United States District Court, D. Maryland
CASSANDRA A. MURRAY, Plaintiff,
MIDLAND FUNDING, LLC, Defendant.
JAMES K. BREDAR, District Judge.
This case was removed to this Court on February 24, 2015, by Defendant under the auspices of the Class Action Fairness Act ("CAFA"), codified at 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d) and § 1453 (2015). (Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1.) Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for remand to state court. (ECF No. 39.) The motion has been briefed (ECF Nos. 45, 46, 47, and 50), and no hearing is necessary, Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). The motion will be granted in part and denied in part.
I. Procedural History
Plaintiff Cassandra A. Murray filed her Class Action Complaint & Request for Jury Trial in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County, Maryland, on April 25, 2014. (Compl., ECF No. 2; Docket, 02-C-14-187207, Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County, Maryland, http://casesearch.courts.state.md.us/casesearch/inquiryByCaseNum.jis.) According to the complaint, Murray is a resident of Maryland, and Defendant Midland Funding, LLC, is a Delaware limited liability company. (Compl. ¶¶ 7 & 8.) She asked that the Plaintiff Class be defined as follows:
Those persons sued by MIDLAND in Maryland state courts from October 30, 2007 through January 14, 2010 for whom MIDLAND obtained a judgment for an alleged debt, interest or costs, including attorney's fees in its favor in an attempt to collect a consumer debt.
( Id. ¶ 36.) In addition, the complaint alleged:
The Plaintiff Class members are sufficiently numerous that individual joinder of all members is impractical. This allegation is based on the fact that MIDLAND has employed multiple entities and persons to collect on its behalf in thousands of collection action actions [ sic ] in [Anne Arundel County Circuit Court] and other state courts throughout the State of Maryland against the Plaintiffs [ sic ] Class.
( Id. ¶ 38.)
The complaint alleged that "Midland engaged in collection activities in more than 1, 000 occurrences in the State of Maryland during the class period by taking actions, in the form of collection lawsuits, to collect debts from Plaintiff Class members." ( Id. ¶ 22.) Further, it was alleged that Midland did not have the collection agency license mandated by Maryland law during the time period of October 1, 2007, to January 14, 2010, when it finally obtained one. ( Id. ¶¶ 20-21.) Thus, the judgments obtained by Midland before it received its license are alleged to be void. ( Id. ¶ 2.) The complaint sought declaratory and injunctive relief for the putative class members and a money judgment for the Plaintiff Class in excess of $75, 000 based upon alleged violations of Maryland common law and statutory law.
Midland filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, motion to transfer venue, which was denied. (Docket, 02-C-14-187207.) Midland filed a second motion to dismiss, and before that motion was ruled upon, Murray filed an amended complaint on February 18, 2015. ( Id. ) The definition of the putative class remained the same as in the original complaint. (Am. Compl. ¶ 42, ECF No. 4.) However, the allegations in the individual counts were retooled, the original complaint's request for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief relating to Midland's collection of the principal amount of the contested state court judgments was modified, and a new count was added for the common law cause of action "money had and received"; in this new count, the relief claimed on behalf of the Plaintiff Class is a money judgment of $10, 000, 000 ( id. ¶ 108).
II. Standard for Remand
Because federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, a cause of action is presumed to lie outside of that limited jurisdiction, and the burden of establishing otherwise rests upon the party asserting jurisdiction. Barbour v. Int'l Union, 640 F.3d 599, 605 (4th Cir. 2011) ( en banc ), abrogated on other grounds by 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(2)(B). In particular, removal statutes are to be strictly construed, and doubts regarding the propriety of removal should be resolved in favor of remanding the case to state court. Id.
Murray has advanced two bases for remanding this case to state court. First, she claims removal was untimely, and second, she argues this Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction because of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Alternatively, Murray requests that, if the Court determines removal was timely and Rooker-Feldman requires remand of only Counts I and II, the Court then remand Counts I and II to the state court but stay, pursuant to Burford abstention, proceedings on ...