United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
D. Mariani United States District Judge
Introduction and Procedural History
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.
April 4, 2014, a foreclosure action was commenced against
Plaintiff 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).
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).
Standard of Review
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
[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).
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
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.
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 ...