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Walker v. Nationstar Mortg. LLC

United States District Court, D. Columbia

November 6, 2015

JOVAN WALKER and DAVID WALKER, Plaintiffs,
v.
NATIONSTAR MORTGAGE LLC, et al., Defendants

Page 64

          JOVAN WALKER, Plaintiff, Pro se, Abingdon, MD.

         DAVID WALKER, Plaintiff, Pro se, Abingdon, MD.

         For NATIONSTAR MORTGAGE LLC, Defendant: Andrew F. Lopez, LEAD ATTORNEY, MCGUIREWOODS LLP, Charlotte, NC.

         For WELLS FARGO BANK, NA, Defendant: Douglas B. Riley, LEAD ATTORNEY, TREANOR POPE & HUGHES, Towson, MD.

Page 65

         AMENDED MEMORANDUM OPINION[1]

         TANYA S. CHUTKAN, United States District Judge.

          Pro se plaintiffs Jovan and David Walker bring this action against the following defendants: Nationstar Mortgage, LLC; Wells Fargo Bank, NA; Citibank, NA; Buonassissi, Henning & Lash, PC; Robert E. Kelly, Esquire; Richard A. Lash; Barry K. Bedford,[2] and Does 1-10. The basis of Plaintiffs' sixty-seven page complaint is the alleged illegal foreclosure of their property located in Abingdon, Maryland. Plaintiffs assert claims pursuant to the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3729 et seq., and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. (Compl. at pp. 32, 52). Plaintiffs also purport to bring claims for the alleged violation of a Consent Judgment signed by multiple financial entities, including defendants Wells Fargo and Citibank in United States v. Bank of America, 12-cv-361-RMC (D.D.C 2012). (Compl. at ¶ ¶ 2, 18-20, 61). Finally, Plaintiffs appear to raise various state law claims, (Compl. at pp. 32, 37, 43, 47-49, 50), and a due process claim. (Compl. at pp. 44, 46-47).

         Presently before the court are motions to dismiss by both Nationstar and Wells Fargo.[3] For the reasons set forth below, the court will dismiss this action in its entirety.

         A. FALSE CLAIMS ACT

         Both Nationstar and Wells Fargo seek dismissal of Plaintiffs' claims brought pursuant to the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. § 3729 et seq. Such suits are also called qui tam actions and, as the Defendants correctly point out, pro se parties may not pursue these actions on behalf of the United States.

In Rockefeller v. Westinghouse Elec. Co., 274 F.Supp.2d 10, 12 (D.D.C. 2003), this Court held that a relator in a qui tam action under the FCA may not proceed pro se. Judge Walton explained that although a qui tam relator has an interest in the action, the real party in interest in such a case is the United States, regardless of whether the government chooses to intervene. Id. at 16 (citing United States v. Onan, 190 F.2d 1, 4, 6 (8th Cir. 1951) and Zissler v. Regents of Univ. of Minn., 154 F.3d 870, 872 (8th Cir. 1998)). Because the outcome of such an action could have claim-or issue-preclusive effect on the United States, " [t]he need for adequate legal representation on behalf of the United States is obviously essential." Rockefeller v. Westinghouse Elec. Co., 274 F.Supp.2d at 16. In this respect qui tam suits are analogous to class actions and shareholder derivative suits, where courts have required persons suing on behalf of others to retain counsel. See id. (citing Phillips v. Tobin, 548 F.2d 408, 411 (2d Cir. 1976) (holding that a stockholder cannot represent the corporation without an attorney) and Oxendine v. Williams, 509 F.2d 1405, 1407 (4th Cir. 1975) (holding that qualified counsel is needed to adequately represent the interests of the class)).

U.S. ex rel. Fisher v. Network Software Assocs., 377 F.Supp.2d 195, 196-97 (D.D.C. 2005).

Page 66

          In their response,[4] Plaintiffs do not address the issue of whether they are permitted to bring a FCA claim pro se. Instead, they point to the FCA provision which provides that

[a] person may bring a civil action for a violation of [the FCA] for the person and for the United States Government. The action shall be brought in the name of the Government. The action may be dismissed only if the court and the Attorney General give written consent to the dismissal and their reasons for consenting.

31 U.S.C.A. § 3730(b)(1) (emphasis added); ( see ECF No. 10 at p. 1). Plaintiffs also assert a general right to proceed pro se in federal court. ( See id. ) (citing Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806, 95 S.Ct. 2525, 45 L.Ed.2d 562 (1975)).

         Plaintiffs' response fails to address the problem identified by the Defendants. While the FCA allows " a person" to bring an action on behalf of the United States, Plaintiffs have not cited any legal authority which provides that a pro se person has the same authority. Because Plaintiffs have not set forth a viable argument as to why this court should not follow the precedent in this District that the court finds persuasive, and that prohibits pro se parties from bringing FCA claims, the court will dismiss the claim without prejudice. See U.S. ex rel. Fisher v. Network Software Assocs., 377 F.Supp.2d 195, 197 (D.D.C. 2005) (" Relator has offered no reason why this Court should not follow [the precedent in this district] and the Court sees none. The Court therefore holds that plaintiff may not maintain this suit as a qui tam relator without the assistance of counsel." ).

         B. ...


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