Review

         "Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They possess only that power authorized by Constitution and statute, which is not to be expanded by judicial decree." Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377, 114 S.Ct, 1673, 128 L.Ed.2d 391 (1994) (internal citations omitted).

[T]he federal courts are without power to adjudicate the substantive claims in a lawsuit, absent a firm bedrock of jurisdiction. When the foundation of federal authority is, in a particular instance, open to question, it is incumbent upon the courts to resolve such doubts, one way or the other, before proceeding to a disposition of the merits.

Carlsberg Res. Corp. v. Cambria Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 554 F.2d 1254, 1256 (3d Cir. 1977).

         "Without jurisdiction the court cannot proceed at all in any cause. Jurisdiction is power to declare the law, and when it ceases to exist, the only function remaining to the court is that of announcing the fact and dismissing the cause." Ex parte McCardle, 74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 506, 514, 19 L.Ed. 264 (1868). This rule '"spring[s] from the nature and limits of the judicial power of the United States' and is 'inflexible and without exception.'" Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 94-95, 118 S.Ct. 1003, 140 L.Ed.2d 210 (1998) (alteration original) (quoting Mansfield, C. & L M. Ry. Co. v. Swan, 111 U.S. 379, 382, 4 S.Ct. 510, 28 L.Ed. 462 (1884)).

         "If the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3). "[T]he burden of establishing the [existence of subject-matter jurisdiction] rests upon the party asserting jurisdiction." Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 377. This is because, as a result of strict constitutional and statutory limits on federal courts' jurisdiction, "[i]t is to be presumed that a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction." Id.

         IV. Analysis

         As discussed above, this Court sua sponte raised the issue of whether or not this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. (Doc. 8). Both parties have had an opportunity to respond. Defendant asserts that (1) the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because Plaintiff did not commence this action by filing a complaint, (2) the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over Wells Fargo, and (3) the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction under Rooker-Feldm ...


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