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LIT COMMENTARY

We’re reviewing the attorneys who are listed on the CFPB v. Ocwen case in Florida, who are representing Ocwen. This article focuses on the background of liar lawyer Sabrina Rose-Smith (or Sabrina Rose Smith) and her unethical practices as a partner for this big law firm in Washington, D.C.

Sabrina is a member of the Virginia State Bar and you can see the lawyer professional guidelines here and all the disciplinary cases against lawyers here.  She is also a member of the DC Bar, where the Burkes have filed their complaint.

Lawyer Complaint (D.C. Bar) : Sabrina Rose-Smith

This complaint is against an attorney registered with the District of Columbia (D.C.) State Bar. The lawyers’ name is Sabrina Rose-Smith and she works for Goodwin Procter, LLP. Her law firm  represents Ocwen in the cited case below and she is one of the named counsel of record. The Burkes claim that Ms. Rose-Smith violated (at a minimum) Rule 4.1, Truthfulness in Statements To Others; In the course of representing a client a lawyer shall not knowingly: (a) make a false statement of fact or law[.] See In re Mitchell, 822 A.2d 1106 (D.C. 2003)  and; Rule 3.3, Candor Toward the Tribunal; In re Uchendu, 812 A.2d 933 (D.C. 2002), Rule 4.4, Respect For Rights Of Third Persons; See In re Pelkey, 962 A.2d 268 (D.C. 2008); Rule 5.1 Responsibilities Of Partners And Supervisory Lawyers; See In re Cohen, 847 A.2d 1162 (D.C. 2004);  Rule 8.4, Misconduct; See In re Mitchell, 822 A.2d 1106 (D.C. 2003). Then there’s the Cobb County cases described herein, of which Ms. Rose-Smith is counsel. Then there is the violation of  Rules 1.7, Conflict of Interest; 1.9 and 1.16 and 1.10 with respect to Ms. Rose-Smith. See Lavender v. Protective Life Corp., Civil Action No. 2:15-cv-02275-AKK, at *25-26 (N.D. Ala. Jan. 31, 2017).

Other cases specific to Goodwin are discussed below. The Burkes also draw the Bar’s attention to;  Cruickshank v. Dixon (In re Blast Fitness Grp., LLC), No. 16-10236-MSH (Bankr. D. Mass. Jan. 8, 2019)

And there’s also former Goodwin lawyer, now law professor, Associate Professor Luke M. Scheuer who previously held adjunct positions at Boston College Law School, the University of Massachusetts School of Law, and Boston University School of Law and his paper; “Duty to Disclose Lawyer Misconduct” (2010), Available at: https://works.bepress.com/luke_scheuer/2/, wherein he discusses cases like In Re Himmel.

The Burkes Motion to Intervene in Consumer Fin. Prot. Bureau v. Ocwen Fin. Corp., No. 9:17-CV-80495-MARRA-MATTHEWMAN  (S.D. Fla. 2017-2020)

Background: The CFPB initiated the civil case on April 20, 2017, alleging that Ocwen, in servicing borrowers’ loans, engaged in various acts and practices in violation of federal consumer financial laws. On January 4, 2019, Joanna and John Burke sought leave to intervene under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24. (Doc. 220). The CFPB and Ocwen jointly opposed the motion to intervene (Doc. 224) and the Burkes filed a reply brief (Doc. 237). On May 30, 2019, the district court denied the Burkes’ motion to intervene (Doc. 375). The Burkes moved for reconsideration (Doc. 408). The Court denied that motion on July 3, 2019, (Doc. 411), and the Burkes noticed an appeal on August 2, 2019 to the Eleventh Cir., Case No. 19-13015. The Burkes have argued that Ocwen’s counsel, Ms. Sabrina Rose-Smith knowingly committed perjury and withheld evidence of the Greens case from the Burkes.

Denial of Intervention ‘As of Right’: Judge Marra denied the Burkes intervention as of right (Doc. 375, p. 4).

Denial of Intervention ‘Permissively’: Judge Marra also concluded the Burkes should be denied permissive intervention.

Analysis of Judge Marra’s Order [Reconsideration]; The Burkes then asked Judge Marra to reconsider. The courts fleeting order follows (Doc. 411, p. 3);

“In addition to the grounds stated in the Court’s Order Denying Intervention (ECF No. 375), the Court notes that intervention is not permitted to allow a party to seek or obtain evidence for other litigation as asserted by the proposed Intervenors. (See ECF No. 408 at 4).”

Judge   Marra’s  Implausible  Statement:  The Burkes address the proclamation that the ‘intervention is not permitted for the purposes of seeking or obtaining evidence for other litigation’ and which refers to p. 4 of the Burkes motion for reconsideration (wherein the Burkes detail reasons for their request to intervene, included obtaining documentation to assist with their ongoing and active litigation in Texas against Ocwen).

Obtaining “Evidence” as a Non-Party Without a Motion to Intervene: Recently, and most certainly after Doc. 411 was published by Judge Marra, the pro se Burkes were researching cases and citations which would help prove their arguments for their current appeal at the Eleventh Cir. (Case No. 19-13015). The results now raise a serious question as to the truth of the uncorroborated statement in law by United States District Judge Kenneth A. Marra (Doc. 411, p.3).

Disclosure; While it is a thorny issue, the Burkes have been left no alternative but to [separately] file a judicial complaint against Judge Marra. This CFPB v Ocwen case indirectly involves important matters pertaining to the Burkes litigation and homestead. When they located this titanic case, which could provide a vehicle for the Burkes to obtain either documentation and information that would assist in the Texas case(s) or could provide relief directly, they did so in a quick and legally correct basis. This is why the Burkes intervened in the S.D. Fl. Action.  The Burkes allege there had to be joint collusion between counsel for Ocwen, CFPB and Judge Marra to unlawfully deny rightful intervenors Burkes from joining the lawsuit, which is proven by the filings on the docket itself.

In the Texas case of Green v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC (In re Green), Bankruptcy No. 12-38016 (13) (S.D. Tex. Aug. 26, 2019), which will be referenced as “Greens” for short, is one of a series of actual cases by the Greens, who are Texas homeowners, at the S.D. Tex. court against Ocwen. The order In Re Green was published on August 26th, 2019, e.g. After Judge Marra had disposed of the Burkes motion to intervene and reconsideration and after the Burkes Notice of Appeal (Doc. 414, Aug. 2, 2019).

A summary of the Greens own foreclosure case(s) is provided by U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas’s order affirming Bankruptcy Judge Marvin Isgur’s order, and allowing the Greens to retain access to ‘discovery’ documents as evidence for their own case against Ocwen.

The documents which the Greens actually obtained and Ocwen attempted to quash, would be from the lower court case in Florida. That is correct, these are documents (currently under seal at S.D. Tex.), from the CFPB v. Ocwen case before Judge Marra. See Green v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC (In re Green), Bankruptcy No. 12-38016 (13), at *2-4 (S.D. Tex. Aug. 26, 2019).

The Burkes hold Ms. Rose-Smith’s filings and statements to be false and untruthful. Ms. Rose-Smith’s responses went further than zealously defending her client, she viciously maligned these pro se elderly citizens from Texas and all the while knowingly committing perjury in signed statements and filings in the lower court.

“Ocwen and the CFPB jointly opposed the Burkes’ motion, which the district court denied. On appeal, the Burkes repeat many of the same conspiracy theories and unsupported attacks on Ocwen and the CFPB that they alleged below, while failing to articulate any comprehensible, legally-supported rationale for why their intervention in this case is warranted. The Court should ignore the Burkes’ baseless and irrelevant attacks on the parties and affirm the district court’s well- reasoned decision.”

