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Lea v. United States Department of Agriculture

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

December 8, 2017

COREY LEA, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTURE OF AGRICULTURE, et al., Respondents.

          Terrence Berg Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Newbern Magistrate Judge

         To The Honorable Terrence G. Berg, District Judge

         The District Court referred this pro se Petition for Judicial Review under the Administrative Procedure Act to the undersigned Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 636(b)(1)(A) and (B) to dispose or recommended disposition of any pretrial motions and to conduct further proceedings, if necessary, under Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Rules of Court. (Doc. No. 3.)

         Pending before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss of Respondent United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) (Doc. No. 22). Petitioner Corey Lea has responded in opposition. (Doc. No. 24.) For the following reasons, the undersigned RECOMMENDS that the motion to dismiss be GRANTED and that the Petition be DISMISSED.

         I. Background

         Petitioner Corey Lea brings a petition under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. § 701, et seq., related to (1) the USDA's “fail[ure] [to] act on [t]he 2008 Farm Bill and the [foreclosure] moratorium relief it provided in 7 CFR 766.358” for borrowers, and (2) “an accepted discrimination complaint still unresolved [at] the USDA's Office of Civil Rights.” (Doc. No. 1, PageID# 2, ¶¶ 1-2.) It appears Lea's claims arise out of a foreclosure on Lea's property, which Lea believes the USDA should have stopped, and Lea's status as a “socially disadvantaged farmer and . . . a member of a protected class, African American.” (Id. at PageID# 3-4, ¶ 7; PageID# 4, ¶ 8; PageID# 5, ¶ 11-12; PageID# 8, ¶ 20.) He seeks “an expedited formal hearing on the merits before the Department of Agriculture's Administrative Law Judg[e and, ] if necessary, a judicial review of the ALJ's decision.” (Id. at PageID# 9.)

         Factual context is almost entirely absent from Lea's complaint in this action. However, Lea has brought substantially similar, and sometimes identical, claims in other courts which illuminate the present action. The United States Court of Federal Claims described Lea's related litigation history as follows in a 2016 order:

This is pro se plaintiff Corey Lea's third action initiated in the United States Court of Federal Claims arising from the same underlying facts filed within a two-year time period. Plaintiff alleges that, in November 2007, the now-dissolved company Corey Lea, Inc. obtained a loan from Farmers National Bank to purchase farm property. This loan was guaranteed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) through a loan guarantee agreement. As a result, Farmers National Bank held a first mortgage on 90 percent of the property, and the USDA FSA held a second mortgage on 10 percent of the property. Mr. Lea attached the loan guarantee agreement to the complaint filed in the current action, which identifies “COREY LEA, INC.” as the “Borrower, ” and “FARMERS NATIONAL BANK” as the “Lender.” (capitalization in original). Although plaintiff did not provide a copy of the second mortgage held by the USDA FSA with his complaint, defendant provided a copy of this second mortgage as an attachment to its motion to dismiss. This second mortgage document identifies the mortgagor as “COREY LEA, INCORPORATED.” (capitalization in original).
Subsequently, in December 2007, plaintiff alleges that he secured a loan from Independence Bank to fund the construction of a new house on the property and to refinance the existing loan from Farmers National Bank. According to plaintiff, he requested a loan subordination from the USDA, however, the USDA denied the request after conducting an appraisal of the property and appraising the value of the property at $18, 035.00 less than the amount of debt that plaintiff would incur with the new loan, if completed. Following this denial, plaintiff filed a complaint with the USDA Office of Civil Rights, which was received by the USDA on May 1, 2008, alleging that the denial of the loan resulted from racial discrimination. It is not clear from the record in [this] case how these allegations were resolved.
In February 2009, Farmers National Bank initiated a foreclosure action on the farm property due to a failure to make payments for five months. Plaintiff alleges that, by July 28, 2009, the office of the USDA FSA responsible for adjudicating plaintiff's discrimination complaint had requested suspension of the foreclosure action. In October 2009, however, Farmers National Bank was granted a Judgment and Order of Sale as to the farm property. Thereafter, plaintiff filed multiple suits in the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, and the United States Court of Federal Claims, “seeking an injunction against the farm's foreclosure as well as damages for the USDA's alleged earlier discrimination.” In addition to [the present] case, which the court refers to as Lea IV, plaintiff, Corey Lea, has filed at least eleven separate actions within the federal judiciary system based on the same set of facts, including: Lea v. United States, No. 3:16-CV-00735 (M.D. Tenn. April 13, 2016) (ongoing); Lea v. Farmers Nat'l Bank, No. 3:15-CV- 00595 (M.D. Tenn. May 27, 2015) (finding plaintiff's case “to be legally frivolous by reason of improper venue”); Lea v. United States, No. 14-44C, 2014 WL 2101367 (Fed. Cl. May 19, 2014) (Lea I ), aff'd in part, vacated in part, 592 Fed.Appx. 930 (Fed. Cir. 2014) (Lea II ) (voluntarily dismissed); Lea v. United States, 120 Fed.Cl. 440 (Lea III ) (granting defendant's motion to dismiss); Lea v. United States, No. 14-CV-00040-TBR (W.D. Ky. May 29, 2014) (dismissing plaintiff's complaint for violation of the sanctions against him); Lea v. United States, No. 13-CV-00110-JHM (W.D. Ky. Feb. 6, 2014) (finding plaintiff's claims frivolous and issuing sanctions enjoining plaintiff from filing related civil claims), aff'd, No. 14-5493 (6th Cir. Dec. 18, 2014), cert. denied, No. 14- 8315 (April 6, 2015); Lea v. United States, No. 10-CV-00052-JHM (W.D. Ky. Jul. 11, 2013) (granting defendants' motion to dismiss), aff'd, No. 14-5445 (6th Cir. Dec. 18, 2014), cert. denied, No. 14-8315 (April 6, 2015); Lea v. United States, 1:11-CV-00094-JHM (W.D. Ky. Aug. 26, 2011) (transferred to Sixth Circuit at plaintiff's request); Lea v. United States, No. 10-CV-00029-JHM (W.D. Ky. Jan. 19, 2011) (granting defendants' motion to dismiss), aff'd, No. 11-5969 (6th Cir. Aug. 7, 2013); Lea v. Kentucky, 1:09-CV-0056-TBR (W.D. Ky. April 20, 2010) (granting defendants' motion to dismiss); Lea v. Farmers Nat'l Bank, 1:09-CV-00075-JHM-ERG (W.D. Ky. July 21, 2009) (granting defendants' motion to dismiss and finding that pro se plaintiff Corey Lea cannot pursue claim on behalf of corporation, Corey Lea, Inc.).
A number of pro se, plaintiff Corey Lea's prior complaints have been dismissed and found frivolous. For example, the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky specifically issued sanctions against plaintiff for his “submission of frivolous and duplicative lawsuits” and enjoined “Plaintiff Corey Lea” and his corporate affiliate, “Corey Lea, Inc., ” from “filing any civil lawsuit in the United States District Court, Western District of Kentucky alleging or asserting factual or legal claims based upon or arising out of any of the legal or factual claims alleged” in plaintiff's previous actions. Lea v. United States, No. 13-CV-00110- JHM, ECF No. 64 (emphasis in original). The District Court explained:
Plaintiffs repeated filing of civil actions re-hashing the same arguments is improper and harassing and clearly unwarranted. His submission of frivolous and duplicative lawsuits serves no legitimate purpose, places a tremendous burden on this Court's limited resources, and deprives other litigants with meritorious claims of the speedy resolution of their cases. The similarity of Plaintiff's actions and the timing evince his bad faith and improper ...

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