United States District Court, District of Columbia
ANTHONY GHAFFARI, Plaintiff, Pro se, State College, PA.
For PHELAN HALLINAN & SCHMIEF, LLP, Defendant: Steven J. McCool, LEAD ATTORNEY, MALLON & MCCOOL, LLC, Washington, DC.
JAMES E. BOASBERG, United States District Judge.
Pro se Plaintiff Anthony Ghaffari has filed this suit against the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Association,Wells Fargo Bank, and Phelan Hallinan, LLP, which acted as Wells Fargo's counsel in an earlier action against Plaintiff in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas for Centre County. Phelan now moves to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. As the Court agrees that it lacks personal jurisdiction over Phelan, it will grant the Motion.
Plaintiff's suit arises from foreclosure proceedings in Pennsylvania. The factual allegations set forth in the Complaint are as follows: In January 2012, Plaintiff fell behind on mortgage payments to Wells Fargo. See Compl. at 4. He contacted a
loan-service officer, who informed him that in order to qualify for a loan modification, Plaintiff needed to remain at least 90 days in arrears. Id. at 5. Although he remained in arrears for 90 days and provided the loan specialist with all the information she had requested, in March 2012 he was nevertheless informed that he was not eligible for a loan modification. Id. The specialist then told him that his file had been sent to an attorney (presumably at Phelan) for foreclosure proceedings. Id. at 5-6. Plaintiff tried unsuccessfully to speak with attorneys at Phelan and representatives of Wells Fargo to avoid these proceedings. Id. at 6-7. Phelan, nevertheless, filed a foreclosure action on behalf of Wells Fargo against Plaintiff in the Centre County Court of Common Pleas in central Pennsylvania. Id. at 7-8.
Plaintiff's Complaint here focuses on Wells Fargo. He first claims that the bank violated several terms of a Consent Judgment issued in 2012. See id. at 9-12 (citing Consent Judgment, ECF No. 14, United States v. Bank of America, No. 12-cv-00361 (D.D.C. Apr. 4, 2012)). Plaintiff next alleges that Wells Fargo " failed to offer or make Plaintiff aware of counseling offered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development" in violation of 12 U.S.C. § 1701x(c)(5). See id. at 13. Finally, Plaintiff asserts that Wells Fargo failed to comply with certain unspecified provisions of an unidentified Pooling and Servicing Agreement. Id. at 13-15. Plaintiff's only allegations against Phelan are: (1) that it " was aware the Mortgage Complaint was violating the Federal Consent Agreement" and (2) that the mortgage information in Phelan's original foreclosure complaint conflicts with unspecified " sworn testimony" of Phelan. Id. at 8, 12.
II. Legal Standard
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), a defendant may move to dismiss a suit if the court lacks personal jurisdiction over it. The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing personal jurisdiction, FC Inv. Group LC v. IFX Markets, Ltd., 529 F.3d 1087, 1091, 381 U.S. App. D.C. 383 (D.C. Cir. 2008), and the requirements for personal jurisdiction " must be met as to each defendant." Rush v. Savchuk, 444 U.S. 320, 332, 100 S.Ct. 571, 62 L.Ed.2d 516 (1980). In deciding whether the plaintiff has shown a factual basis for personal jurisdiction over a defendant, the court resolves factual discrepancies in favor of the plaintiff. Crane v. N.Y. Zoological Soc'y, 894 F.2d 454, 456, 282 U.S. App. D.C. 295 (D.C. Cir. 1990). When personal jurisdiction is challenged, " the district judge has considerable procedural leeway in choosing a methodology for deciding the motion." 5B Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller et al., Federal Practice and Procedure § 1351 (3d ed. 2004). The court may rest on the allegations in the pleadings, collect affidavits and other evidence, or even hold a hearing. See id.
Phelan makes a number of arguments in support of dismissal, but the Court need only address the issue of personal jurisdiction, which Phelan correctly claims is lacking here. A court may exercise two forms of personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant: general and specific. General jurisdiction exists where a nonresident defendant maintains sufficiently systematic and continuous contacts with the forum state, regardless of whether those contacts gave rise to the claim in the particular case. See Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414-15, 104 S.Ct. 1868, 80 L.Ed.2d 404 & ...