Then, without a flicker of foreboding that as an attorney she had an ethical duty to tell the truth, she repeated these lies again, months later, at the appeal court level. This was prejudicial to the Burkes by premeditated cheating and trickery e.g. lying and knowingly hiding the Greens case from the Burkes. Below is the introduction from Burkes’ reply brief on appeal at Eleventh Circuit (No. 19-13015):-

PREAMBLE AND DISCLAIMER

“First, a rather lengthy reply brief, including a recap of the case is necessary due to the bad faith conduct of the parties, the appellees in this appeal. While the Burkes wished to keep the reply short and concise, this has proven impractical due to the [mis]conduct as detailed here. The Burkes summary argument truly attempts to focus on the evidence, the facts, the pleadings and the law, but it ends up being sabotaged by a litany of ethical violations which include, but are not by any means exhaustive;

(i)    Collusion and Conspiracy.

(ii)   Bad Faith Conduct.

(iii)  Dishonesty towards the Tribunal.

(iv)  New evidence showing the Court and the parties must have known about the Greens case in S.D. Tex.

Second, the pro se Burkes have been left searching for the truth, rather than focusing on the appeal, due to apparent known concealment and dishonesty by the lower court.

The Cobb County Federal Court Cases in Illinois and Georgia

Ms. Rose-Smith is counsel in the two actions the Burkes wish to reference in this matter. These are; Cobb County v. Bank of America Corporation (1:14-CV-02280), District Court, N.D. Illinois and Cobb County v. Bank of America Corporation (1:15-cv-04081-LMM), District Court, N.D. Georgia where the Burkes recently uncovered more unethical practices. Cobb Cnty. v. Bank of Am. Corp., 183 F. Supp. 3d 1332, 1333 (N.D. Ga. 2016)).

Here, Goodwin Procter approached the County’s named eleven witnesses, former loan officers who signed affidavits which explained the illegal loans the banks were issuing for financial avarice and not in the interests of consumers. Once Goodwin contacted them, these ex-employees of the Bank recanted in the majority, their claims from their first affidavit. Both the Illinois and Georgia judges stated that they were very troubled by the actions of Goodwin. In the Illinois case, there is a transcript of the hearing.  Ms. Rose-Smith and her law firm represented the Bank in the Illinois case and her fellow partner, Matthew Sheldon was grilled by Judge Bucklo. (See transcript from Dec. 5, 2019 hearing, which was submitted to Judge May in Georgia; Doc. 53.14, Cobb County v. Bank of America Corporation (1:15-cv-04081-LMM) District Court, N.D. Georgia). Here’s a snippet; “I really don’t understand how you can represent them.” – “I do find it DISTURBING.”- Judge Bucklo.

After that hearing Goodwin promptly discarded the new witnesses (Doc. 83, March 25th, 2020) to fend for themself and after signing agreements to represent them.

The courts found that this meant the witness statements were moot [at this time]. While the Burkes dispute that opinion in law, the purpose of this complaint is the Rules of Professional Conduct. The Burkes now highlight the fact that ethically, the lawyer(s) actions are certainly not ‘moot’. Actually, in the Georgia action, Judge May has kept the ‘sanctions’ against Goodwin Procter, LLP, firmly on the table (Doc. 86, April 10th, 2020). As of Monday, June 8th, 2020, the Cobb County lawyers have officially filed for sanctions. See Doc’s 493/494.

Furthermore, it was clear that the judges and all counsel recognized that these witnesses could be charged with perjury upon independent review. Goodwin dropped them faster than a hot potato but the ‘hot potato rule’ does not support that decision; Under the “hot potato” rule, a “‘law firm that knowingly undertakes adverse concurrent representation cannot avoid disqualification by withdrawing from the representation of the less favored client.’”  The “hot potato” rule reflects that the “duty of loyalty to an existing client is so important, so sacred, so inviolate that “not even by withdrawing from the relationship can an attorney evade it. See also; https://definitions.uslegal.com/h/hot-potato-rule/  and State Comp. Ins. Fund v. Drobot, 192 F. Supp. 3d 1080 (C.D. Cal. 2016)

Certainly, from afar, the Burkes performed a quick audit and now question witness Jim Morelli’s employment history. Mr. Morelli is also a licensed notary public. So from a truth-seeking viewpoint, the fact that his Linkedin profile shows he worked from 1999-2007 – 8 years+ at First Franklin. But his affidavit states;

“I worked as an account executive at First Franklin from 2002 to 2006.” (Doc. 53.11, signed 30th Sept., 2019 by Mr. Morelli) – That’s 4 years.  It begs the question – which is the truth?

As another example, when you look at Arnold “Arnie” Fishman’s before (Doc. 53.19, signed 22nd June, 2015) and after affidavit (Doc. 53.3, signed 26th July, 2019), it is extremely troubling. Mr. Fishman is a licensed mortgage broker and very active in the mortgage industry, currently employed by BMO Harris Bank for the last 8+ years as a mortgage loan originator, according to his Linkedin profile.  From the outside looking in, it appears Mr. Fishman now does not wish to jeopardize the mortgage and banking industry, where he’s spent the best part of his career as a mortgage loan originator. It is indicative that if Mr. Fishman was interviewed, his statements could form the basis  of perjury as a result of intimidation. See “Courts have noted that “a unilateral communications scheme . . . is rife with potential for coercion.”  Kleiner v. The First Nat’l Bank of Atlanta, 751 F.2d 1193, 1202  (11th Cir. 1985)”. This is also affirmed by the expert report and declaration of Professor Roy D. Simon, Jr., an expert in the field of legal ethics and professional responsibility.

“Prima facie evidence exists that Goodwin Procter suborned perjury from the confidential witnesses by obtaining false declarations under penalty of perjury and, by analogy to the “sham affidavit doctrine…”

Please review Law professor Roy Simon’s credentials, including his declaration and opinion that these lawyers violated Georgia’s professional codes of conduct.

In connection with this motion, the Counties retained Professor Roy D. Simon, Jr., a leading expert in the field of legal ethics. He is the Distinguished Professor of Legal Ethics Emeritus at Hofstra University School of Law, serves as a legal ethics advisor to law firms, and is the author of the twenty editions of Simon’s New York Rules of Professional Conduct Annotated, as well as other books in the field of professional responsibility. (See Declaration of Roy D. Simon (“Simon Decl.”), ¶¶ 1, 4, Ex. A.) and his profile; https://www.hofstra.edu/faculty/fac_profiles.cfm?id=1410

Ms. Rose-Smith’s Actions are Below the Bar

Ms. Rose-Smith’s resume identifies her seniority in the law firm (Partner, resume attached), her experience in litigation in consumer related cases and her many years of attorney experience. In the CFPB v. Ocwen case, she is listed as counsel. As a partner, she is also overseeing a team of lawyers at Goodwin Procter, assigned to this case. Ms. Rose-Smith violated the terms of Rule 5.1(b).

Ms. Rose-Smith’s attempts to defend this unethical approach to witnesses, merely reaffirms the cold and calculated deceitfulness she is and was prepared to take e.g. risking her reputation and law license to win the case. Aggregating the CFPB case and the Cobb cases, the evidence is sufficient to show by clear and convincing proof that Ms. Rose-Smith’s dishonesties and deception are on the record and cannot be contested and she personally elected to commit this fraudulence in court filings.

Elder Abuse Demands Revocation of License

The Burkes point to the conduct of the lawyer in the filing of this complaint, and rely upon the local Supreme Court in Texas when citing; for example the 1994 case before the Texas Supreme Court where they concisely summarized the difference, rejecting the Texas Bar’s argument;

“Our inquiry relates to the classification of the crime, not the tribunal’s subjective judgment of character of the particular lawyer convicted. In short, we classify the crime, not the lawyer.” Thacker, Matter of, 881 S.W.2d 307, 309 (Tex. 1994).

