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Knowles v. Finley

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

August 29, 2019

RONALD PAUL KNOWLES
v.
ROBYN DELL FINLEY and MICHAEL D. COX

          Honorable William L. Campbell, Jr., District Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          BARBARA D. HOLMES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         By Order entered August 26, 2019 (Docket Entry No. 12), the Court referred this pro se civil action to the Magistrate Judge for pretrial proceedings under 28 U.S.C. §§ 636(b)(1) and Rule 72 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Second Emergency Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and Hearing (Docket Entry No. 9). For the reasons set out below, the undersigned Magistrate Judge respectfully recommends that the motion be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Ronald Paul Knowles (“Plaintiff”) is a resident of Waynesboro, Tennessee. On April 23, 2019, he filed this pro se lawsuit. See Complaint (Docket Entry No. 1). The lawsuit arises out of his displeasure with the outcome of a state court divorce proceeding.

         Since sometime in 2018, Plaintiff has been involved in a divorce proceeding with Robyn Dell (Finley) Knowles (“Finley”) in the Chancery Court for Maury County, Tennessee (“Chancery Court”). Plaintiff alleges that he was not married to Finley, whom he refers to as his former girlfriend and living partner, and that he testified as such in the Chancery Court but that Finley, in conjunction with her divorce attorney, Michael D. Cox (“Cox”), presented the state court with a forged or fraudulent marriage certificate.[1] Plaintiff's theory of not being married to Finley was apparently rejected by the Chancery Court because a Final Decree of Divorce was entered at some point by Judge Stella L. Hargrove (“Judge Hargrove”), and on August 16, 2019, Judge Hargrove issued an order (“the August 16, 2019 Order”) amending the divorce decree[2] by: (1) finding that Plaintiff and Finley owned real property located at 665 Deer Ridge Road, Waynesboro, Tennessee (“the Property”); (2) appointing a special master to conduct the sale within thirty days of entry of the order; and, (3) directing that proceeds of the sale should be split equally between Plaintiff and Finley.[3]

         It is unclear from the record whether Plaintiff has sought an appeal or other remedy in the state courts from either the final divorce decree or the August 16, 2019 Order. It is clear, however, that Plaintiff initiated the instant federal lawsuit in an effort to reverse the course of the divorce proceeding and the August 16, 2019 Order. His original, handwritten complaint names Finley, Cox, and Judge Hargrove as defendants and lists Rule 65, 18 U.S.C. § 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and “judge and attorney in collusion” as the basis for federal jurisdiction. See Complaint at 2-3. The entirety of the factual allegations set out in the original complaint is minimal and states:

I Ronald P Knowles made statement on August 16, 2019, on who owns real property at 665 Deer Ridge Road, Waynesboro, TN in Maury Co Court. Judge denied my case. House up for sale that day in Wayne Co. Clerk's Office. There not giving me 30 days the real property is to be sold Saturday 24 of Aug. 2019.

Id. at 4. Accompanying the original complaint was an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction (Docket Entry No. 2) and supporting memorandum (Docket Entry No. 3), in which Plaintiff sought to enjoin Defendants from “engaging in, and or, perpetuating further ‘Corrupt Racketeering Activities.'” Id. at 1. The Court promptly addressed and denied this motion, finding that “Plaintiff has not demonstrated a strong or substantial likelihood of success at this stage of the proceedings because the material facts relating to Plaintiff's claims have not been established.” See Order entered August 23, 2019 (Docket Entry No. 7) at 2.[4] The Court also denied another filing made by Plaintiff, see Docket Entry No. 5, which the Court construed as a motion for a hearing.

         Three days later, Plaintiff filed: (1) an Amended Verified Complaint; (2) a Second Emergency Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and Hearing (Docket Entry No. 9); and, (3) a Supporting Memorandum (Docket Entry No. 10). In his new pleading, Plaintiff removes Judge Hargrove as a defendant but reiterates his allegations that (1) he was never married to Finley and that she and Cox falsified a marriage certificate and (2) he has thus been wrongfully deprived of his property by virtue of the August 16, 2019 Order. Plaintiff sets forth only claims against Finley and Cox under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985(3), alleging that “through fraud upon the court of falsified evidence, [Defendants] have deprived Plaintiff of his right to due process and equal protection of the laws. Through fraud upon the court, [ Defendants] are in de facto conspiracy with the court and are acting as “state actors.” See Amended Verified Complaint at 5.[5] He seeks unspecific equitable relief, as well as “his costs of relocating and or replacing his property.” Id. at 5-6. Summons were issued to Finley and Cox on August 26, 2019, see Docket Entry No. 11, but there is no indication that they have been served with process.

         In his pending motion for a temporary restraining order, Plaintiff asserts that on or about September 3, 2019, the highest bidder for the auctioned Property will be chosen and the Property will be unlawfully transferred “through court order by a court without jurisdiction and based upon fraudulent evidence.” See Docket Entry No. 9. He seeks a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against Finley, Cox, and the appointed special master that prohibits them from “the continued auction and sale of his home and property.” See Docket Entry No. 10 at 1 and 7.

         II. SECOND EMERGENCY MOTION FOR A TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER

         Plaintiff's second emergency motion for a temporary restraining order should be denied. In making this recommendation, the undersigned finds no reason ...


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