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​I’m not one to toot my own horn, but I was pleased when the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed an order from the Middle District of Florida dismissing a civil rights lawsuit against a kindly woman who had the audacity to foreclose on an individual who refused to pay his mortgage. The property at issue was commercial property and the defendant had continued to operate his business out of the property although he stopped making his mortgage payments.

After a judgment of foreclosure was entered in my client’s favor, the defendant decided to file a civil rights lawsuit in the federal District Court in and for the Middle District of Florida alleging that in foreclosing on the mortgage my client had deprived him of his civil rights. 

 In order to maintain a civil rights violation claim one must allege that he or she was deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or the laws of the Unites States and that the deprivation was committed under color of state law. That is, the one who does the depriving must be a “state actor” such as a sheriff or elected official.

Because my client was not a “state actor”, I moved to dismiss the lawsuit and the District Court agreed. The squatter didn’t flinch, however, and appealed to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.  

The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s order holding that one who has obtained a state court order or judgment is not engaged in state action merely because he or she used the state court legal system.

Randall J. Love