Due to the seriousness of her harmful acts against the Burkes who are in their 80’s, in poor health and litigating to keep their home, this is elder abuse fraud when the Burkes’ legal and civil rights have been completely violated. Ms. Rose-Smith has violated the Rules of Professional Conduct, has abused her senior position which was used to act unlawfully and substantively injured the Burkes in their ongoing case(s).

In conclusion, the Burkes contend Ms. Rose-Smith’s actions are so egregious against the elder Burkes, her license should be revoked, sending a strong message to lawyers that this type of behavior will not be tolerated and is ‘Below the Bar’.

Submitted this day, Monday, June 15, 2020

About

Sabrina represents financial services clients in high-stakes individual and class action litigation. She also advises clients on compliance issues and litigation risks in the development of new products and programs. In addition to her consumer class action litigation work, Sabrina has represented clients in matters involving the DOJ, CFPB, HUD, FTC, SEC, federal and state banking authorities, and state attorneys general.

Sabrina is recognized for being a savvy litigator and trusted advisor who combines industry knowledge and top notch advocacy with a commitment to client service to effectively manage complex litigation and to achieve business and reputational goals for banks and financial services companies. She is known for straight talk, sound advice, and for creating cohesive client/counsel teams to meet the challenges of her clients’ ever-changing business and regulatory environments.

Experience

Goodwin Procter LLP
Company Name Goodwin Procter LLP
Total Duration 12 yrs 3 mos
Title Partner
Dates Employed Oct 2010 – Present
Employment Duration 9 yrs 8 mos

Member of Goodwin’s Consumer Finance Litigation practice group, focusing on consumer lending and class action defense. Practice includes both regulatory compliance counseling and auditing for banks, credit card issuers, mortgage lenders and specialty finance companies, and defending financial institutions against consumer class actions and government enforcement actions.
Title Senior Associate
Full-time
Dates Employed Mar 2008 – Oct 2010
Employment Duration 2 yrs 8 mos

Member of Goodwin’s Consumer Finance Litigation practice group, focusing on consumer lending and class action defense. Practice includes both regulatory compliance counseling and auditing for banks, credit card issuers, mortgage lenders and specialty finance companies, and defending financial institutions against consumer class actions and government enforcement actions.

Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP
Associate

Company Name

Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP Full-time
Dates Employed Jun 2006 – Feb 2008
Employment Duration 1 yr 9 mos

Member of Manatt’s Banking and Specialty Finance practice group, focusing on consumer lending and class action defense.

Paul Hastings
Associate

Company Name

Paul Hastings Full-time
Dates Employed Sep 2003 – May 2006
Employment Duration 2 yrs 9 mos

Specialized in complex litigation, focusing practice on antitrust and consumer class action litigation. Antitrust experience ranged from counseling clients on proposed transactions to defending clients in treble damages class action litigation, MDL proceedings and state indirect purchaser and monopolization claims. Defended consumer finance lawsuits and counsels clients on litigation strategy and practical methods to prevent class actions through the implementation of consumer arbitration agreements.

Appellate Circuit

Constance Daniels, Student of Hard Knocks, Admonished Florida Lawyer and Friend of The Eleventh Circuit

LIF cannot comprehend how the People of Florida and the United States of America are so accepting of Brazen Corruption.

Published

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LIF COMMENTARY

The article below starts with Constance Daniels failure to pay for her law school tuition loan issued in 2003. She defaulted in 2005 per the complaint. The USA won a judgment of $164k+ in 2011.

In 2010, Wells Fargo commenced foreclosure proceedings in state court, Hillsborough County.

While all this was going on, Ms Daniels, a Republican, was attempting to become a State judge in 2014, which failed.

In late November of 2017 a settlement was reached, dismissing the Wells Fargo foreclosure complaint.

In 2017-2018, lawyer Daniels was failing to look after her client(s). Many moons later, in 2021, that would result in a slap on the wrist by the referee, Hon. Daniel D. Diskey for Fl. Bar.

Then we move onto the June 2018 complaint, filed by Daniels against the mortgage servicer. It was removed to the lower court in Middle District  of Florida Federal Court.

The court, via one of the Moody clan of judges, sided with Select Portfolio Servicing, LLC and this formed the appeal which was decided this week by the 11th Circuit.

In Nov. 2020, Wells Fargo filed a renewed foreclosure complaint against Daniels and her homestead in State court. In Sept 2021, Wells Fargo voluntarily dismissed the case and terminated the lis pendens ‘due to loan modification’.

The issue for LIF in this case is quite clear. Who the 11th Circuit has chosen to upend it’s prior stance that mortgage servicers can do no wrong under the FDCPA, despite irrefutable facts confirming otherwise.

For example, LIF refers to the case we highlighted regarding a deficiency judgment (State case, March 2022):

Florida Lawyer Stephanie Schneider Appeals a Mortgage Foreclosure Deficiency Judgment

In that case, LIF investigated beyond the court opinions to discover the wife is a Florida Lawyer and her husband, Laurence Schneider is owner of S&A Capital, Inc., a mortgage investment company, has built a national portfolio of performing mortgages that have been written off by other financial institutions.

Our angst is clear. Lawyers are being treated preferentially by the courts over regular citizens and homeowners.

In the case of Daniels, whilst she may have legitimate arguments, there have been many citizens who have failed before her by the wordsmithing by the Federal and Appellate Court(s), which has refused to apply the correct legal interpretation of the FDCPA, or clarify the question(s) with the federal consumer agency, the CFPB.

Whilst LIF is unhappy with the anti-consumer watchdog, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) which is a revolving door for staff to leave the Bureau and go work for a creditor rights law firm without any restriction or time limit (non-compete), the Daniels case should have been referred to the CFPB for interpretation about the matters of ‘first impression’.

The Second Circuit recently did so for a RESPA question in Naimoli v Ocwen and we highlighted the case on our sister website, LawsInTexas.com (Laws In Texas). Instead of doing so in Daniels, there is a dissenting opinion by Judge Lagoa, who’s father in law is a  senior judge in SD Florida (Paul C. Huck) and her hubby is a Jones Day Partner and apparently the leader of the Miami Chapter of the Federalist Society. Lagoa herself is a former Florida Supreme Court justice appointed by Gov DeSantis who ‘ensured he puts conservatives on the bench so that anyone coming to court knows how the court will rule’.

LIF anticipates the Daniels case will be subject to a rehearing petition and presented to the full en banc court for reconsideration. The opinion here is similar to the recent Newsom FDCPA opinion, which was too negative towards Wall St and the financial banking services community. As such, it was vacated by the en banc panel while they reconsider. The courts’ decision is currently pending.

In this case, there is still time for the 11th Circuit to correctly ask the CFPB to provide its opinion on the underlying facts raised on appeal and decided by the 3-panel.

However, what the judiciary won’t do is apply this retroactively to the thousands of cases which have been incorrectly tossed in the last 14 years, resulting in homeowners losing their homes to wrongful foreclosures.

United States v. Daniels (2011)

(8:11-cv-01058)

District Court, M.D. Florida

MAY 13, 2011 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAY 26, 2022

USA Motion for Summary Judgment with Exhibits, Doc. 13, Aug 17, 2011

ORDER granting  Motion for summary judgment in favor of the Plaintiff and against the defendant in the amount of $109,813.74,

together with accrued interest in the amount of $54,097.10 as of February 28, 2011,

plus interested at the rate of 8.25 percent per annum and a daily rate of $24.80, until the date of judgment;

for post-judgment interest, at the legal rate, from the entry of final judgment until the date of payment;

and for such other costs of litigation otherwise allowed by law.

The Clerk of Court is directed to close the case.

Signed by Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich on 9/22/2011.

