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Winfrey v. Citimortgage, Inc.

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

January 23, 2018

LAURA WINFREY and JUSTINA WINFREY, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITIMORTGAGE, INC., FEDERAL NATIONAL MORTGAGE ASSOCIATION, JASON SHAPIRO, RISING REALTY LLC, KAREN YARBROUGH, COOK COUNTY REC OF DEEDS, JOSEPH A. BERRIOS, COOK COUNTY ASSESSOR, HAUSELMAN, RAPPIN & OLSWANG, LTD., AS TRUSTEE FOR CITIMORTGAGE, INC., JOSEPH PRESTON HARRIS, SR., DOES 1-10 inclusive, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          SARA L. ELLIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pro Se Plaintiffs Laura Winfrey and Justina Winfrey bring this suit against CitiMortgage, Inc. (“Citi”), Federal National Mortgage Association (“Fannie Mae”), Jason Shapiro, Rising Realty LLC (“Rising Realty”), Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough, Cook County Assessor Joseph A. Berrios, the law firm Hauselman, Rappin & Olswang, Ltd. (“HR&O”), Joseph Preston Harris, Sr., and Does 1-10. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants engaged in a variety of nefarious actions relating to a mortgage Laura Winfrey took out on her home in Chicago, including the origination of the mortgage, foreclosure, and the subsequent eviction of Plaintiffs from the property. Plaintiffs bring claims for declaratory judgment (Count I), injunctive relief (Count II), accounting (Count III), rescission of the mortgage (Count IV), wrongful foreclosure (Count V), violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act (“ICFA”), 815 Ill. Comp. Stat. 505/1 et seq. (Count VI), action to quiet title (Count VII), and violation of the Thirteen Amendment of the United States Constitution (Count VIII).[1] Citi and Fannie Mae now move to dismiss [22] the complaint arguing that Plaintiffs' claims against them are barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, res judicata, and additionally, fail to state a claim. HR&O also moves to dismiss [55] the complaint on the same bases. Shapiro and Rising Realty move to dismiss [28] the complaint asserting the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, res judicata, and failure to state a claim. Because Plaintiffs' claims against Citi, Fannie Mae, Shapiro, Rising Realty, and HR&O (collectively, the “Motion Defendants”) in Counts I, II, and IV-VII are in essence attempts to have this Court overturn the prior judgments of Illinois state courts, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars this Court from exercising jurisdiction over these claims and the Court grants the motions to dismiss these Counts.[2] And because Counts III and VIII do not allege sufficient facts to state a claim against any of the Motion Defendants, the Court grants the motions to dismiss these Counts as well.

         BACKGROUND[3]

         The history of the case stretches back to the beginning of this century. Laura Winfrey (“Laura”) purchased the house located at 4830 West Quincy Street (the “Quincy Street House”) in Chicago, IL in December 2001. To finance the purchase, Laura took out a mortgage from Fieldstone Mortgage. For over eight years, Laura made payments on the mortgage and the arrangement proceeded without incident. But in early 2010, things began to go off the rails.

         Sometime in 2010, Laura attempted to get a loan modification on her mortgage, but was denied on her first two attempts. Before her third attempt, she spoke with someone at Citi, who advised her that her prior attempts had failed because her mortgage was current. The Citi employee advised her to allow her mortgage to become delinquent and then apply for the modification. Laura did this and received a trial loan modification on the third attempt on March 30, 2010.[4]

         Despite the loan modification, on April 6, 2010, Citi began foreclosure proceedings against the property. On April 28, 2010, Citi filed a foreclosure suit against the Quincy Street House. On April 30, 2010, Laura made a payment to Citi via Western Union, but Citi cancelled the payment. Citi subsequently sent Laura a new loan modification package and cancelled the trial modification. Laura did not respond to the new package she was sent.

         In July 2010, the state court entered a default judgment against Laura in the foreclosure action. On September 14, 2010, the state court entered an order granting judgment for foreclosure and sale. Laura finally appeared in the foreclosure action on February 25, 2011. The court entered a second order approving the report of sale and an order of possession on April 20, 2011. And Fannie Mae recorded the judicial sale deed in its favor on May 9, 2011.

         On July 27, 2011, Justina Winfrey (“Justina”) filed a motion in the foreclosure action to stay execution of the possession order and eviction. The judge struck the motion on March 23, 2012. Taino Winfrey, who is not a party to this case, also filed a similar motion on March 23, 2012, which the judge also struck. On March 16, 2012, a state court judge entered an order for possession of the Quincy Street House against Justina and all unknown occupants of the house. Justina filed a response to this order asserting violations of ICFA, and the court rejected this objection on October 9, 2014.

         On April 22, 2015, Laura filed an action in state court to quiet title and recover possession of the Quincy Street House, in which she was at the time still residing. On May 1, 2015, the judge took notice of the April 20, 2011, order in the foreclosure case and denied Laura's request for a temporary restraining order, and on October 1, 2015, the judge dismissed the case for want of prosecution.

         Finally, on September 8, 2016, after over five years of litigation in state court, a Cook County Sheriff's Deputy evicted Plaintiffs from the Quincy Street House. They filed this suit on September 16, 2016.

         ANALYSIS

         A. Rooker-Feldman Doctrine

         Citi, Fannie Mae, Shapiro, Rising Realty, and HR&O assert that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine deprives the Court of subject matter jurisdiction over this case, and therefore, the Court must dismiss the complaint. The Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars federal district courts from asserting jurisdiction over cases “brought by state-court losers complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings commenced and inviting district court review and rejection of those judgments.” Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284, 125 S.Ct. 1517, 161 L.Ed.2d 454 (2005). The Rooker-Feldman doctrine works to bar not only issues actually raised and litigated in the state court, but also those that are “inextricably intertwined” with the state court decision. Taylor v. Fed. Nat'l Mortg. Ass'n, 374 F.3d 529, 533 (7th Cir. 2004). Whether a claim is inextricably intertwined turns on whether “the district court is in essence being called upon to review the state-court decision.” Id. (quoting Ritter v. Ross, 992 F.2d 750, 754 (7th Cir. 1993)). If the claim is so intertwined, then the district court may not assert jurisdiction over it, unless the plaintiff did not have a reasonable opportunity to raise it in the state court proceedings. Id. To establish that they did not have such an opportunity, Plaintiffs must point to “some action taken by the state court or state court procedures in place” that formed a barrier to Plaintiffs presenting the claims in the state court. Id. (quoting Long v. Shorebank Dev. Corp., 182 F.3d 548, 558 (7th Cir. 1999)).

         Here, on September 14, 2010, the state court entered an order of default against Laura Winfrey in the foreclosure action Citi filed against her in relation to the mortgage recorded against the Quincy Street House. After Laura filed an appearance in that action in February 2011, the state court again entered a judgment of foreclosure and judicial sale in April 2011. Plaintiffs then spent the next five years filing various motions in the original foreclosure action and subsequent civil actions in state court attempting to stop or delay their eviction, but lost in each state court action. After ...


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