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Cain v. Deutsche Bank Aktiengesellschaft

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

June 11, 2013

JIMMIE CAIN, CAROLYN SAVAGE, and CAROLYN E. CAIN, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
DEUTSCHE BANK AKTIENGESELLSCHAFT a/k/a DEUTSCHE BANK AG a/k/a DEUTSCHE BANK USA a/k/a DEUTSCHE BANK NA; et al. Defendants. Judge James B. Zagel

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JAMES B. ZAGEL, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Jimmie Cain, Carolyn Savage, and Carolyn E. Cain, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, have brought this action for trespass, trespass to chattels, conversion, and violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act ("ICFA"), and the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance ("RLTO"). Currently before the Court is Plaintiffs' motion to remand the case back to state court. For the following reasons, that motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

In October 2004, Plaintiffs became tenants at 358 N. Hamlin, First Floor, in Chicago, Illinois. In late May 2008, a foreclosure complaint was filed against the owners of the property. The foreclosure was completed a year later, and in October 2009, an eviction complaint was filed against Plaintiffs for possession of the property. The court entered an order of possession in favor of Deutsche Bank, N.A., now one of the defendants in the instant case, but Plaintiffs continued to live on the property. In August 2010, they were allegedly evicted.

Plaintiffs then brought this action on behalf of themselves and four putative classes. The seven class counts of the complaint allege, inter alia, violations of the ICFA and the RLTO, and essentially challenge the procedure by which the plaintiffs were evicted. The complaint also contains four individual counts for trespass, trespass to chattels, conversion, and another violation of the RLTO, all arising from the allegedly wrongful eviction.

In December 2012, Defendants removed this action from the Circuit Court of Cook County to Federal District Court. Plaintiffs now move to remand the case back to state court. Because subject matter jurisdiction in this Court is barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, Plaintiff's motion to remand is granted.

DISCUSSION

A federal court may remove to its jurisdiction a civil suit filed in state court so long as the district court has original jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. ยง 1441. The removal statute is to be interpreted narrowly, and any doubt regarding jurisdiction should be resolved in favor of the states. Doe v. Allied-Signal, Inc., 985 F.2d 908, 911 (7th Cir. 1993).

"[T]he Rooker-Feldman doctrine precludes lower federal court jurisdiction over claims seeking review of state court judgments." Brokaw v. Weaver, 305 F.3d 660, 664 (7th Cir. 2002); see also Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 415-16 (1923); District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 482-86 (1983). At its core, Rooker-Feldman requires a party seeking review of a state court judgment, or presenting a claim that a state judicial proceeding has violated their constitutional rights, to pursue relief through the state court system and ultimately to the United States Supreme Court. Long v. Shorebank Development Corp., 182 F.3d 548, 544 (7th Cir. 1999).

Broadly speaking, Rooker-Feldman applies in two instances. The less complicated of the two is where a claim is brought in federal court which directly seeks to set aside a state court judgment; such claims are barred without further inquiry.

More complicated is where the district court is "in essence" being called upon to review a state court decision. See Feldman, 460 U.S. at 483-84 n. 16. In such cases, the claim at issue is found to be "inextricably intertwined" with the state court judgment, and lower federal court review is barred, just as if the claim had sought direct review of a state court judgment. Accordingly, even claims that a plaintiff failed to bring in state court, where they are subsequently found to be inextricably intertwined with the state court judgment handed down on the claim that was brought, may be barred from federal review.

In an effort to protect against a potential injustice occurring under such circumstances, the court makes one additional inquiry. The court must determine whether the plaintiff had a "reasonable opportunity" to raise the issue in state court proceedings. Long, 182 F.3d at 558 (citing Wood v. Orange County, 715 F.2d 1543, 1547 (11th Cir. 1983)). "Where the plaintiff has had no such opportunity, he cannot fairly be said to have failed' to raise the issue.'" Id. Thus, although the claim the plaintiff wishes to bring in federal court may appear to essentially call upon the court to review a state court decision, the plaintiff is saved from dismissal, and federal jurisdiction is retained, where the plaintiff had no reasonable opportunity to bring the claim in state court. See id.

As will be discussed in greater detail below, this case offers a somewhat unusual application of Rooker-Feldman, at least relative to almost all of the cases cited by the parties. In the cases cited by both Plaintiffs and Defendants, Rooker-Feldman generally operates as an obstacle to plaintiffs seeking an audience in federal in court. See, e.g., Brown v. Bowman, 668 F.3d 437 (7th Cir. 2012); Beth-El All Nations Church v. City of Chicago, 486 F.3d 286 (7th Cit. 2007); Taylor v. Federal Nat. Mortg. Ass'n, 374 F.3d 529 (7th Cir. 2004); Brokaw v. Weaver, 305 F.3d 660 (7th Cir. 2002); Long, 182 F.3d at 548; Nationscredit Home Equity Services Corp. v. City of Chicago, 135 F.Supp.2d 905 (N.D.Ill. 2001); but see Sheenan v. Mortgage Electronic, Registration Systems, Inc., 2011 WL 3501883 (D.N.J. August 10, 2011). It is the plaintiff in these cases who urges that the doctrine does not apply. Here, Rooker-Feldman serves the ...


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