(SN) (Entered: 09/22/2011)

U.S. District Court
Middle District of Florida (Tampa)
CIVIL DOCKET FOR CASE #: 8:11-cv-01058-EAK-AEP

USA v. Daniels
Assigned to: Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich
Referred to: Magistrate Judge Anthony E. Porcelli
Demand: $164,000
Cause: 28:1345 Default of Student Loan
Date Filed: 05/13/2011
Date Terminated: 09/22/2011
Jury Demand: None
Nature of Suit: 152 Contract: Recovery Student Loan
Jurisdiction: U.S. Government Plaintiff
Plaintiff
USA represented by I. Randall Gold
US Attorney’s Office – FLM
Suite 3200
400 N Tampa St
Tampa, FL 33602-4798
813/274-6026
Fax: 813/274-6247
Email: FLUDocket.Mailbox@usdoj.gov
LEAD ATTORNEY
ATTORNEY TO BE NOTICED
V.
Defendant
Constance Daniels represented by Constance Daniels
PO Box 6219
Brandon, FL 33608
PRO SE

 

Date Filed # Docket Text
05/13/2011 1 COMPLAINT against Constance Daniels filed by USA. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit A, # 2 Exhibit B, # 3 Civil Cover Sheet)(MRH) (Entered: 05/13/2011)
05/13/2011 2 Summons issued as to Constance Daniels. (MRH) (Entered: 05/13/2011)
05/13/2011 3 ORDER regulating the processing of civil recovery actions. Service must be perfected by 09/10/2011. Signed by Deputy Clerk on 5/13/2011. (MRH) (Entered: 05/13/2011)
05/13/2011 4 STANDING ORDER: Filing of documents that exceed twenty-five pages. Signed by Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich on 7/15/08. (MRH) (Entered: 05/13/2011)
05/19/2011 5 NOTICE of designation under Local Rule 3.05 – track 1 (CLM) (Entered: 05/19/2011)
05/20/2011 6 CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE re 3 ORDER regulating the processing of civil recovery actions by USA (Gold, I.) Modified on 5/20/2011 (MRH). (Entered: 05/20/2011)
05/25/2011 7 CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE by USA (Notice of Designation Under Local Rule 3.05) (Gold, I.) (Entered: 05/25/2011)
07/06/2011 8 RETURN of service executed on 7/5/11 (Marshal 285) by USA as to Constance Daniels. (MRH) (Entered: 07/06/2011)
07/27/2011 9 MOTION for default judgment against Constance Daniels by USA. (Gold, I.) Modified on 7/27/2011 (MRH). NOTE: TERMINATED. INCORRECT MOTION RELIEF. ATTORNEY NOTIFIED. ATTORNEY TO REFILE. (Entered: 07/27/2011)
07/27/2011 10 MOTION for entry of clerk’s default against Constance Daniels by USA. (Gold, I.) Motions referred to Magistrate Judge Anthony E. Porcelli. (Entered: 07/27/2011)
07/28/2011 11 CLERK’S ENTRY OF DEFAULT as to Constance Daniels. (MRH) (Entered: 07/28/2011)
07/29/2011 12 ANSWER to 1 Complaint by Constance Daniels.(BES) (Entered: 07/29/2011)
08/17/2011 13 MOTION for summary judgment by USA. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit A, # 2 Exhibit B)(Gold, I.) (Entered: 08/17/2011)
09/09/2011 14 ENDORSED ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE as to Constance Daniels.. The plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment on 8/17/11. The defendant had up to and including 9/3/11 to respond to the motion. To date no response has been filed. Therefore, it is ORDERED that the defendant has up to and including 9/19/11 in which to show cause why the pending motion should not be granted. Signed by Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich on 9/9/2011. (SN) (Entered: 09/09/2011)
09/22/2011 15 ORDER granting 13 Motion for summary judgment in favor of the Plaintiff and against the defendant in the amount of $109,813.74, together with accrued interest in the amount of $54,097.10 as of February 28, 2011, plus interested at the rate of 8.25 percent per annum and a daily rate of $24.80, until the date of judgment; for post-judgment interest, at the legal rate, from the entry of final judgment until the date of payment; and for such other costs of litigation otherwise allowed by law. The Clerk of Court is directed to close the case.. Signed by Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich on 9/22/2011. (SN) (Entered: 09/22/2011)
10/12/2011 16 ABSTRACT of judgment as to Constance Daniels. (DMS) (Entered: 10/12/2011)

Order GRANTING Summary Judgment for $164k Student Loan Debt, Doc. 15, Sep 22, 2011

Daniels v. Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc.

(2018-Present)

(8:18-cv-01652)

District Court, M.D. Florida

ORDER

THIS CAUSE comes before the Court upon Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Second Amended Complaint (Dkt. 24) and Plaintiff’s Response in Opposition (Dkt. 27).

The Court, having reviewed the motion, response, and being otherwise advised in the premises, concludes that Defendant’s motion should be granted.

Specifically, Plaintiff’s second amended complaint will be dismissed with prejudice because any further amendment is futile.

BACKGROUND

As the Court explained in its prior Order granting Defendant’s motion to dismiss, (see Dkt. 22), Plaintiff Constance Daniels initially filed suit in Florida state court against Defendant Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc. (“SPS”) alleging three Florida claims, which included a claim under Florida’s civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (“RICO”) Act.

On July 10, 2018, SPS removed the case to this Court based on diversity jurisdiction.

On August 6, 2018, SPS moved to dismiss the entire complaint.

In relevant part, SPS argued that the complaint failed to allege any of the elements of a RICO claim.

On August 27, 2018, Daniels filed an amended complaint, which mooted SPS’s motion to dismiss.

Daniels’ amended complaint alleged two claims: a claim under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) and a claim under the Florida Consumer Collections Practices Act (“FCCPA”).

Both claims relied on the same allegations.

To summarize, Daniels alleged that SPS had “improperly servic[ed]” her mortgage loan “in reckless disregard” of her consumer rights. (Dkt. 12).

The amended complaint did not attach any mortgage statements.

SPS moved to dismiss Daniels’ amended complaint based on her failure to allege that SPS ever attempted to collect the mortgage balance.

The Court granted SPS’s motion.

The Court noted that the amended complaint did not identify or attach any communication from SPS to Daniels.

The Court also surmised that the dispute was more akin to a dispute about an improper accounting of Daniels’ mortgage.

The Court dismissed the FDCPA and FCCPA claims and provided Daniels a final opportunity to amend her complaint.

Daniels filed a second amended complaint.

The allegations are largely unchanged.

But, significantly, Daniels attaches multiple monthly mortgage statements that SPS sent to her.

She now claims that these mortgage statements constitute debt collection activity under the FDCPA and FCCPA.

SPS’s motion to dismiss argues that the monthly mortgage statements comply with Regulation Z of the Truth in Lending Act (the “TILA”)—they were not communications in connection with the collection of a debt—and therefore do not constitute debt collection activity under the FDCPA and FCCPA.

As explained further below, the Court agrees with SPS’s position based on the Court’s detailed review of the monthly mortgage statements.

Therefore, the second amended complaint will be dismissed with prejudice.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a court to dismiss a complaint when it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

When reviewing a motion to dismiss, a court must accept all factual allegations contained in the complaint as true.

Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (internal citation omitted).

It must also construe those factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.

Hunt v. Aimco Properties, L.P., 814 F.3d 1213, 1221 (11th Cir. 2016) (internal citation omitted).

To withstand a motion to dismiss, the complaint must include “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”

Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

A claim has facial plausibility “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”

Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

Pleadings that offer only “labels and conclusions,” or a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action,” will not do.

Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

DISCUSSION

The FDCPA and FCCPA prohibit debt collectors from using a “false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt.”

See e.g. 15 U.S.C. § 1692e (emphasis added);

Fla. Stat. § 559.72 (“In collecting debts, no person shall . . .”) (emphasis added).

