United States District Court, D. New Mexico
Alverson V J Santa Fe, New Mexico Plaintiff pro se
A Brown Snell & Wilmer, L.L.P. Phoenix, Arizona Attorney
for the Defendant
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING THE MAGISTRATE
JUDGE'S PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED
MATTER comes before the Court on: (i) the Magistrate
Judge's Proposed Findings and Recommended Disposition,
filed May 16, 2018 (Doc. 19)(“PFRD”); and (ii) on
the Plaintiff's Objections to Magistrate Judge's
Report and Recommendation, filed May 29, 2018 (Doc.
20)(“Objections”). This case was referred to the
Honorable Karen B. Molzen, United States Magistrate Judge, on
December 23, 2017 for a report and recommendation pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 636(b). See Order of Reference
Relating to Non-Prisoner Pro Se Cases, filed February 23,
2018 (Doc. 12). Judge Molzen issued the PFRD on May 16, 2018,
recommending that this matter be remanded to the First
Judicial District Court, County of Santa Fe, State of New
Mexico for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction pursuant to
the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.
Plaintiff Steve Alverson filed a Complaint for Violation of
the Unfair Practices Act, D-101-CV-2018-00055 (First Judicial
District Court, County of Santa Fe, State of New Mexico),
filed in state court January 5, 2018, filed in federal court
February 6, 2018 (Doc. 1-1)(“Complaint”) against
Defendant Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. in state district court on
January 5, 2018. See Complaint at 1. Wells Fargo
removed the case to federal court on February 6, 2018,
asserting diversity jurisdiction. See Notice of
Removal to Federal Court ¶ 4, at 2, filed February 6,
2018 (Doc. 1)(“Removal Notice”). In the
Complaint, Alverson alleges “unfair or deceptive trade
practices” or “unconscionable trade
practice” in violation of the New Mexico Unfair
Practices Act, N.M. Stat. Ann. § 57-12-1 to 26
(“UPA”), during the attempted collection of a
debt. See Complaint ¶ 2, at 1. Specifically, he
asserts that Wells Fargo obtained a foreclosure judgment in a
state-court proceeding without informing the state court that
it “did not own or possess any pecuniary interest in
the Note.” See, e.g., Complaint
¶ 9, at 2. Alverson seeks a permanent injunction against
Wells Fargo from enforcing the foreclosure judgment.
See Complaint at 18. In the alternative, he seeks an
order vacating the foreclosure judgment or for restitution.
See Complaint at 18.
2011, Wells Fargo filed the referenced foreclosure action
against Alverson in state district court. See Wells Fargo
Bank, N.A., v. Alverson, D-101-CV-2011-03297, Complaint
for Foreclosure at 1 (First Judicial District Court, County
of Santa Fe, State of New Mexico), filed in state court on
October 27, 2011, filed in federal court on February 6, 2018
(Doc. 1-1). Just as Judge Molzen took judicial notice of the
First Judicial District Court's records in the underlying
foreclosure action, the Court does the same on de novo
review. See PFRD at 2; St. Louis Baptist Temple,
Inc. v. Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp., 605 F.2d 1169, 1172
(10th Cir. 1979)(reasoning that federal courts may take
notice of proceedings in other courts when they have a direct
relation to the matters before the court).
Molzen ultimately concludes that the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine applies to Alverson's claims, because the
determination he seeks would necessarily disturb the state
court foreclosure judgment. See PFRD at 12-13, 15.
She therefore recommends remand of Alverson's claims, but
not for the reasons that Alverson articulates in support of
his Motion to Remand, filed February 15, 2018 (Doc.
8)(“Motion to Remand”). See PFRD at
12-13, 15. Indeed, Judge Molzen recommends denial of each of
the parties' motions. See PFRD at 15. The Court
gave the parties fourteen days to file objections to the
PFRD. See PFRD at 16. Alverson filed objections on
May 29, 2018, but Wells Fargo filed none. See
Objections at 1.
objections, Alverson explaines that he “does not object
to the Report overall or its conclusion that the case must be
remanded for state court consideration.” Objections at
1. Rather, he objects on the basis that the “Magistrate
Judge Lacked Jurisdiction to determine the merits of
Plaintiff's timeliness objection.” Objections at 1.
reviewed the PFRD, the Court concludes that, although Judge
Molzen passed on Alverson's argument that the Removal
Notice is untimely, she passed on it, because a
jurisdictional defect precluded review of the case's
merits. See PFRD at 11, 15. This Court agrees with
Judge Molzen, and with Alverson, that “the existence of
subject-matter jurisdiction is a threshold inquiry that must
precede any merits-based determination.” PFRD at 11
(citing Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better
Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 94 (1998)). See
Objections at 2. The Court also agrees that the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine implicates the Court's
subject-matter jurisdiction. See Exxon Mobil Corp. v.
Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 292
§ 1257, as long interpreted, vests authority to review a
state court's judgment solely in this Court, the District
Courts in Rooker and Feldman lacked
subject-matter jurisdiction.”)(citations omitted).
See FDIC v. Harger, 778 F.Supp.2d 1123, 1136 (D.N.M.
2011)(Browning, J.)(“Rooker-Feldman is a jurisdictional
limit on federal district and appellate courts.”).
having conducted a de novo review of the Complaint, the
Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint, filed February
9, 2018 (Doc. 3), the Motion to Remand, and the Objections,
the Court agrees that this case must be remanded for lack of
subject-matter jurisdiction pursuant to
Rooker-Feldman. Notably, the Supreme Court of the
United States explained in Exxon Mobil that the
doctrine applies to “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.” 544 U.S. at 284. Alverson's
claims fall squarely within this description, and the Court
agrees with Judge Molzen that it lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction over the claims pursuant to the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine. The Court therefore adopts
Magistrate Judge Molzen's findings and conclusions to the
extent that she recommends remand on that basis.
IS ORDERED that: (i) the Proposed Findings and
Recommended Disposition, filed May 16, 2018 (Doc. 19), is
adopted to the extent that it recommends remand on the basis
that the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction; (ii)
Defendant Wells Fargo's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's
Complaint, filed February 9, 2018 (Doc. 3), is denied; (iii)
Plaintiff Steve Alverson's Motion to Strike
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, filed February 15, 2018
(Doc. 7), is denied; and (iv) Alverson's Motion to
Remand, filed February 15, 2018 (Doc. 8), is denied. This
case is remanded to ...