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Derrick Family Hawthorne v. Silverleaf Funding, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

June 14, 2017

Derrick Family Hawthorne; a true man of God AND THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS EX REL DARREY HAWTHORNE, Plaintiffs,
v.
SILVERLEAF FUNDING, LLC, AS ASSIGNEE OF WOODBRIDGE MORTGAGE FUND 1, LLC, TAFT STETTINIUS & HOLLISTER ATTY. FOR SILVERLEAF FUNDING, BRIANNA SONSONE, INDIVIDUALLY, INVERSE ASSET FUND, ROBERT WOODS, INDIVIDUALLY, NEW PLAN INC., JOSEPH DEBELLA, JR. INDIVIDUALLY, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          John J. Tharp, Jr. United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Derrick Hawthorne filed this suit pro se in March 2016, the third in a series of suits he has attempted to litigate in this Court arising from a state court mortgage foreclosure action that resulted in entry of judgment against Hawthorne's now-dissolved company and an order confirming the sale of the property in January 2015.[1] His prior efforts having failed, Hawthorne now accuses the defendants of violating the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act (“ICFA”), and the Illinois Collection Agency Act (“ICAA”). Hawthorne's complaint also asserts state tort claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and intrusion upon seclusion. The defendants, all entities and individuals which have been involved to varying degrees in underlying state court litigation, have moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, failure to state a claim, and insufficient service. That motion to dismiss is granted for the reasons set forth below.

         BACKGROUND

         The defendants lodged their joint motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), and further argue that the case should be dismissed for insufficient service under Rule 12(b)(5). This Court takes as true all well-pleaded facts alleged in the complaint and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of Hawthorne, the non-moving party. See Lee v. City of Chi., 330 F.3d 456, 468 (7th Cir. 2003) (Rule 12(b)(1); Mann v. Vogel, 707 F.3d 872, 877 (7th Cir. 2012) (Rule 12(b)(6)). Still, the facts as alleged in the complaint are difficult to parse.

         The confusion starts with the plaintiff's identity. Under a section labeled “The Parties, ” the complaint states that plaintiff Derrick Hawthorne is a “Citizen/National, ” and states that “Plaintiffs the People of the State of Illinois ex rel derrick family:hawthorne are at all times relevant to this action Illinoisans.” Compl. ¶ 2. The caption of the complaint, as reflected above, lists “derrick family: hawthorne; a true man of God AND THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS EX REL DARREY HAWTHORNE” as the “Plaintiff(s).” Id. at 1. The complaint is signed by “derrick Hawthorne, ” but verified by “derrick family: hawthorne.” Id. at 14.[2] This, of course, is part of the unfortunately familiar gibberish of the “sovereign citizen” movement, whose theories have repeatedly been rejected as frivolous, bizarre, and nonsensical. Although adorned with these trappings of the sovereign dogma, for the most part (exceptions noted below) the plaintiff's claims do not appear to invoke “sovereign” theories. Nor does it appear that the plaintiff in this case could be anyone other than an individual named Derrick Hawthorne. Accordingly, the Court proceeds from that premise.

         Hawthorne asserts generally that the defendants have attempted to collect an alleged debt from him, but states that he is “without knowledge” of that debt. Id. ¶ 10. His complaint states that on April 15, 2014, he received a verified complaint by mail in state court case number 14 CH 03063. Id. ¶ 11. That state court complaint, which the defendants attach to their motion to dismiss, [3] was for a foreclosure action brought by current defendant Silverleaf Funding LLC, as assignee of Woodbridge Mortgage Investment Fund 1, LLC, against Hawthorne, Home Electronic Solutions, Inc.-which appears to be a now-dissolved corporation of which Hawthorne was the president, see Corporation File Detail Report, “Home Electronic Solutions, Incorporated, ” Office of the Ill. Sec. of State, https://www.ilsos.gov/corporatellc/CorporateLlcController-and other unknown owners, claimants, and occupants. See 2014 Compl., ECF No. 33-1. The 2014 complaint specifically involved a property at 4136 West Jackson Boulevard, in Chicago. Id. The state court judge later dismissed Hawthorne from the case, see State Order of 8/29/14, ECF No. 33-1, and entered judgment against Home Electronic Solutions, see State Order of 9/19/14, ECF No. 33-1. On January 9, 2015, the state court judge entered an order approving the report of the property's sale and distribution, confirming the sale, and issuing an order for possession. See State Order of 1/9/15, ECF No. 33-1. Hawthorne then lodged a motion on January 20, 2015, seeking to vacate those judgments and orders, which the state court judge denied on May 1, 2015. See Pet. to Vacate, ECF No. 33-1; State Order of 5/1/15, ECF No. 33-1.

         Despite the foreclosure and sale of the property, Hawthorne refused to vacate the premises, prompting additional litigation in 2016. The property at 4136 West Jackson had been conveyed to Inverse Asset Fund LLC, a defendant in this federal court case;[4] in June 2016, Inverse Asset Fund-through its attorneys Taft Stettinius & Hollister and Brianna Sansone (misspelled “Sonsone” in Hawthorne's complaint), also defendants to the current action-lodged forcible eviction proceedings against Hawthorne in three separate state court cases numbered 16-M1-710912, 16-M1-710913, and 16-M1-710914. See Eviction Compls., ECF No. 33-1. The state court judge eventually entered final orders of possession against Hawthorne as to the subject property in all three proceedings on September 8, 2016. See State Orders of 9/8/16, ECF No. 33-1.