It is axiomatic then that the “challenged conduct is related to debt collection” to state a claim under either statute.

Reese v. Ellis, Painter, Ratterree & Adams, LLP, 678 F.3d 1211, 1216 (11th Cir. 2012);

see also Garrison v. Caliber Home Loans, Inc., 233 F. Supp. 3d 1282, 1286 (M.D. Fla. 2017) (“the FCCPA is a Florida state analogue to the federal FDCPA.”) (internal citations omitted).

“[T]he Eleventh Circuit has not established a bright-line rule” as to what qualifies as “in connection with the collection of any debt.”

Dyer v. Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc., 108 F. Supp. 3d 1278, 1280 (M.D. Fla. 2015).

“As a general principle, the absence of a demand for payment is not dispositive,” and courts should “instead consider whether the overall communication was intended to induce the debtor to settle the debt.”

Wood v. Citibank, N.A., No. 8:14-cv-2819-T-27EAJ, 2015 WL 3561494, at *3 (M.D. Fla. June 5, 2015) (citations omitted).

The second amended complaint attaches multiple monthly mortgage statements.1

Because the communications at issue here are all monthly mortgage statements, a discussion of the TILA is necessary.

The TILA requires SPS, a servicer, to send monthly mortgage statements.

12 C.F.R. § 1026.41. Specifically, 12 C.F.R. § 1026.41(d) requires that servicers provide debtors with detailed monthly mortgage statements containing, among other things: the “amounts due;” the “payment due date;” “the amount of any late payment fee, and the date that fee will be imposed if payment has not been received;” “an explanation of amount due, including a breakdown showing how much, if any, will be applied to principal, interest, and escrow and, if a mortgage loan has multiple payment options, a breakdown of each of the payment options;” “any payment amount past due;” a breakdown of “the total of all payments received since the last statement” and “since the beginning of the current calendar year;” “a list of all transaction activity that occurred since the last statement;” “partial payment information;” “contact information;” and detailed “account information” and “delinquency information.”

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (the “CFPB”) has issued a bulletin providing that a

“servicer acting as a debt collector would not be liable under the FDCPA for complying with [monthly mortgage statement] requirements.”

Implementation Guidance for Certain Mortgage Servicing Rules, 10152013 CFPB GUIDANCE, 2013 WL 9001249 (C.F.P.B. Oct. 15, 2013).

Courts have largely followed this guidance.

See, e.g., Jones v. Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc., No. 18-cv-20389, 2018 WL 2316636, at *3 (S.D. Fla. May 2, 2018) (citing 12 C.F.R. § 1026.41(d));

Brown v. Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc., No. 16-62999-CIV, 2017 WL 1157253 (S.D. Fla. Mar. 24, 2017) (noting the guidance and finding that monthly mortgage statements in compliance with the TILA were not debt collection).

The monthly mortgage statements at issue here were in conformity with the TILA requirements.

Moreover, the subject statements were substantially similar to model form H-30(B) provided by Appendix X to Part 1026 of TILA Regulation Z.

See also Jones, 2018 WL 2316636, at *4 (noting the similarities between a monthly mortgage statement and the model form in concluding no debt collection).

Although the monthly mortgage statements may not be identical to model form H-30(B), the differences are not significant deviations.

Notably, the plaintiff in Brown brought a nearly identical lawsuit against SPS.

The court explained in detail why the plaintiff was unable to state a claim under the FDCPA and FCCPA because the monthly mortgage statement was required to be sent pursuant to the TILA.

The complaint in Brown was dismissed with prejudice because “amendment would be futile” given that the basis for the claims was a monthly mortgage statement that was not actionable as a matter of law.

See 2017 WL 1157253, at *2-*4.

Also, the Jones court discussed in detail the numerous prior decisions addressing this issue, including multiple cases from this district that have held that monthly mortgage statements

“are almost categorically not debt collection communications under the FDCPA.”

2018 WL 2316636, at *5 (citing cases).

The particular monthly mortgage statements before the court in Jones were also sent by SPS and were substantively identical to the statements at issue in this case and in Brown.

Most recently, in Mills v. Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc., No. 18-cv-61012- BLOOM/Valle, 2018 WL 5113001 (S.D. Fla. Oct. 19, 2018), the court “agree[d] with the reasoning in Jones and [concluded] that the Mortgage Statements at issue [were] not communications in connection with a collection of a debt.” Id. at *2.

In conclusion, the substance of the monthly mortgage statements at issue in this case is substantially similar to model form H-30(B).

Any minor discrepancies in the language—when taken in the context of the document as an otherwise carbon copy of form H-30(B)—do not take the statements out of the realm of a monthly mortgage statement and into the realm of debt collection communications.

It is therefore ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that:

1. Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Second Amended Complaint (Dkt.

24) is granted.

2. Plaintiff’s Second Amended Complaint is dismissed with prejudice.

3. The Clerk of Court is directed to close this case and terminate any pending motions as moot.

DONE and ORDERED in Tampa, Florida on December 18, 2018.

 

 

 

 

Copies furnished to: Counsel/Parties of Record

Judge Bert Jordan’s “Reputation” Warning to New Florida Lawyers

Constance Daniels Admonished by the Florida Bar (2021)

Constance Daniels, P.O. Box 6219, Brandon, admonishment in writing and directed to attend Ethics School effective immediately following a November 24 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1995)

Daniels failed to act with reasonable diligence and failed to communicate with her client in connection with a dissolution of marriage action.

Daniels also failed to timely respond to the Bar’s formal complaint.

(Case No: SC21-683)

Constance Daniels v. Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc. (2022)

11th Cir., Published Opinion

(19-10204, May 24, 2022)

“A matter of first impression” 14 Years after the great recession and greatest theft of citizens homes in the history of the United States.

It’s quite incredulous how the 11th Circuit selects a Sanctioned Fl. Republican Lawyer, a failed judicial candidate and one who is facing foreclosure, for this ‘landmark’ published opinion in 2022.

Panel Author, Judge Bert Jordan, joined by Judge Brasher with a dissenting opinion by Judge Babs Lagoa

11th Circuit revives FDCPA lawsuit over mortgage statement language

How Westlaw is Summarizing the Latest Eleventh Circuit Opinion

(May 26, 2022)

Resolving an issue of first impression, a divided federal appeals panel has held that mortgage servicers can be liable under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act for inaccuracies in monthly mortgage statements that contain additional debt-collection language.

Daniels v. Select Portfolio Servicing Inc., No. 19-10204, (11th Cir. May 24, 2022).

In a 2-1 decision, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on May 24 reinstated Constance Daniels’ lawsuit against Select Portfolio Servicing Inc., in which she alleges the company used faulty mortgage statements to try to collect payments she did not owe.

Writing for the panel majority, U.S. Circuit Judge Adalberto J. Jordan acknowledged that Select Portfolio was required to issue the mortgage statements under the Truth in Lending Act, 15 U.S.C.A. § 1638.

However, the mortgage statements fell within the scope of the FDCPA’s prohibition on false or misleading representations, 15 U.S.C.A. § 1692e, because they included additional debt-collection language — “this is an attempt to collect a debt” — the opinion said.

Judge Jordan reasoned that “in determining whether a communication is in connection with the collection of a debt, what could be more relevant than a statement in the communication than ‘this is an attempt to collect a debt’?”

U.S. Circuit Judge Barbara Lagao dissented, saying the majority treated the language like “magic words” that could convert an otherwise routine mortgage statement into a communication covered by the FDCPA.

Judge Lagoa also argued that the decision created a circuit split, although the panel majority insisted that the facts of Daniels’ case distinguished it from others in which federal circuit courts seemed to reach a contrary result.

District Court tosses FDCPA claims

Daniels sued Select Portfolio in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida in July 2018.

