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Campbell v. Tabas

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 25, 2017



          STENGEL, J.

         In our complex financial world, notes and mortgages can be assigned by one bank to another without the knowledge of the mortgagor so that, if the mortgagor defaults, he may find himself subject to suit by a party he has never heard of. That is what happened to pro se plaintiff Leroy Campbell, against whom a state court entered a foreclosure judgment. He now sues the bank that brought the action against him-U.S. Bank-along with its vice president, various lawyers, and a notary public, alleging they conspired to fabricate documents to make it appear that U.S Bank had been assigned the mortgage and note. However, he provides no grounds for his allegations and, even if he had, this court lacks jurisdiction over his claims. Therefore, as explained below, defendants' motions to dismiss are granted.


         On November 21, 2006, Mr. Campbell, along with Marcia R. Campbell, executed a note and mortgage reflecting a debt of $249, 994.00 secured by real property located at 5008 Foxdale Drive, Whitehall, Pennsylvania 18052. Compl. ¶¶ 22, 24, Exs. A (Note), Ex. C (Mortgage). The recorded mortgage identified the lender as Lend America and its nominee, successors and assigns as Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS). Id.

         By August 2013, the Campbells had defaulted on their mortgage payments and U.S. Bank filed a foreclosure action against them in state court. Id. Ex. A. U.S. Bank claimed to have been assigned the mortgage by MERS. Id. ¶ 25. This action is based on that assignment, which Mr. Campbell argues was fraudulent.

         Mr. Campbell alleges a vast conspiracy to fabricate documents purporting to show an assignment so that U.S. Bank could appear to have standing to bring the state court action. He avers U.S. Bank's counsel, defendant law firm Powers, Kirn & Javardian, LLC, created false documents describing the assignment, id. ¶ 27; defendant Paula Lynn Laslie, “purporting to be” assistant secretary of MERS, signed and executed the false assignment, id. ¶ 28; and defendant Carrie Bratcher, a notary public, improperly notarized the defective assignment. Id. ¶ 30. U.S. Bank then allegedly paid Mr. Campbell's attorney not to appear in court in order to obtain a default judgment. Id. ¶ 32.

         The court entered a foreclosure judgment in favor of U.S. Bank on May 15, 2015. Id. Ex. G. Mr. Campbell filed a motion to vacate the judgment. Id. ¶¶ 33, 34. When this was denied, he appealed. Id. ¶¶ 35, 36. His appeal was also denied. Id. ¶ 37. A sheriff's sale of his home was scheduled for January 27, 2017. He then filed his complaint in federal court commencing this action and requested a temporary restraining order against the sale, which was denied. Docket No. 8.

         The basis for Mr. Campbell's belief in the alleged conspiracy appears to be his discovery that Lend America, Inc., from which he obtained the mortgage, was dissolved on January 26, 2011. Id. ¶¶ 26, 30, 39, Ex. D. Mr. Campbell argues that the fact that Lend America had been dissolved before its nominee/assignee, MERS, assigned the note and mortgage to U.S. Bank suggests that the assignment was invalid and procured through fraud. Id. ¶¶ 30, 39.

         Mr. Campbell requests compensation for his state litigation expenses and “cloud upon title which made [his] home unmarketable.” Id. ¶ 40. He brings the following claims: (1) violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (15 U.S.C. § 1692, et seq.), (2) violation of the Racketeer Influence Corrupt Organizations Act (18 U.S.C. § 1961, et seq.), (3) violation of the Pennsylvania Unlawful Collection Agency Practices (18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 7311, et seq.) and (4) civil conspiracy.


         In order to state a claim, a pleading must contain “a short and plain statement of”: 1) “the grounds of the courts' jurisdiction” and 2) “the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . .”[1] Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Before addressing a motion to dismiss, a court must first establish that it has jurisdiction over the action. Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 94 (1998). “Without jurisdiction the court cannot proceed at all in any cause.” Id.

         If a court has jurisdiction, it can proceed to address whether the plaintiff has stated a claim showing entitlement to relief. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits a court to dismiss all or part of an action for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Typically, a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations, ” but must include “enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . on the assumption that all of the allegations in the complaint are true.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations omitted). This “calls for enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of” the necessary element. Id. at 556. In reviewing a complaint, “[t]he District Court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). It “must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a ‘plausible claim for relief.'” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).

         Because Mr. Campbell is proceeding pro se, the court “must liberally construe his pleadings, and . . . apply the applicable law, irrespective of whether [he] has mentioned it by name.” Dluhos v. Strasberg, 321 F.3d 365, 369 (3d Cir. 2003). “[H]owever inartfully pleaded, ” a pro se complaint must be held to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). Unless amendment would be inequitable or futile the Court should not dismiss the ...

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