United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
MORALES HOWARD UNITED SLATES DISTRICT JUDGE
CAUSE is before the Court on Defendant Nationstar
Mortgage, LLC's (Nationstar) Motion to Dismiss Amended
Complaint (Doc. 8, Motion) filed on June 7, 2019. Plaintiff,
Edith Renfroe, proceeding pro se, responded to the
Motion on July 16, 2019 (Doc. 10, Response). Therefore this
matter is ripe for review.
Standard of Review
ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept the
factual allegations set forth in the complaint as true.
See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009);
Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 508 n.1
(2002); see also Lotierzo v. Woman's World Med. Ctr.,
Inc., 278 F.3d 1180, 1182 (11th Cir. 2002). In addition,
all reasonable inferences should be drawn in favor of the
plaintiff. See Randall v. Scott, 610 F.3d 701, 705
(11th Cir. 2010). Nonetheless, the plaintiff must still meet
some minimal pleading requirements. Jackson v. Bellsouth
Telecomm., 372 F.3d 1250, 1262-63 (11th Cir. 2004)
(citations omitted). Indeed, while “[s]pecific facts
are not necessary[, ]” the complaint should
“‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . .
. claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'”
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per
curiam) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Further, the
plaintiff must allege “enough facts to state a claim
that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550
U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the
pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678
(citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). A
“plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of
his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not do[.]” Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555 (internal quotations omitted); see also
Jackson, 372 F.3d at 1262 (explaining that
“conclusory allegations, unwarranted deductions of
facts or legal conclusions masquerading as facts will not
prevent dismissal”) (internal citation and quotations
omitted). Indeed, “the tenet that a court must accept
as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is
inapplicable to legal conclusions[, ]” which simply
“are not entitled to [an] assumption of truth.”
See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 680. Thus, in ruling on
a motion to dismiss, the Court must determine whether the
complaint contains “sufficient factual matter, accepted
as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible
on its face[.]'” Id. at 678 (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). And, while "[p]ro se
pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than
pleadings drafted by attorneys and will, therefore, be
liberally construed," Tannenbaum v. United
States, 148 F.3d 1262, 1263 (11th Cir. 1998),
"'this leniency does not give the court a license to
serve as de facto counsel for a party or to rewrite
an otherwise deficient pleading in order to sustain an
action.'" Alford v. Consol. Gov't of
Columbus, Ga., 438 Fed.Appx. 837, 839 (11th Cir.
2011) (quoting GJR Invs., Inc. v.
Cty. of Escambia, Fla., 132 F.3d 1359, 1369 (11th Cir.
1998) (internal citation omitted), overruled in part on
other grounds as recognized in Randall, 610 F.3d at
Amended Complaint and Request for Injunctive Relief,
see Doc. 4 (Amended Complaint), filed May 31, 2019,
Renfroe alleges that Nationstar began servicing Renfroe's
mortgage loan in April of 2014. See id. at
In August of 2014, Nationstar filed an action in the Circuit
Court for Duval County, Florida, to foreclose on the
mortgage. Id. at 6-7; Mortgage Foreclosure Action.
Renfroe asserts Nationstar did not provide her with the
notice of default as required by the Mortgage Agreement,
despite statements to the contrary in Nationstar's
circuit court complaint to foreclose on her mortgage. Amended
Complaint at 7; Mortgage Foreclosure Action at 3.
Additionally, Renfroe contends that she was denied the
opportunity “to answer and dispute the claims
raised” in Nationstar's foreclosure complaint,
while nonetheless acknowledging that she answered the
complaint, and raised “fraud and forgery” as an
affirmative defense. Amended Complaint at 8, 13; Order on
Motion for Rehearing at 2. As such, Renfroe suggests that
Nationstar committed a fraud on the state court. Amended
Complaint at 12-13.
Court's review of the state court docket further reflects
that on February 13, 2017, the state court entered a final
judgment of foreclosure in favor of Nationstar and scheduled
a foreclosure sale for May 18, 2017. See Nationstar
Mortgage, LLC v. Edith Renfroe, No. 2014-CA-6052 (Fla.
4th Cir. Ct. 2017) (State Action). Through a series of
successive motions however, the foreclosure sale has been
delayed, and a final date for the sale has not been set.
Although Florida's First District Court of Appeal
affirmed the final judgment of foreclosure on April 27, 2018,
the state court docket indicates that the case remains open.
filed the instant action on May 3, 2019, requesting that the
Court enjoin Nationstar from proceeding with the state court
Mortgage Foreclosure Action against her, generally alleging
that action violated her procedural due process rights.