According to the suit, Daniels had prevailed in a state court foreclosure action brought by lender Wells Fargo in 2015, with the judge sanctioning Wells Fargo and enforcing an earlier loan modification agreement between the parties.

But Daniels’ mortgage servicer, Select Portfolio, later issued several monthly mortgage statements misstating the principal balance and amount due, and falsely claiming that her loan was in arrears, the suit says.

At least three of the mortgage statements included the sentence, “This is an attempt to collect a debt,” according to the suit.
Daniels accuses Select Portfolio of using false or misleading representations in connection with the collection of a debt, in violation of the FDCA and the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 559.72.

Select Portfolio moved to dismiss, saying Daniels was attempting hold it liable for issuing mortgage statements that are required under the Truth in Lending Act.

U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. agreed and dismissed the suit in December 2018. Daniels v. Select Portfolio Servs. Inc., No. 18-cv-1652, (M.D. Fla. Dec. 18, 2018).

Judge Moody said that any discrepancies in language between Select Portfolio’s monthly statements and what is required under TILA “do not take the statements out of the realm of a monthly mortgage statement and into the realm of debt collection communications.”

On appeal, Daniels argued that compliance with TILA does not make a mortgage servicer immune from suit under the FDCPA and, even if it did, the monthly statements at issue included language beyond what is necessary under TILA.

Kaelyn S. Diamond and Michael A. Ziegler of the Law Office of Michael A. Ziegler represented Daniels.

Benjamin B. Brown and Joseph T. Kohn of Quarles & Brady LLP represented Select Portfolio.

By Dave Embree

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Appellate Circuit

Deutsche Bank and Nationstar Watch as 11th Circuit Discharge the Shotgun Despite Hunt’s Pleadings

There can be no doubt that this is a frivolous appeal and we would not hesitate to order sanctions if appellant had been represented by counsel.

Published

on

Hunt v. Nationstar Mortg., No. 21-10398

(11th Cir. May 27, 2022)

MAY 27, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAY 30, 2022

Before ROSENBAUM, GRANT, and MARCUS, Circuit Judges. PER CURIAM:

Christopher M. Hunt, Sr., proceeding pro se, appeals following the district court’s dismissal of his civil complaint arising out of his 2006 purchase of residential property located in Atlanta, Georgia (the “Property”).

Hunt purchased the Property using proceeds from a loan that he eventually defaulted on, which prompted Nationstar Mortgage, LLC (“Nationstar”), then servicer of the loan, to seek a non-judicial foreclosure on the Property.

After filing or being named in a variety of related lawsuits,1 Hunt filed the instant pro se complaint in Georgia state court in June 2020 and named as defendants Nationstar, the Deutsche Bank National Trust

1 See, g., Hunt v. Nationstar Mortg., LLC, 684 F. App’x 938 (11th Cir. 2017) (unpublished) (“Hunt I”);

[MARCUS, ROSENBAUM AND ANDERSON]

Hunt v. Nationstar Mortg., LLC, 779 F. App’x 669 (11th Cir. 2019) (unpublished);

[PRYOR,W., GRANT AND ANDERSON]

Hunt v. Nationstar Mortg., LLC, 782 F. App’x 762 (11th Cir. 2019) (unpublished);

[PRYOR,W., GRANT AND ANDERSON]

Deutsche Bank Tr. Co. Am., as Tr. for Fifteen Piedmont Ctr. v. Hunt, 783 F. App’x 998 (11th Cir. 2019) (unpublished).

[TJOFLAT, JORDAN AND NEWSOM]

Companies (“Deutsche Bank”), and Jay Bray, the CEO of Nationstar.

He alleged that they had committed, inter alia, mortgage fraud and wrongful foreclosure in violation of federal laws, including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Dodd-Frank Act.2

The district court denied a variety of preliminary motions filed by Hunt;

dismissed, without prejudice, the complaint as to defendant Bray for failure to effect proper service;

and

dismissed, with prejudice, the complaint as to Deutsche Bank and Nationstar, because it was a “shotgun” pleading, was barred by res judicata, and failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.3

After thorough review, we affirm.

I.

Whether a court has subject-matter jurisdiction, including removal jurisdiction, is a question of law that we review de novo.

See McGee v. Sentinel Offender Servs., LLC, 719 F.3d 1236, 1241 (11th Cir. 2013).

We also review de novo a denial of a motion to

2 Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, Pub. L. No. 107-204, 116 Stat. 745 (hereinafter “Sarbanes-Oxley Act”), and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Con- sumer Protection Act, Pub. L. No. 111-203, 124 Stat. 1376 (2010) (hereinafter “Dodd-Frank Act”).

3 Hunt also named Christian Sewing, the Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) of Deutsche Bank, as a defendant, but he later voluntarily dismissed him.

And after filing the complaint, Hunt sought to add yet another defendant, the Albertelli Law Firm (“Albertelli Law”).

Bray, Sewing and Albertelli Law have not filed any briefs on appeal.

remand to state court. Conn.

State Dental Ass’n v. Anthem Health Plans, 591 F.3d 1337, 1343 (11th Cir. 2009).

A district court’s decision regarding the indispensability of a party is reviewed for abuse of discretion.

United States v. Rigel Ships Agencies, Inc., 432 F.3d 1282, 1291 (11th Cir. 2005).

We will disturb a district court’s refusal to change venue only for a clear abuse of discretion.

Robinson v. Giarmarco & Bill, P.C., 74 F.3d 253, 255 (11th Cir. 1996).

We also review the district court’s denial of a motion for recusal for abuse of discretion.

Jenkins v. Anton, 922 F.3d 1257, 1271 (11th Cir. 2019).

We review a district court’s grant of a motion to dismiss for insufficient service of process, under Rule 12(b)(5), by applying a de novo standard to questions of law, and a clear error standard to the court’s findings of fact.

Albra v. Advan, Inc., 490 F.3d 826, 829 (11th Cir. 2007).

But when a party fails to object to a magistrate judge’s findings or recommendations in a report and recommendation, he “waives the right to challenge on appeal the district court’s order based on unobjected-to factual and legal conclusions.” 11th Cir. R. 3-1.

Under the circumstances, we review a claim on appeal only “for plain error,” if “necessary in the interests of justice.” Id.

We review the dismissal of a “shotgun” pleading under Rule 8 for abuse of discretion.

Vibe Micro, Inc. v. Shabanets, 878 F.3d 1291, 1294 (11th Cir. 2018).

When appropriate, we will review a district court’s dismissal for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) de novo.

Am. United Life Ins. Co. v. Martinez, 480 F.3d 1043, 1056–57 (11th Cir. 2007).

We will also review a dismissal

based on res judicata de novo.

Jang v. United Techs. Corp., 206 F.3d 1147, 1149 (11th Cir. 2000).

We review de novo a district court’s conclusions on collateral estoppel, but review its legal conclusion that an issue was actually litigated in a prior action for clear error.

Richardson v. Miller, 101 F.3d 665, 667–68 (11th Cir. 1996).

While pro se pleadings are liberally construed, issues not briefed on appeal are normally forfeited and we will generally not consider them.

Timson v. Sampson, 518 F.3d 870, 874 (11th Cir. 2008).

An appellant can abandon a claim by:

(1) making only passing reference to it;

(2) raising it in a perfunctory manner without supporting arguments and authority;

(3) referring to it only in the “statement of the case” or “summary of the argument”;

or

(4) referring to the issue as mere background to the appellant’s main arguments.

Sapuppo v. Allstate Floridian Ins. Co., 739 F.3d 678, 681– 82 (11th Cir. 2014).

In addition, if a district court’s order rested on two or more independent, alternative grounds, the appellant must challenge all of the grounds to succeed on appeal.

See id. at 680.

