United States District Court, D. Connecticut
OF DECISION REMANDING CASE, AND DENYING AS MOOT
DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS [DKT. 28], PLAINTIFFS'
MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION [DKT. 41], DEFENDANTS'
CONSENT MOTION TO STAY DISCOVERY [DKT. 42], AND THE
PARTIES' JOINT REQUEST FOR STATUS CONFERENCE [Dkt.
Vanessa L. Bryant United States District Judge.
Jacqueline and Ryan Curry brought the instant action seeking
relief from a judgment of strict foreclosure entered in the
Connecticut Superior Court. [Dkt. 1, Compl. ¶¶
1-2]. Pending before this Court are Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss [Dkt. 28], Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary
Injunction [Dkt. 41], Defendants' Consent Motion to Stay
Discovery [Dkt. 42], and the parties' Joint Request for
Status Conference [Dkt. 55]. For the reasons that follow, the
Court remands the case back to the Superior Court and DENIES
all pending motions as moot.
live in a home at 1216 West Main Street in Meriden,
Connecticut. [Compl. ¶ 1]. The mortgage on this home is
held by Defendant Deutsche Bank National Trust Co.
(“Deutsche Bank”) and is serviced by Wells Fargo
Bank, N.A., d/b/a America's Servicing Company
(“Wells Fargo”). Between July 31, 2012 and April
17, 2015, Deutsche Bank sought and received four successive
judgments of strict foreclosure from the Connecticut Superior
Court. [Compl. ¶ 2]. Plaintiffs allege that following
each of these judgments, they submitted applications for loan
modifications to Wells Fargo. Id. Following the
submission of each application, Plaintiffs received a notice
informing them that a law day had been extended or vacated.
March 2, 2015, the Superior Court entered a fifth judgment of
strict foreclosure. [Compl. ¶ 5]. The Superior Court
then sent Plaintiffs a notice stating that a law day had been
set for April 13, 2015, which Plaintiffs received on or
around March 6, 2015. Id. In response, Plaintiffs
submitted a new loan modification application to Wells Fargo
on April 7, 2015. [Compl. ¶ 7]. On Saturday, April 11,
2015, Plaintiffs received a letter from Wells Fargo stating
that “the foreclosure sale of your mortgaged property
has been scheduled for 4/17/2015.” [Compl. ¶ 8].
Plaintiffs believed this letter superseded the Superior
Court's notice setting the law day for April 13, 2015, a
belief that was confirmed when a representative of Deutsche
Bank's law firm allegedly told them that “in order
to save their house, Petitions would need to come up with
$60, 000 or pay off the loan by April 17.” [Compl.
¶¶ 9-12]. Mr. Curry filed a petition for Chapter 13
bankruptcy on the morning of April 17, 2015, erroneously
believing that this would stay the impending foreclosure and
give Plaintiffs a “chance at being reviewed for loan
modification.” [Compl. ¶ 14].
claim that they learned that their house had been foreclosed
upon in June 2015, when a realtor came to their door to take
pictures of the property. [Comp. ¶ 18]. Plaintiffs
received stays of execution of ejectment by filing an
administrative complaint with the State of Connecticut
Department of Banking in July 2015. [Compl. 19]. Following
delays caused by Wells Fargo's requests for extensions,
Plaintiffs filed a motion to open and vacate the foreclosure
in Superior Court, arguing that “it was obtained
through Petitioners' reasonable reliance on the negligent
actions and misrepresentations” of Defendants. [Compl.
¶ 20]. Judge Avallone of the Superior Court denied this
motion on February 1, 2016, and stayed ejectment until May 2,
2016. [Compl. ¶ 21].
April 11, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a petition for a writ of
audita querela in the Superior Court seeking relief from the
execution of foreclosure and ejection actions. Defendants
removed the case to this Court on May 11, 2016 pursuant to 28
U.S.C. §§ 1332, 1441, and 1446. Plaintiffs are
citizens of Connecticut, Deutsche Bank is a citizen of
California, and Wells Fargo is a citizen of South Dakota.