See generally Doc. 1 (Complaint). The Court struck
the Complaint, questioning whether it had subject matter
jurisdiction over Renfroe's claims pursuant to either the
Rooker-Feldman or Younger abstention
doctrines. See Doc. 3 at 2-4 (Order Striking
Complaint), filed May 10, 2019. After advising Renfroe of the
general substance of these doctrines, the Court gave Renfroe
leave to amend her Complaint. Id. at 4-5. Renfroe
subsequently filed her Amended Complaint, in which she
fleshes out the factual allegations articulated in her
initial Complaint, but otherwise generally reiterates her
claim for injunctive relief against Nationstar in the state
court Mortgage Foreclosure Action.
Arguments of the Parties
Motion, Nationstar moves to dismiss Renfroe's Amended
Complaint arguing that the Court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction over this action. Motion at 3. In particular,
Nationstar asserts that because Renfroe is asking the Court
to review a state court proceeding, this Court lacks
jurisdiction pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine. Id. at 3-4. In the alternative,
Nationstar contends that if the State Action is not final,
the Court lacks jurisdiction pursuant to the Younger
abstention doctrine. Id. at 4. Therefore, Nationstar
argues that the Court should dismiss the case. Liberally
construing Renfroe's Response, as the Court must,
Tannenbaum, 148 F.3d at 1263, Renfroe asserts that
the Rooker-Feldman doctrine does not apply here
because the underlying state judgment was obtained by fraud
and deceit, and that the Mortgage Foreclosure Action against
her violated her procedural due process rights. Response at
2, 4-5, 11.
Court stated in its Order Striking Complaint, to the extent
Renfroe is asking this Court to review, overturn, or
interfere with the State Action, this Court lacks subject
matter jurisdiction over the claim under
Rooker-Feldman. “The Rooker-Feldman
doctrine makes clear that federal district courts cannot
review state court final judgments because that task is
reserved for state appellate courts or, as a last resort, the
United States Supreme Court.” Casale v.
Tillman, 558 F.3d 1258, 1260 (11th Cir. 2009) (citing
Feldman, 460 U.S. at 482); see also Arthur v. JP
Morgan Chase Bank, NA, 569 Fed.Appx. 669, 677 (11th Cir.
2014) (“Insofar as the [Plaintiff] seeks to have [her
foreclosure] judgment declared null and void by the district
court sitting in diversity, such claim is barred by the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine.”); Bedasee v.
Fremont Inv. & Loan Co., 741 Fed.Appx. 642, 644
(11th Cir. 2018) (“Plaintiffs lost in state court and
they now seek a do-over in federal court with the goal of
having the district court ‘review and reject' the
state foreclosure judgment: an action that is exactly what
the Rooker-Feldman doctrine prohibits.”).
exception to this doctrine exists when a plaintiff had no
reasonable opportunity to raise federal claims in state
proceedings.” Kotz, M.D., v. Florida, 33
F.Supp.2d 1019, 1026 (M.D. Fla. 1998) (citations omitted).
However, to the extent Renfroe alleges that she was denied
the opportunity “to answer and dispute the claims
raised” in Nationstar's mortgage foreclosure action
against her, and such alleged denial is the basis of her
constitutional claims, by her own pleadings, Renfroe
acknowledged that she answered Nationstar's complaint and
raised “fraud and forgery” as an affirmative
defense. Amended Complaint at 7-8, 13; Order on Motion for
Rehearing at 2. Moreover, the state court acknowledged but
ultimately rejected her fraud and forgery claims in its Order
on Motion for Rehearing. See Order on Motion for
Rehearing at 2-3. Hence, even if the Court liberally
construes Renfroe's filings as attempting to assert a
federal claim, by her very own assertions in her Amended
Complaint, she was indeed afforded an opportunity by the
state court to “answer and dispute the claims
raised” against her. Amended Complaint at 8, 13.
Additionally, and again liberally construing Renfroe's
pleadings, to the extent she has alleged that
Nationstar's purported actions constitute a fraud on the
court, and thus her action is not barred by the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine, this argument also fails.
The Eleventh Circuit has stated that
[i]t is true that some of our sister circuits have recognized
an extrinsic-fraud exception to Rooker-Feldman. See,
e.g., In re Sun Valley Foods Co.,801 F.2d 186,
189 (6th Cir.1986) (“A federal court may entertain a
collateral attack on a state court judgment which is alleged
to have been procured through fraud, deception, accident, or
mistake.”) (quotation marks omitted); Resolute Ins.