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TREMEL v. BIERMAN & GEESING

February 27, 2003

KEVIN TREMEL, Plaintiff
v.
BIERMAN & GEESING, L.L.C., et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WALTON, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the Court upon defendants' motions to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint on the following four grounds: (1) the doctrine of res judicata; (2) lack of jurisdiction; (3) abstention; and (4) failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The plaintiff's complaint seeks damages arising from the decision of a Maryland state trial court that ratified the foreclosure sale of his residence, which he alleges: (1) violated his constitutional rights to due process, under both the United States Constitution and the Constitution of Maryland,*fn1 because he failed to receive both notice of the foreclosure sale of his property and a fair hearing in the Circuit Court for Calvert County, Maryland; and (2) was the product of the trial judge engaging in judicial and criminal misconduct during the proceedings that had been initiated to ratify the foreclosure sale.*fn2 Complaint for Direct Consequential and Punitive Damages ("Compl.") at 13-14. Upon consideration of the parties' submissions and for the reasons set forth below, the Court must dismiss the plaintiff's case because the Court lacks jurisdiction to review final judicial decisions of state courts.*fn3

  I. Factual Background

 
(1) Facts Related to the Foreclosure Sale and the Maryland Circuit Court's Review of the Foreclosure Sale
  On August 5, 1998, the plaintiff used his real property located at 2095 Tobacco Road, Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, as collateral, by executing a Deed of Trust, to secure a loan. See Tremel v. Bierman, No. 295, at 3 (Md.Ct.Spec.App. Sept. 2001). The Deed of Trust was assigned to LaSalle National Bank, and named Howard N. Bierman, Jacob Geesing, and Kenya D. McRae as the substitute trustees. Id. Superior Savings Bank, was initially the "servicer of the indebtedness" secured by the Deed of Trust, but was later replaced by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation ("FDIC") after the Superior Bank went out of business. Id. After the plaintiff's failure to make several mortgage payments, the substitute trustees initiated a foreclosure action and a foreclosure sale

[251 F. Supp.2d 42]

      was scheduled for December 5, 2000. Id. Notice of the December 5, 2000 foreclosure sale was mailed to plaintiff on November 27, 2000, by first class and certified mail. Id. At the foreclosure sale, the subject property was sold, and the substitute trustees filed a Report of Sale and an Affidavit of Compliance, as required by Maryland Rule 14-206(b), in the Circuit Court for Calvert County on the same day as the sale. Id. On January 30, 2001, the Clerk of the Circuit Court for Calvert County published a Notice stating that the sale of the property "would be ratified and confirmed unless cause to the contrary was shown on or before March 1, 2001." Id. at 3-4. The plaintiff subsequently filed four timely motions contesting the foreclosure sale during the month of February 2001.*fn4 Id. at 4. On March 29, 2001, the Circuit Court for Calvert County denied all four motions, and entered an order ratifying and confirming the sale of the plaintiff's property. Id. at 5.

 
(2) The Maryland State Courts' Appellate Review of the Foreclosure Sale
  On April 16, 2001, the plaintiff filed a timely notice of appeal with the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland. Id. at 5. While the plaintiff presented nine separate questions for review, the Court "reorganized and rephrased [these issues] into . . . two questions: I. Did the circuit court err when it denied Appellant's exceptions to the foreclosure sale? [and] II. Did the circuit court err when it found that Appellant was not denied due process because he received notice by mail of the foreclosure sale?" Id. at 1-2. On April 12, 2002, the Court of Special Appeals denied each of the plaintiff's federal and state claims, and affirmed the judgment of the circuit court. Id. First, with regard to the circuit court's denial of the plaintiff's exceptions to the foreclosure sale, the Court of Special Appeals found that the plaintiff's argument that he was improperly served with notice of the foreclosure sale lacked any merit because he "was given proper notice, attended the sale, and was given the opportunity to be heard by the Circuit Court."*fn5 Id. at 8. Second, the Court of Special Appeals found that the record was devoid of any evidence which indicated that the foreclosure sale was illegal based upon the inadequacy of the sale price, and concluded that while the property sold for less than fair market value, it was "well within the range of reasonableness and [did] not shock the conscience of this Court." Id. at 11. Finally, the Court of Special Appeals held that there was nothing in the record that would support the plaintiff's claims of judicial or criminal misconduct. Id. at 11-12.

[251 F. Supp.2d 43]

     

  Following the Court of Special Appeals' ruling, the plaintiff filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the Court of Appeals of Maryland, the highest court in the State of Maryland. The petition was subsequently denied on July 18, 2002. See Tremel v. Bierman & Geesing, L.L.C, 802 A.2d 439 (Md. 2002) (cited in Table).

 (3) The Plaintiff's Complaint Filed in the Case Before this Court

  On February 1, 2002, while the state court proceeding was pending, the plaintiff filed the complaint that is currently before this Court. In his complaint, the plaintiff simply asserts without explanation that his due process rights have been violated, details the damages and non-monetary relief he is seeking, and attaches the brief he filed with the Maryland Court of Special Appeals to serve presumably as the factual and legal basis for the allegations in his complaint. See Compl. and attached brief.

  II. Standard of Review: Rule 12(b)(1)

  Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) requires that the plaintiff bear the burden of establishing by a preponderance of the evidence that the court has jurisdiction to entertain his claims. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1); Grand Lodge of Fraternal Order of Police v. Ashcroft, 185 F. Supp.2d 9, 13 (D.D.C. 2001); Pitney Bowes, Inc. v. United States Postal Serv., 27 F. Supp.2d 15, 18 (D.D.C. 1998); Darden v. United States, 18 Cl. Ct. 855, 859 (1989). While the Court must accept as true all the factual allegations contained in the complaint when reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 164 (1993), because the plaintiff has the burden of establishing the Court's jurisdiction, the "`plaintiff's factual allegations in the complaint . . . will bear closer scrutiny in resolving a 12(b)(1) motion' than in resolving a 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim." Grand Lodge of Fraternal Order of Police, 185 F. Supp.2d at 13-14 (citation omitted). In addition, the Court notes that in deciding a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, it is well established in this Circuit that a court is not limited to the allegations in the complaint, but may consider material outside of the complaint in an effort to determine whether the court has jurisdiction in the case. See EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624-25 n. 3 (D.C. Cir. 1997); Herbert v. Nat'l Acad. of Scis., 974 F.2d 192, 197 (D.C. Cir. 1992); ...


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