[Dkt. 1, Notice of Removal, at 4].
filed a Motion to Dismiss on August 11, 2016, [Dkt. 28],
Plaintiffs filed a Motion for a Preliminary Injunction on
September 22, 2016 [Dkt. 41], and Defendants filed a consent
Motion to Stay Discovery pending resolution of their Motion
to Dismiss on September 23, 2016 [Dkt. 42]. The parties also
requested a date for a hearing on Plaintiff's Motion for
a Preliminary Injunction, indicating that Defendants had
agreed to “refrain from taking any further action to
obtain physical possession of the house” until after
December 2, 2016. [Dkt. 43].
of audita querela is an equitable “remedy granted in
favor of one against whom execution has issued on a judgment,
the enforcement of which would be contrary to justice.”
Oakland Heights Mobile Park, Inc. v. Simon, 40
Conn.App. 30, 32 (1995). It was abolished as a federal civil
cause of action following the adoption of Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 60 in 1946. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
60(e) (“The following are abolished: bills of review,
bills in the nature of bills of review, and writs of coram
nobis, coram vobis, and audita querela.”); United
States v. Richter, 510 F.3d 103, 104 (2d Cir. 2007)
(“The writ has been abolished with respect to civil
cases.”); Caleb J. Fountain, Audita Querela and the
Limits of Federal Nonretroactivity, 70 N.Y.U. Ann. Surv.
Am. L. 203, 223 (2014) (“The writ was abolished in
federal civil proceedings in 1946.”). Audita querela
is, however, still available in Connecticut state courts to
“a defendant against whom judgment had been rendered,
but who had new matter in defense . . . arising, or at least
raisable for the first time, after judgment, ”
Young v. Young, 78 Conn.App. 394, 395 n.1 (2003).
a petition for a writ of audita querela requires the review
of a final judgment, it would be both inappropriate and
impermissible for this Court to issue a ruling on the merits.
Pursuant to the Rooker - Feldman doctrine, Federal
District Courts lack the authority to review final state
court judgments. See Court of Appeals v. Feldman,
460 U.S. 462, 482 (1983) (“[A] United States District
Court has no authority to review final judgments of a state
court.”); Atl. Coast Line R. Co. v. Bhd. of
Locomotive Engineers, 398 U.S. 281, 286 (1970)
(“While the lower federal courts were given certain
powers in the [Judiciary Act of 1789, 1 Stat. 73], they were
not given any power to review directly cases from state
courts, and they have not been given such powers since that
time.”). The Second Circuit has articulated four
requirements for the application of the Rooker -
Feldman doctrine: (1) the federal-court plaintiffs lost
in state court; (2) the plaintiffs complain of injuries
caused by a state court judgment; (3) the plaintiffs invite
review and rejection of that judgment; and (4) the state
judgment was rendered before the district court proceedings
commenced. Vossbrinck v. Accredited Home Lenders,
Inc., 773 F.3d 423, 426 (2d Cir. 2014) (citing
Hoblock v. Albany Cty. Bd. of Elections, 422 F.3d
77, 85 (2d Cir. 2005).
instant case easily meets the four prongs of this test: (1)
Plaintiffs seek relief from a state court judgment of
foreclosure, and the subsequent denial of a motion to open
and vacate this foreclosure; (2) that if enforced would
result in the loss of plaintiffs' home; (3) via a writ of
audita querela; and (4) which was entered before Plaintiffs
filed their petition. [See Compl. ¶¶ 5,
21, 22-24]. This Court therefore lacks subject matter
jurisdiction, and must remand this case to the Connecticut
Superior Court. See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c)
(“If at any time before final judgment it appears that
the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the
case shall be remanded.”); Vossbrinck, 773
F.3d at 427 (“The Rooker- Feldman doctrine
pertains not to the validity of the suit but to the federal
court's subject matter jurisdiction to hear it . . . .
When a defendant is sued in state court on a claim