In Grant v. Unifund CCR Partners, — F.Supp.2d —-, 2012 WL 379911 (C.D.Cal. 2012), Judge Snyder granted summary judgment based on the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. A copy of the decision is here.
The Rooker–Feldman 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 judg-ments.” Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 283 (2005). “The purpose of the doctrine is to protect state judgments from collateral federal attack. Because district courts lack power to hear direct appeals from state court decisions, they must decline jurisdiction whenever they are ‘in essence being called upon to review the state court decision.’ “ Doe & Assocs. Law Offices v. Napolitano, 252 F.3d 1026, 1030 (9th Cir.2001) (quoting Feldman, 460 U.S. at 482 n. 16). The doctrine applies “not only to claims that were actually raised before the state court, but also to claims that are inextricably intertwined with state court determinations.” Kelly v. Med–1 Solutions, LLC, 548 F.3d 600, 603 (7th Cir.2008). Claims are “inextricably intertwined” with a state court decision if “the adjudication of the fed-eral claims would undercut the state ruling or require the district court to interpret the application of state laws or procedural rules….” Reusser v. Wachovia Bank, N.A., 515 F.3d 855, 859 (9th Cir.2008). See also Napolitano, 252 F.3d at 1030 (“Where the district court must hold that the state court was wrong in order to find in favor of the plaintiff, the issues presented to both courts are inextricably intertwined.”). ¶ Although plaintiff argues that this Court must decide the merits of her claims because the Los Angeles County Superior Court set forth no reasoning in denying her motion to vacate the entry of default judgment, the Rooker–Feldman doctrine prevents litigants from collaterally attacking a state court judgment “no matter how erroneous or unconstitutional the state court judgment may be.” Med–1 Solutions, 548 F.3d at 603. Here, in entering default against plaintiff in 2008, the Los Angeles County Superior Court expressly found that plaintiff was served with a copy of the summons and complaint in that action. See Def. RJN Exh. E at 1.a (“Defendant was properly served with a copy of the summons and complaint.”); and Exh. I (state court docket entry dated 10/20/2008 entitled “proof of service of summons & complaint”). Three years later, it denied plaintiff’s motion to vacate the judgment, and plain-tiff did not appeal. Def. RJN Exh. H. Plaintiff cannot now seek to overturn those rulings through a federal court action. See, e.g., Bryant v. Gordon & Wong Grp., P.C., 681 F.Supp.2d 1205, 1208 (E.D.Cal.2010) (finding that by “disputing the garnishment of his accounts, [p]laintiff is inherently challenging the entry of default against him and the writ of execution that authorized the garnishment”); Williams v. Cavalry Portfolio Servs, LLC, 2010 WL 2889656, *3 (C.D.Cal. July 20, 2010) (“By way of default judgment, the state court found that [p]laintiff was properly served and that he is liable for the debt…. For this Court to exercise jurisdiction over these claims would be to review and undermine the state-court judgment.”); Fleming v. Gordon & Wong Law Grp, P.C., 723 F.Supp. 23 1219, 1223 (N.D.Cal.2010) (“There is no question that the Rooker–Feldman doctrine bars a district court from reviewing an FDCPA claim that challenges the validity of a debt authorized by a state court judgment.”). . . .¶ . . . The only question remaining is whether this jurisdictional bar extends to each of plaintiff’s claims. The complaint contains four repeated allegations of Unifund CCR’s wrongful conduct: (1) that plaintiff was never served with the summons and complaint in the state court action (Compl.¶¶ 30, 43(d), 61–64, 66, 73–74, 76, 79–80, 98); (2) that plaintiff does not owe the debt at issue in the state court action (id. ¶¶ 71, 86); (3) that Unifund CCR improperly garnished her money (id. ¶¶ 72, 79, 85, 87–89); and (4) that the Kenney Affidavit submitted in support of the request for default judgment was “false and fraudulent” (id. ¶¶ 22–23, 60–66, 75, 79–80, 97–98). Were the Court to rule that Unifund CCR committed any of those alleged wrongs, it “would undercut the state ruling” that plaintiff was in fact served with a copy of the summons and complaint, owed the debt to Unifund CCR, and authorized Unifund CCR to execute a Writ of Execution. Reusser, 515 F.3d at 859; Bryant, 681 F.Supp.2d at 1208. ¶ Accordingly, pursuant to the Rooker–Feldman doctrine, the Court cannot entertain any claims premised on those alleged wrongs.
