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Bell v. McLemore & Young PLLC

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville

November 2, 2017

OWEN BELL Plaintiff,
v.
MCLEMORE AND YOUNG PLLC, et al. Defendant.

          CRENSHAW CHIEF JUDGE

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JEFFERY S. FRENSLEY U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is the Defendant John L. McLemore's Motion to Dismiss (Docket No. 8) along with supporting memorandum of law (Docket No. 9). The Pro Se Plaintiff has filed a document styled Motion to Quash the 17 July 2017 Motion to Dismiss this Case by John McLemore which the court will treat as a response to the Motion to Dismiss. Docket No. 10. For the reasons stated herein, the undersigned recommends that the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss be GRANTED.

         RELEVANT FACTS

         Defendant, John C. McLemore, was appointed Trustee by the Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Tennessee following the filing of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filed by Pro Se Plaintiff Owen Bell (Docket No. 1, p. 3). Thereafter, Plaintiff filed several lawsuits in this court pro se against attorneys and other parties to a 2014 judgment obtained against Bell in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. McLemore, in his capacity as a trustee, intervened in those actions as the real party in interest and according to the complaint recommended dismissal of the lawsuits. To date, two of the actions, 3:16-cv-02064 and 3:17-cv-00642 have been dismissed. The compliant in this action alleges that the Trustee failed to properly administer the bankruptcy estate by not pursuing the civil actions related to the 2014 judgment. Docket No. 1.

         Defendant asserts that under the Barton doctrine the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because the Plaintiff failed to obtain permission from the bankruptcy court before bringing suit against the trustee for issues related to the trustee's official actions. Docket No. 8. Further, Defendant asserts that the complaint fails to state a claim for relief for any of the named causes of action. Id.

         In response to the Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Quash the Motion to Dismiss wherein he asserts that there is no immunity for obstruction of justice and that the bankruptcy court has no jurisdiction over such a claim. Docket No. 10, p. 2. Plaintiff further argues that the Barton doctrine does not apply because the U.S. Trustee Program and Bankruptcy Court have acted as “co-conspirators in collusion with John McLemore. . . .” Id. at p. 3.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Upon a Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) the Court is required to construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and to accept all well-pleaded allegations of fact as being true. Collins v. Nagle, 892 F.2d 489, 493 (6th Cir. 1989). Despite the Court's responsibility to liberally construe the complaint in the plaintiff's favor, “more than bare assertions of legal conclusions is ordinarily required to satisfy federal notice pleading requirements.” Scheid v. Fanny Farmer Candy Shops, Inc., 859 F.2d 434, 436 (6th Cir. 1988). Accordingly, the Court does not have to accept as true mere legal conclusions and unwarranted inferences of fact. Morgan v. Churchs Fried Chicken, 829 F.2d 10, 12 (6th Cir. 1987). “If the court determines at any time that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction the court must dismiss the action.” Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(h)(3). A trial court has wide discretion to review affidavits and other documents to resolve disputed jurisdictional facts. By considering affidavits and other documents, a motion to dismiss is not converted to a summary judgment motion where it does not impact the merits of the Plaintiff's claim. See, Gentek Building Products, Inc. v. Sherwin-Williams Co., 491 F.3d 320, 330 (6th Cir. 2007).

         DISCUSSION

         This motion hinges upon whether Pro Se Plaintiff's claims against the Defendant are precluded by the Barton doctrine due to the related bankruptcy actions. In Barton v. Barbour, 104 U.S. 126, 26 L.Ed. 672 (1981), the United States Supreme Court stated the requirement that “leave of the appointing forum must be obtained by any party wishing to institute an action in a non-appointing forum against a trustee, for acts done in the trustee's official capacity and within the trustee's authority as an officer of the court.” In re DeLorean Motor Co., 991 F.2d 1236, 1240 (6th Cir. 1993)(citing In re Baptist Medical Center, 80 B. R. 637, 643 (Bankr. E. D. N.Y.1987)). The purpose of the requirement is to “enable [ ] the bankruptcy court to maintain better control over the estate.” Id. at 1240.

         Congress enacted a limited exception to the Barton doctrine which provides:

Trustees, receivers or managers of any property, including debtors in possession, may be sued, without leave of the court appointing them, with respect to any of their acts or transactions in carrying on business connected with such property. Such actions shall be subject to the general equity power of such court so far as the same may be necessary to ...

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