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Jung Yun v. Bank of America, N.A.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 23, 2018

GLORIA SUN JUNG YUN, etal., Plaintiffs,
BANK OF AMERICA, N.A., et al., Defendants.



         I. Introduction

         Presently before the Court is a Complaint filed by Plaintiffs Gloria Sun Jung Yun and the Trustee of the Gloria Sun Jung Yun Trust against Defendants Bank of America, N.A., Wilmington Savings Fund Society, FSB, Stern & Eisenberg, P.C., Phelan Hallinan Diamond & Jones, PLLC, and Reed Smith, LLC. (Doc. 1). Accompanying the Complaint is a Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis, (Doc. 3), and an Emergency Motion for Injunctive Relief, (Doc. 2). Upon review of the filings, the Court will grant Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. For the reasons that follow, however, the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' Complaint and will therefore dismiss the Complaint and the Motion for Injunctive Relief.

         II. Background

         Plaintiffs' filings, fairly construed, allege that Wilmington Savings Fund Society, FSB, prevailed in a state court foreclosure action against Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs allege that judgment was obtained by fraud because Plaintiffs were prevented from conducting any discovery and Defendants failed to present any evidence of the original promissory note. As a result of the state court judgment, Plaintiffs are presently facing eviction. Through this federal action, Plaintiffs seek to vacate the state court judgment and prevent a pending eviction from occurring.

         III. Analysis

         "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.

         The Rooker-Feldman doctrine prevents federal district courts from exercising jurisdiction "[i]n certain circumstances, where a federal suit follows a state suit." Great W. Mining & Mineral Co. v. Fox Rothschild LLP, 615 F.3d 159, 163-64 (3d Cir. 2010). The doctrine originated from two Supreme Court opinions issued over the course of six decades, Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 44 S.Ct. 149, 68 L.Ed. 362 (1923) and District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 103 S.Ct. 1303, 75 L.Ed.2d 206 (1983). "The doctrine is derived from 28 U.S.C. § 1257 which states that '[f]inal judgments or decrees rendered by the highest court of a state in which a decision could be had, may be reviewed by the Supreme Court.'" Gary v. Braddock Cemetery, 517 F.3d 195, 200 (3d Cir. 2008) (alteration original). "'Since Congress has never conferred a similar power of review on the United States District Courts, the Supreme Court has inferred that Congress did not intend to empower District Courts to review state court decisions.'" Id. (quoting Desi's Pizza, Inc. v. City of Wilkes Bane, 321 F.3d 411, 419 (3d Cir. 2003)).

         The doctrine is narrow in scope. See Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp.,544 U.S. 280, 284, 125 S.Ct. 1517, 161 L.Ed.2d 454 (2005). It "is confined to cases of the kind from which the doctrine acquired its name: cases brought by state-court losers complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings commenced and inviting district court review and rejection of those judgments." Id. The doctrine is not implicated, however, "[i]f a federal plaintiff 'present[s] some independent claim, albeit one that denies a legal conclusion that a state ...

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