The District Court then addressed the only allegation outside the scope of the state court action, namely that defendants “did not give [p]laintiff proper written notice in order to validate the alleged debt” before suing her, in violation of section 1692g(a) of the FDCPA. The District Court found from an evidentiary standpoint that the Notice had been “sent” – which was all the FDCPA required.
Under Ninth Circuit law, a § 1692g(a) notice must be “sent” to the consumer by the collector, but the collector “need not establish actual receipt by the debtor.” Mahon v. Credit Bureau of Placer Cnty., Inc., 171 F.3d 1197, 1201 (9th Cir.1999) (granting summary judgment for debt collector even though debtors testified that they had no memory of receiving the notice). To overcome the presumption of mailing and receipt, a debtor must prove “by clear and convincing evidence that the mailing was not, in fact, accomplished.” In re Bucknum, 951 F.2d 204, 207 (9th Cir .1991). ¶ Defendants argue that “Unifund CCR did send the notice required by section 1692g in its initial demand letter to [plaintiff], dated May 29, 2008, four months prior to filing” the state court action. Mot. at 14 (emphasis in original) (citing Declaration of Au-tumn Hopkins (“Hopkins Decl.”) ¶ 3, Exh. B). According to defendants, the letter was mailed to plaintiff’s address and “was not returned to Unifund CCR as undeliverable.” Id. Defendants contend the letter was therefore “presumed received in mid-June 2008” and that even if plaintiff testifies that she does not recall receiving the letter, “this would not be sufficient to create an issue of fact.” Id. at 15 (relying on Mahon, 171 F.3d at 1202). ¶ In opposition, plaintiff argues that the Hopkins Declaration is “insufficient to establish proper and legally sufficient mailing” because defendants have not explained “how the correspondence was sent or [ ] describe the business practices for handling of the correspondence.” Opp’n at 13 (relying on Beuter v. Canyon State Prof ‘l Servs., Inc., 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12281, *13 (D. Ariz. June 13, 2005)). Plaintiff requests that the Court grant her additional time to conduct discovery if it is inclined to grant summary judgment as to this claim. Id. at 14–15. ¶ The Court finds that Unifund CCR complied with § 1692g. The Ninth Circuit requires only that a debt collector provide testimony that a letter was sent and not returned as undeliverable. Mahon, 171 F.3d at 1201. Here, defendants have offered testimony and evidence that Unifund CCR sent a letter to plaintiff dated May 29, 2008, explaining that she owed credit card debt. See Hopkins Decl. Exhs. A (Account Notes from plaintiff’s credit card account reflecting initial demand letter sent to plaintiff on May 29, 2008, addressed to her at 15712 Wilder Ave., Norwalk, CA, 90650); and B (copy of the collection letter dated May 29, 2008); see also Grant Decl. ¶ 4 (admitting that she lived and received mail at the residence located at 15712 Wildner Ave., Norwalk, CA, 90650). The letter was not returned as undeliverable. Hopkins Decl. ¶¶ 3–5. Applying the rationale from Mahon, the letter was therefore presumed received in mid-June 2008 under traditional mailbox rules. Mahon 171 F.3d at 1202. Plaintiff’s only evidence that defendants failed to comply with § 1692g—that she never received the letter—is insufficient to create a triable issue of material fact. Id.; Bucknum, 951 F.2d at 207. ¶ This disclosure is precisely what § 1692g(a) requires. Cf. 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(a). Accordingly, plaintiff’s claim for violation of the FDCPA § 1692g(a) fails as a matter of law.FN5 Because plaintiff’s UCL claim is premised on violations of the FDCPA, it also fails as a matter of law.