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Jones v. Phelps Corporation

United States District Court, N.D. New York

May 22, 2014

ROBERT DILLARD JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
PHELPS CORPORATION et al., Defendants.

Robert Dillard Jones, Pro Se, Binghamton, NY, for Plaintiff.

RICHARD F. MIHALKOVIC, ESQ., PETER A. GORTON, ESQ., Phelps Corporation, Lachman, Gorton Law Firm. Endicott, NY, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

GARY L. SHARPE, Chief Magistrate Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff pro se Robert Dillard Jones commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants Phelps Corporation and Broome County, [1] alleging that defendants violated his Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights, along with a New York common law claim of "tortious interference or intentional interference" with Jones' contractual obligations. (Am. Compl., Dkt. No. 5.) Pending is Jones' motion for a preliminary injunction and/or temporary restraining order[2] to enjoin a New York state court ordered foreclosure sale of Jones' real property located at 322 Main Street in Binghamton, New York ("322 Main Street") and to enjoin Phelps Corporation from enforcing the state court foreclosure judgment.[3] ( Id.; Dkt. Nos. 4, 8.) Jones further seeks: (1) injunctive relief declaring the state court foreclosure action unlawful and a nullity, (Am. Compl. at 36, 40); and (2) "A Stay Or Order To Show Cause For Preliminary Injunction And Temporary Restraining Order Declaring the Binghamton City Court's Order For Warrant of Eviction Unlawful, (Dkt. No. 8). Also pending is Jones' motion for joinder, seeking to join in the action four tenants residing at 322 Main Street. (Dkt. No. 4; Dkt. No. 4, Attachs. 2-5.) For the reasons discussed below, Jones' motions are denied.

II. Background[4]

The property located at 322 Main Street in Binghamton, New York has a long and protracted history in both New York state and federal courts. Indeed, in addition to the state foreclosure action at issue here, in 2010, 322 Main Street was the subject of a tax foreclosure action commenced by Broome County. See Jones v. Cawley, No. 10-CV-0712, 2010 WL 4235400, at *1 (N.D.N.Y. Oct. 21, 2010). Phelps Corporation, the mortgagee, paid the delinquent taxes, and Broome County filed a certificate of redemption, thus ending the tax foreclosure proceeding. Id. at *2. Jones then filed a lawsuit in federal court against, among other defendants, Phelps Corporation, alleging that it committed usury in connection with the mortgage on 322 Main Street. Id. (granting defendants' motions to dismiss Jones' complaint).

Here, insofar as the court can discern from Jones' amended complaint, in 2009, Jones defaulted on his mortgage payments to Phelps Corporation. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 35, 62, 71; Dkt. No. 5, Attach. 1 at 39.) Thereafter, Phelps Corporation commenced an action to foreclose on the mortgage in New York state court, and obtained a judgment of foreclosure on July 11, 2012. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 2, 3, 20; Dkt. No. 5, Attach.1 at 35-43.) Phelps then held a foreclosure sale on February 7, 2014. (Am. Compl. ¶ 18.) Ultimately, Jones was served with a notice to quit premises, dated February 25, 2014, ( id. ¶ 85), and, thereafter, eviction proceedings took place in Binghamton City Court, and a warrant of eviction was issued, (Dkt. No. 8 at 8).

Now, Jones attacks the foreclosure judgment and the state court proceedings, claiming that Phelps Corporation "misuse[d] and abuse[d]... the state court system in filing a defective and unlawful foreclosure proceeding in state court[] and obtaining [a] favor[able] judgment." ( Id. ¶¶ 2, 4, 14-16, 36, 40, 42, 66-67.) Jones also attacks the legality of the warrant of eviction issued by the Binghamton City Court. (Dkt. No. 8.)

III. Discussion

The court discusses Jones' motions for a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction and his motion for permissive joinder of parties, and their respective standards of review, in turn below.

A. Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Preliminary Injunction

"[P]reliminary injunctive relief is an extraordinary remedy and should not be routinely granted." Patton v. Dole, 806 F.2d 24, 28 (2d Cir. 1986). "In most cases, to warrant the issuance of a preliminary injunction, a movant must show (a) irreparable harm and (b) either (1) a likelihood of success on the merits of the claim or (2) sufficiently serious questions going to the merits, and a balance of hardships tipping decidedly in favor of the moving party." Phelan v. Hersh, No. 9:10-CV-0011, 2010 WL 277064, at *5 (N.D.N.Y. Jan. 20, 2010) (citing D.D. ex rel. V.D. v. N.Y.C. Bd. of Educ., 465 F.3d 503, 510 (2d Cir. 2006)).

Upon review of Jones' amended complaint, the court finds that he has failed to establish that his claims are likely to succeed on the merits, or, at a minimum, that there exist any substantial questions going to the merits of his claims. Rather, Jones' claims are likely precluded by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which provides that the Supreme Court is the only federal court authorized to exercise appellate jurisdiction over state court judgments. See Johnson v. Smithsonian Inst., 189 F.3d 180, 185 (2d Cir. 1999) ("The Rooker-Feldman doctrine also bars federal courts from considering claims that are inextricably intertwined' with a prior state court determination." (citation omitted)); Dunn v. Deutsche Bank Nat'l Trust Co., No. 5:11-CV-712, ...


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