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Shavei-Tzion v. Cadles of Grassy Meadows, II, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 7, 2017

BET SHAVEI-TZION a/k/a BET SHAVEI-TZION INTERNATIONAL and/or BET SHAVEU-TZION, LTD., INTERNATIONAL, Plaintiff,
v.
CADLES OF GRASSY MEADOWS, II, LLC, substitute to Brown Bark, I, L.P. assignee of Sovereign Bank, successor by merger to Main Street Bank, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          MALACHY E. MANNION United States District Judge

         Before the court is the plaintiff's emergency motion for a preliminary injunction. (Doc. 3). The plaintiff is a synagogue and religious organization with a location in Eaton Township, Wyoming County, Pennsylvania. A 95-acre parcel of property owned by the plaintiff is currently scheduled for Sheriff's Sale in Wyoming County on Thursday, June 8, 2017 pursuant to a mortgage executed by the plaintiff on November 16, 2000 in favor of Main Street Bank. This mortgage is currently held by the defendant as a subsequent assignee. Based on the foregoing, the plaintiff's motion will be DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         At an unspecified time in the year 2000, the plaintiff's president, Rabbi Harry Dombek, entered into an oral agreement with Mount Laurel Cemetery Association (“Mount Laurel”) to pledge the 95-acre parcel of property at issue so that Mount Laurel could obtain a $250, 000.00 loan. Rabbi Harry Dombek also served as president/trustee of Mount Laurel. In exchange, Mount Laurel promised to donate certain funds to the plaintiff. The agreement was such that the pledge would only be issued “if needed” in the event Mount Laurel could not secure a loan on its own. (Doc. 1 ¶9). Although Mount Laurel's own property was valued at $1, 600, 000.00, the plaintiff went forward with the agreement and executed a mortgage with Main Street Bank to secure a promissory note signed by Mount Laurel. The mortgage and note were subsequently assigned to Sovereign Bank by merger. In 2006, the mortgage was, again, assigned to Brown Bark I, an investment land speculator.

         Mount Laurel defaulted on the mortgage obligation while the mortgage was held by Brown Bark I. A mortgage foreclosure action was filed in the Wyoming County Court of Common Pleas on March 26, 2007. After initiating the foreclosure action, the debt was assigned to the defendant and the defendant was substituted as the proper plaintiff in the state foreclosure action. On August 26, 2009, on summary judgment motion, the state court determined that another 275-acre parcel of property owned by the plaintiff was not sufficiently described in the mortgage so as to create a lien, but that genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether the 95-acre parcel was mortgaged. On November 19, 2014, after a non-jury trial, the state court ruled that the note and mortgage were in default and lifted all stays on the subject property. With judgment entered in the state foreclosure action, the plaintiff's real property was scheduled for Sheriff's Sale on June 8, 2017. The plaintiff alleges that the advertisements for the Sheriff's Sale incorrectly describe the property subject to sale as being 190.64 acres in size.

         On June 5, 2017, the plaintiff filed a complaint in this court. (Doc. 1). In Count I of the complaint, the plaintiff alleges that the defendant violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. §1692 et seq. by failing to provide required notices. In Count II, the plaintiff alleges a procedural due process violation. The plaintiff alleges that the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure relating to foreclosure violate the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution because the plaintiff would not able to seek redress for the advertising deficiencies until after the sale is complete. The plaintiff requests only equitable relief, a declaratory judgment invalidating the judgment of the state court and an injunction to stop the pending sale. On June 6, 2016, the plaintiff filed the current emergency motion for a preliminary injunction.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The grant of injunctive relief, including preliminary injunctive relief, is an extraordinary remedy and it should only be granted in limited circumstances. Am. Tel. & Tel. Co. v. Winback & Conserve Program, Inc., 42 F.3d 1421, 1426-27 (3d Cir. 1994) (quoting Frank's GMC Truck Cent., Inc. v. Gen. Motors Corp., 847 F.2d 100, 102 (3d Cir. 1988)) (alterations in original). The court's ultimate decision to deny a preliminary injunction is discretionary, though legal and factual determinations will be reviewed according to their normal standard. See Tenafly Eruv Ass'n, Inc. v. Borough of Tenafly, 309 F.3d 144, 156 (3d Cir. 2002).

         In order to obtain a preliminary injunction, the moving party must demonstrate the following:

(1) the likelihood that the plaintiff will prevail on the merits at final hearing; (2) the extent to which the plaintiff is being irreparably harmed by the conduct complained of; (3) the extent to which the defendant will suffer irreparable harm if the preliminary injunction is issued; and (4) the public interest.

Id. at 1427 (quoting Merchants & Evans, Inc. v. Roosevelt Bldg. Prods., 963 F.2d 628, 623-33 (3d Cir. 1992)). More specifically, the third prong requires a balancing of harms between the plaintiff and the defendant and a finding that the balance favors the plaintiff's request for relief. See Issa v. Sch. Dist. of Lancaster, 847 F.3d 121, 131 (3d Cir. 2017).

         “The injunction should issue only if the plaintiff produces evidence sufficient to convince the district court that all four factors favor preliminary relief.” Id. Moreover, it is only if the first two prongs are satisfied that the court must inquire into the final two factors. Tenafly, 309 F.3d at 157. Thus, “a failure to show a likelihood of success or a failure to demonstrate irreparable injury must necessarily result in the denial of a preliminary injunction.” In Re Arthur Treacher's Franchise Litig., 689 F.2d 1137, 1143 (3d Cir. 1982). However, if a plaintiff proves the first two requirements, it will almost always be the case that the public interest favors preliminary relief, Issa, 847 F.3d at 143, leaving the crux of the matter to the balance of competing interests.

         III. DISCUSSION

         The plaintiff's request fails based on the first two requirements for issuing a preliminary injunction. Therefore, the court need not and will not address the ...


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