Federal judge remands foreclosure ejectment case to Phila. court

By Jon Campisi | Nov 26, 2012

A home foreclosure ejectment case has been sent back to a Pennsylvania state court after

A home foreclosure ejectment case has been sent back to a Pennsylvania state court after

U.S. District Judge Joel H. Slomsky, sitting in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, remanded the case of Everbank v. Jonnie Newton, et al. back to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, where the litigation was initiated in early December 2011.

The case involved Everbank, which had purchased a property on the 400 block of East Montana Street in Philadelphia at a foreclosure sale on July 13, 2011.

On Dec. 2 of that year, the plaintiff filed a complaint in ejectment against the inhabitants of the property, Jonnie Newtown and Kimberly Sanders, seeking a court order to have the couple removed from the home.

No answer was ever filed and a default judgment was issued against Newtown and Sanders, court records show.

Months later, after Everbank filed a writ to take possession of the property, the defendants filed a pro se removal notice seeking to have the ejection action transferred to the federal court.

The defendants also filed an emergency motion to vacate and void judgment.

A hearing regarding the matter was held before the federal court on Oct. 10 of this year.

The ruling shows that following the hearing in District Court last month, the judge granted the defendants leave to file a response to the plaintiff’s objection to the removal notice, but that the defendants never did file such a response under the given time frame.

In his opinion, Judge Slomsky wrote that under what is known as the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, a federal district court does not have the ability to exercise appellate jurisdiction over a judgment of a state court.

“Here, Plaintiff filed an ejectment action in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas to remove Defendants from real property purchased in a foreclosure sale, which is a matter within the jurisdiction of the state court,” Slomsky wrote. “This is precisely the type of dispute the Rooker-Feldman doctrine forbids a district court from adjudicating.”

The judge wrote that even if the Philadelphia trial court erred when it entered judgment against the defendants, that wouldn’t make the judgment void, but would merely leave it open to reversal or modification in an “appropriate and timely appellate proceeding” at the state level.

“’Unless and until so reversed or modified, it would be an effective and conclusive adjudication …,’ and this Court cannot overturn the state court  judgment,” the ruling states.

The ruling also denied as moot the defendants’ emergency motion to vacate and void judgment.

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