         Hawthorne, meanwhile, had filed the current federal court complaint on March 8, 2016. In it, he alleges that on March 2, 2014, before he actually received a copy of the 2014 state court complaint, a process server acting on behalf of defendant Silverleaf Funding, LLC, falsified documents which stated that the process server had served the complaint by leaving it with a family member or co-resident. Compl. ¶ 13. The person who supposedly received service was not a resident of Illinois, and was actually at her place of employment on the morning the process server claimed to have completed service, Hawthorne asserts. Id. In making these allegations, Hawthorne invokes his constitutional rights to due process and to equal protection. Id. The complaint also asserts that the defendants “failed to inform Plaintiff of his validation rights” and seems to allege that they did not provide him sufficient notice of their attempt, as debt collectors, to collect a debt from him. Id. ¶ 14. Hawthorne says that he served the defendants with a notice that he was disputing the debt in accordance with the FDCPA, 15 U.S.C. § 1692g, and he attached a series of notarized documents referring to that notice-which seem to allege that the notice was served in February 2015, though it is difficult to make out on the scanned copies provided-to his complaint in this case. See Id. ¶ 14; Compl. Ex. 3. On August 2, 2015, defendant Robert Woods came to Hawthorne's residence and left a note-the substance of which is unclear-with a family member who was visiting. See Compl. ¶ 17. Hawthorne stressed to Woods that “no liability between plaintiff(s) and these alleged new owners existed, ” but Woods continued to try to communicate with Hawthorne without his consent. Id. The subject of Woods' continued contacts with Hawthorne is, again, not alleged.

         Hawthorne asserts that on September 24, 2015, he “issued a rescission notice of the consumer transaction, ” and that on January 12, 2016, he filed a “Notice of Judgment and Final Order Pursuant Rescission” in the Illinois state court. Compl. ¶¶ 15-16.[5] Based on the documents Hawthorne attached to his complaint, it appears that he filed a letter dated September 24, 2015- which states that he was rescinding “the entire consumer credit transaction” related to the property at 4136 West Jackson Boulevard-with the Cook County Recorder of Deeds. See Compl. Ex. 4. It is not clear to this Court what Hawthorne refers to as his January 12, 2016 filing; the copy of the September 2015 letter he attached does appear, however, to have been notarized on that January date. See Compl. Exs. 4-5.

         Hawthorne alleges that on March 3, 2016, defendants Joseph DeBella, Jr. and New Plan, Inc. threatened Hawthorne and his family with forcible removal from their home. Compl. ¶ 18. Hawthorne alleges that they did so “without first bringing such action before the judicial district; validating or obtaining verification; providing accurate accounting or chain of title; and, without providing an authentic agreement signed by Plaintiff or consent to communicate about any alleged debt.” Id. DeBella “verbally terrorized” Hawthorne, and provided him with a business card, a copy of a judicial sale deed, and a letter on letterhead associated with defendant Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP stating that DeBella was from New Plan and was “authorized to act on Inverse Asset Fund, LLC's behalf concerning the properties owned by Inverse Asset Fund, LLC.” Compl. Ex. 6. DeBella also allegedly said that Hawthorne owed some $7, 500 in back rent. Compl. ¶ 18. 2013). Hawthorne's unilateral “rescission” of any debts he has incurred is, of course, legally ineffective and will not be discussed further. See Bey v. State of Indiana, 847 F.3d 559, 561 (7th Cir. 2017) (in affirming dismissal of sovereign citizen claims, describing the sovereign citizen movement but clarifying that district court judges need not “delve into the history of every particular organization involved in every case before them”); see also United States v. Benabe, 654 F.3d 753, 767 (7th Cir. 2011) (“Regardless of an individual's claimed status of descent, be it as a ‘sovereign citizen, ' a ‘secured-party creditor, ' or a ‘flesh-and-blood human being, ' that person is not beyond the jurisdiction of the courts. These theories should be rejected summarily, however they are presented.”).

         The defendants filed their joint motion to dismiss the case in October 2016, arguing that Hawthorne's claims are barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine and by the doctrine of res judicata. Mot. to Dismiss at 4. They further argue that Hawthorne's complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim and for insufficient service. Id. Hawthorne did not respond to the arguments in the motion, instead filing two letters he apparently sent to defense counsel in this case after the motion to dismiss in which Hawthorne referred to himself as a “Consumer Enforcement Director” and directed the recipients to stop contacting him about any alleged debts. See Notice of Filing, ECF No. 36. Hawthorne also submitted copies of the appearances that defense counsel submitted in this case with the word “RESCINDED” written across them in red ink. Id.

         This Court now turns to the defendants' motion to dismiss.

         ANALYSIS

         The defendants' first argument is that Hawthorne's current claims are barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine and that this Court therefore lacks subject-matter jurisdiction to hear the case. See Mot. to Dismiss at 4-6. The Rooker-Feldman doctrine provides “that the Supreme Court of the United States is the sole federal tribunal authorized to review the judgments of state courts in civil litigation.” Iqbal v. Patel, 780 F.3d 728, 729 (7th Cir. 2015) (citing Ro ...


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