When an appellant fails to challenge on appeal one of the grounds on which the district court based its judgment, he is deemed to have abandoned any challenge of that ground, and it follows that the judgment is due to be affirmed.

See id.

II.

Liberally construed, Hunt’s brief on appeal seeks to challenge the district court’s decisions:

(1) denying remand of his case to state court

and

denying his request to file an amended complaint adding another defendant, Albertelli Law;

(2) denying his request

to transfer the case;

(3) denying his request to disqualify the judge;

(4) dismissing, without prejudice, his complaint as to defendant Bray for failure to effect proper service;

and

(5) dismissing his complaint, with prejudice, as to Deutsche Bank and Nationstar.

To be sure, Hunt’s arguments about these decisions by the district court are not clearly stated.

But even if we were to assume that he has preserved his arguments on appeal, they fail on the merits.

First, we are unpersuaded by Hunt’s arguments that the district court should have allowed him to file an amended complaint to add another party to the suit, which would have deprived the federal court of jurisdiction, and should have remanded the case to state court.

Federal courts have diversity-of-citizenship jurisdiction when the parties are citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.

28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1).

A corporation is a citizen of every state where it was incorporated and the one state in which it has its principal place of business.

Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 133, 137 (2014); 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c)(1).

A defendant may remove any civil action brought in a state court to a federal district court that has original jurisdiction over the action.

28 U.S.C. § 1441(a).

The removing party bears the burden of proving that removal jurisdiction exists.

McGee, 719 F.3d at 1241.

Here, the district court did not err in denying Hunt’s motion to remand. As we’ve held in a previous appeal, his motion was based on his belated and fraudulent attempts to join Albertelli Law, in an effort to defeat the district court’s diversity jurisdiction.

See Hunt I, 684 F. App’x. at 942-44.

However, Hunt asserted federal

claims in his complaint, so the district court had jurisdiction in any event.

28 U.S.C. § 1441(a).

Accordingly, the district court correctly denied Hunt’s requests to remand the case and acted within its discretion to deny joinder.

Rigel Ships Agencies, Inc., 432 F.3d at 1291.

We also find no merit to Hunt’s claims that the district court should have transferred venue of his lawsuit.

A district court may transfer a civil action to any other district or division where it may have been brought “for the convenience of the parties and witnesses, and in the interest of justice.”

Robinson, 74 F.3d at 260 (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)).

But in this case, the district court did not err because Hunt did not provide any cognizable reason for a transfer.

It appears that Hunt’s transfer request was based on his belief that case law in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia would be more favorable to him – which is not a legitimate reason for transfer.

See 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).

Similarly, we reject Hunt’s argument that the district court judge should have recused himself.

A judge must sua sponte recuse himself “in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned” or “

[w]here he has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party.”

28 U.S.C. § 455(a), (b)(1).

“The test is whether an objective, disinterested, lay observer fully informed of the facts underlying the grounds on which recusal was sought would entertain a significant doubt about the judge’s impartiality.”

Parker v. Connors Steel Co., 855 F.2d 1510, 1524 (11th Cir. 1988).

“Ordinarily, a judge’s rulings in the same or a related case may not serve as

the basis for a recusal motion.”

McWhorter v. City of Birmingham, 906 F.2d 674, 678 (11th Cir. 1990).

“The judge’s bias must be personal and extrajudicial; it must derive from something other than that which the judge learned by participating in the case.”

Id.

“The exception to this rule is when a judge’s remarks in a judicial context demonstrate such pervasive bias and prejudice that it constitutes bias against a party. Mere friction . . . however, is not enough to demonstrate pervasive bias.”

Thomas v. Tenneco Packaging Co., 293 F.3d 1306, 1329 (11th Cir. 2002) (quotation marks omitted).

As the record before us makes clear, no “objective, disinterested, lay observer fully informed of the facts underlying” these circumstances “would entertain a significant doubt about the judge’s impartiality.”

Parker, 855 F.2d at 1524.

Accordingly, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Hunt’s request for recusal or disqualification.

Nor do we find any merit to Hunt’s argument that the district court erred in dismissing the complaint against defendant Bray for lack of proper service.

When a federal court is considering the sufficiency of process after removal, it does so by looking to the state law governing process.

See Usatorres v. Marina Mercante Nicaraguenses, S.A., 768 F.2d 1285, 1286 n.1 (11th Cir. 1985).

Georgia law provides that service made “outside the state” of Georgia is to be done “in the same manner as service is made within the state.”

O.C.G.A. § 9-10-94.

Under Georgia law, service on natural persons is to be made “personally, or by leaving copies thereof at the defendant’s dwelling house or usual place of abode with some

person of suitable age and discretion then residing therein, or by delivering a copy of the summons and complaint to an agent authorized . . . to receive service of process.”

O.C.G.A. § 9-11-4(e)(7).

Notably, Hunt does not dispute these proposed findings set forth by the magistrate judge’s Report and Recommendation (“R&R”), that Hunt:

(1) mailed service to Bray;

and

(2) completed “corporate service” on Deutsche Bank, which Hunt asserted was also effective to serve Bray.

11th Cir. R. 3-1.

But, as the district court determined, Georgia law applied here and required personal service in these circumstances.

Albra, 490 F.3d at 829; O.C.G.A. § 9-11-4(e)(7).

Bray therefore was not properly served under Georgia law, and, for that reason, the district court did not err in dis- missing Hunt’s suit without prejudice as to Bray.

Finally, we find no error in the district court’s denial of injunctive relief and its dismissal of Hunt’s complaint against the two remaining defendants, Nationstar and Deutsche Bank.

A district court has the inherent authority to control its docket and ensure the prompt resolution of lawsuits, which includes the ability to dismiss a complaint on “shotgun” pleading grounds.

Shabanets, 878 F.3d at 1295.

We have described four types of “shotgun” com- plaints:

(1) those containing multiple counts where each count adopts all allegations of all preceding counts;

(2) those replete with conclusory, vague, and immaterial facts not obviously connected to any particular cause of action;

(3) those that do not separate each cause of action or claim for relief into different counts;

and

(4) those asserting multiple claims against multiple defendants without

specifying which of the defendants are responsible for which acts or omissions, or which of the defendants the claim is brought against.

Weiland v. Palm Beach Cnty. Sheriff’s Off., 792 F.3d 1313, 1321–23 (11th Cir. 2015).

“Shotgun” pleadings violate Rule 8, which requires “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), by failing to, in one degree or another, give the defendants adequate notice of the claims against them and the grounds upon which each claim rests.

Shabanets, 878 F.3d at 1294–96.

We generally require district courts to allow a litigant at least one chance to remedy any deficiencies before dismissing the complaint with prejudice, where a more carefully drafted complaint might state a claim.

See id.; Silberman v. Miami Dade Transit, 927 F.3d 1123, 1132 (11th Cir. 2019).

But it need not grant leave to amend the complaint when further amendment would be futile.

Silberman, 927 F.3d at 1133.

Under federal law, res judicata, or claim preclusion, bars a subsequent action if

“(1) the prior decision was rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction;

(2) there was a final judgment on the merits;

(3) the parties were identical in both suits;

and

(4) the prior and present causes of action are the same.”

Jang, 206 F.3d at 1148– 49 & n.1 (quotation marks omitted).

We have held that “if a case arises out of the same nucleus of operative facts, or is based upon the same factual predicate, as a former action, the two cases are really the same ‘claim’ or ‘cause of action’ for purposes of res judicata.”

Baloco v. Drummond Co., Inc., 767 F.3d 1229, 1247 (11th

Cir. 2014) (quotation marks omitted and alterations adopted).

“In addition, res judicata applies not only to the precise legal theory presented in the prior case, but to all legal theories and claims arising out of the nucleus of operative fact” that could have been raised in the prior case.

Id. (quotation marks omitted and alterations adopted).

