Montco couple files emergency petition to stop scheduled sheriff's sale of home

By Jon Campisi | Aug 27, 2013

A suburban Philadelphia couple has filed an emergency petition for injunctive relief seeking to have a federal judge put a stop to a fast-approaching sheriff’s sale of the plaintiffs’ property.

Raymond Ross and his wife, Sandra D. Dixon-Ross, filed their pro se complaint Aug. 26 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, just two days before the scheduled sale of their home.

The defendants named in the civil action are the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department.

In the filing, the couple claims that the court entered a fraudulent and unlawful default judgment in a mortgage foreclosure case based on the bank’s attorney “intentionally filing a verifiably false and fraudulent sworn certification” with the prothonotary that resulted in the sheriff’s department scheduling a sale of the plaintiffs’ residence for Aug. 28.

The couple alleges that the scheduled sheriff’s sale arose due to intentional fraud committed by the bank’s attorney, identified in court documents as Darrell C. Dethlefs, as well as through “verifiable improper judicial bias and improper conduct” by the jurist presiding over the case, Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Arthur R. Tilson.

The petition asks the federal court to intervene and immediately enjoin the sheriff’s department from proceeding with its sale of the plaintiff’s Maple Glen, Pa. property.

The dispute dates back to May 9, 2012, when Americhoice Federal Credit Union filed a complaint against the plaintiffs alleging a purported mortgage default, the record shows.

The couple maintains that the bank’s complaint was “wholly without merit,” with the plaintiffs stating that the bank’s filing only includes a “conclusory demand for a fictitious amount of $111,587.00 for ‘principal of debt due’ and does not attach any itemized accounting and/or amortization of the amounts paid by Defendants under the alleged mortgage contract, including … all dates such amounts were paid, the applicable interest rate and the totality of principal and interest amounts paid.”

The defendants being referred to here were the plaintiffs, who had been defendants in the prior state court action.

In their federal emergency petition, the plaintiffs claim that during an April hearing, Tilson, the Montgomery County judge, stated in open court: “My job is to protect the banks.”

“Due to Judge Tilson’s admitted judicial and/or personal biases and remarks relating to perceiving his job as having to ‘protect’ banks (in violation of the Pennsylvania Code of Judicial Conduct and basic principles of fundamental fairness), Plaintiffs have a reasonable, good faith belief that there exists grave questions about the integrity of the legal process under Judge Tilson’s supervision in the state court,” the petition reads. “As a result the prosecution of Plaintiffs’ case is substantially handicapped and no litigant should have the courts stacked against them in legal proceedings simply because one of the litigants is a ‘protected’ bank.”

Tilson’s temperament and remarks during the prior court hearing have raised, at the very least, “the perception, if not an actual, prejudicial issue and has certainly created a doubt as to his ability to preside impartially in the state court action involving a ‘protected’ bank,” states the emergency petition.

Tilson eventually overruled the plaintiffs’ preliminary objections in the real estate case, apparently doing so without any explanations or legal reasoning.

In early June, the Montgomery County prothonotary, who is the clerk of civil courts, entered a default judgment due to ongoing fraudulent conduct perpetuated by Dethlefs, the lawyer for Americhoice, who filed a false sworn certification with the courts saying that a written notice of intention to file a praecipe for judgment was mailed to the homeowners in late May.

No such document exists, nor has one ever been produced in any filings or elsewhere, the couple claims.

“To put it more directly and bluntly, attorney Darrell Dethlefs’ sworn certification before the state court is a sheer fabrication designed to attain an unlawful and fraudulent judgment,” the plaintiffs wrote in their petition.

Tilson, the judge, subsequently denied a motion by the plaintiffs to have him recuse himself from the proceedings, the record shows.

Despite a judicial order staying the proceedings pending reassignment of the matter to an administrative judge, Dethlefs scheduled what the plaintiffs term an unlawful sheriff’s sale of their home.

The petition goes on to note that a hearing to address the plaintiffs’ motion to stay the sheriff’s sale has been scheduled for the same day as the sale itself.

The hearing is supposed to take place about three hours prior to the sale, and two hours before the sale can be legally cancelled, the plaintiffs stated.

The filing accuses the court and sheriff’s department of violating the plaintiffs’ due process rights.

The petition also accuses the defendants of violating the Civil Rights Act and the United States Constitution.

The federal case number is 2:13-cv-04949-JHS. 

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