Collateral estoppel, or issue preclusion, “refers to the effect of a judgment in foreclosing relitigation of a matter that has been litigated and decided.”

Migra v. Warren City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., 465 U.S. 75, 77 n.1 (1984).

Thus, “collateral estoppel is appropriate only when the identical issue has been fully litigated in a prior case.”

In re McWhorter, 887 F.2d 1564, 1567 (11th Cir. 1989) (quotation marks omitted).

“The party seeking to invoke collateral estoppel bears the burden of proving that the necessary elements have been satisfied.”

Id. at 1566.

“[C]hanges in the law after a final judgment [generally] do not prevent the application of res judicata and collateral estoppel, even though the grounds on which the decision was based [may be] subsequently overruled.”

Precision Air Parts, Inc. v. Avco Corp., 736 F.2d 1499, 1503 (11th Cir. 1984).

To safeguard investors in public companies and restore trust in the financial markets, Congress enacted the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, 116 Stat. 745.

See S. Rep. No. 107-146, pp. 2–11 (2002).

The Act contains several provisions, including a whistleblower protection provision which prohibits a publicly traded company or its officers from discharging an “employee” for providing information to a supervisory authority about conduct that the employee

“reasonably believes” constitutes a violation of federal laws against mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, securities fraud, any SEC rule or regulation, or any provision of federal law relating to fraud against shareholders.

See 18 U.S.C. § 1514A(a)(1).

The Dodd-Frank Act whistleblower provision provides protection to individuals who provide “information relating to a violation of the securities laws to the” Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”).

15 U.S.C. § 78u-6(a)(6).

Thus, “[t]o sue under Dodd-Frank’s anti-retaliation provision, a person must first provide information relating to a violation of the securities laws to the [SEC].”

Dig. Realty Trust, Inc. v. Somers, 138 S. Ct. 767, 772–73 (2018) (quotation marks omitted and alterations adopted).

In his brief on appeal, Hunt does not expressly address the lower court’s “shotgun” pleading determination, and, as a result, the district court’s dismissal of the complaint is due to be affirmed.

Sapuppo, 739 F.3d at 681–82.

But in any event, the district court did not err in finding that his complaint was a “shotgun” pleading.

As the record reflects, the complaint consisted of three numbered paragraphs that spanned paragraphs and pages; failed to isolate claims by defendants;

and largely failed to discuss any facts — thereby falling into several of our identified categories of prohibited “shotgun” pleadings.

Weiland, 792 F.3d at 1321-23.

The district court also was correct that amendment would have been futile.

For one, res judicata and collateral estoppel barred Hunt’s claims for breach of contract and fraud, since Hunt sued the same parties for the same alleged breach of contract and fraud in several prior cases.

See, e.g., Hunt I, 684 F. App’x at 944.4

These decisions were final judgments and were “rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction,” “on the merits,” against the same parties, and “the prior and present causes of action [were] the same.”

Jang, 206 F.3d at 1149.

Moreover, even if some of Hunt’s claims had not been explicitly presented in any of his prior cases, they would still be barred by res judicata because every claim arose from the same facts as each of his prior cases, and he could have raised them in any of the prior proceedings.

Baloco, 767 F.3d at 1247.

Also, despite Hunt’s arguments, there have been no “changes in the law” that would “prevent the application of res judicata and collateral estoppel” in this case.

Precision Air Parts, 736 F.2d at 1503.

In addition, Hunt’s claims under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and Dodd-Frank Act were futile because they fail to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

As the record reflects, Hunt did not allege that he was an “employee” under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, nor that he “provide[d] information relating to a violation of the securities laws to the [SEC]” as required under the Dodd-Frank Act.

4 To the extent that Hunt challenges the district court’s decisions under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b), we conclude that he has not identified any “extraordinary circumstances” entitling him to relief, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in this respect.

Toole v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., 235 F.3d 1307, 1316 (11th Cir. 2000) (quotation marks omitted).

Somers, 138 S. Ct. at 772–74.

Accordingly, Hunt did not state a cause of action under these statutes, and we affirm.

AFFIRMED.5

5 All of Hunt’s pending motions, which he filed after we imposed a filing restriction on him, are DENIED to the extent they request any relief.

For their part, Nationstar and Deutsche Bank have filed renewed motions for sanctions, requesting monetary sanctions against Hunt for his numerous motions before this Court under 11th Cir. R. 27-4.

Hunt is pro se and we DENY the motions for sanctions at this time.

See Woods v. I.R.S., 3 F.3d 403, 404 (11th Cir. 1993)

(“There can be no doubt that this is a frivolous appeal and we would not hesitate to order sanctions if appellant had been represented by counsel. However, since this suit was filed pro se, we conclude that sanctions would be inappropriate.”).

Although we are reluctant to impose sanctions on pro se appellants, we warn Hunt that our Court has imposed sanctions in circumstances like these, even for pro se litigants, and he is strongly cautioned against bringing any further frivolous motions or claims.

See Ricket v. United States, 773 F.2d 1214, 1216 (11th Cir. 1985)

(imposing sanctions on a pro se appellant who had been warned by the district court that the issues on appeal were frivolous).

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Appellate Circuit

God Goes in Front of Me and Makes the Crooked Straight and I Get to Keep My Pension

Ex-Inmate and Former Congresswoman Corrine Brown is Confident of Her Plea Deal Keepin’ Her out of Jail and Ending Her Criminal Case.

Published

on

Former congresswoman Corrine Brown to take plea deal
Brown faced retrial this fall on federal fraud charges

May 17, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: May 17, 2022

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Former congresswoman Corrine Brown is set to change her plea Wednesday in a federal case that involves charges of fraud and conspiracy, avoiding a retrial that was scheduled to take place this fall.

Tuesday morning, News4JAX reporter Jim Piggott spoke with Corrine Brown by phone. She said everything will come out in court tomorrow.

“I want you to know, God has been good to me,”

Brown said.

“I just talked to my pastor and I know that He goes in front of me and make the crooked straight. That’s all I can tell you, He’s good.”

Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown is set to change her plea Wednesday in a federal case that involves charges of fraud and conspiracy, avoiding a retrial that was scheduled to take place this fall.

Brown was indicted in 2016 on charges that included conspiracy, wire fraud, and tax fraud, on accusations that she used contributions to the One Door for Education charity for personal expenses.

Brown was convicted on some of the charges in May 2017, and began a five-year prison sentence in January 2018. Brown was released in April 2020, due to coronavirus concerns.

Following her conviction, Brown appealed the guilty verdict, arguing the trial judge wasn’t justified in replacing a juror who said the Holy Spirit told him Brown was not guilty.

A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals initially upheld Brown’s conviction.

Brown’s attorneys then asked for a rehearing before the full 11th Circuit, known as an “en banc” hearing. In May 2021, the appellate court reversed the conviction with a 7-4 decision, sending the case back to the district court for a potential retrial.

In October 2021, we learned that prosecutors planned to re-try Brown on the felony counts she faced in her 2017 trial.

At the time, we learned prosecutors had already extended her a plea deal to avoid being retried and the possibility of a return to prison, an offer she rejected at the time.

Following the appointment of a new defense team, Brown’s retrial was set to take place in September of 2022.

News4JAX Jim Piggott spoke with attorney Curtis Fallgatter,

“(Jim) Are you surprised at all?

(Curtis) A little bit, but not terribly because of the age of the case, the complexity of the case, the number of issues, reversal on appeal issues about a retrial, can I get a conviction, the age of Brown.”

The court document indicating that Brown will be changing her plea does not indicate what charges she may be pleading guilty to, or what sentence could potentially be imposed.

Fallgatter doesn’t believe Brown will serve any additional time.

He said she would not agree to that, and the agreement should be an end to the case.

Brown is getting her pension, and that likely will not change.

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