United States District Court, D. Maryland
CARRIE M. WARD, et al.
CLIFFORD L. MASSEY, et al.
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
pending and ready for resolution in this case is a motion to
remand filed by Plaintiffs. (ECF No. 33). Defendants have
filed a response in opposition titled "Object to Order
and Recommendation." (ECF No. 34). The relevant issues
have been briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being
deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following
reasons, the motion to remand will be granted.
pending is Defendants’ motion for leave to proceed
in forma pauperis. (ECF No. 29). Upon review of the
affidavit submitted with their motion, it does not appear
that Defendants are indigent and unable to pay the full civil
filing fee. Specifically, Defendants note a combined monthly
salary of $6, 800 and indicate they have $3, 000 in their
joint checking account. (Id.) Their motion shall,
accordingly, be denied.
about August 3, 2015, Carrie Ward, Howard Bierman, Jacob
Geesing, Pratima Lele, Joshua Coleman, Richard R. Goldsmith,
Jr., Ludeen McCartnery-Green, Jason Kutcher, Nicholas
Derdock, and Elizabeth Jones (collectively, the
"Substitute Trustees") commenced a foreclosure
action against Mr. Clifford Lee Massey and Mrs. Marilyn L.
Panda-Massey in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s
County. Defendants Clifford Lee Massey and Marilyn L.
Panda-Massey filed an answer on August 26, 2015.
17, 2016, Defendants filed a notice of removal from the
Circuit Court for Prince George’s County. (ECF No. 1).
28 U.S.C § 1441(a), "a civil action brought in a
State court of which the district courts of the United States
have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant
or the defendants." The burden of demonstrating
jurisdiction, and the propriety of removal, rests with the
removing party. Dixon v. Coburg Dairy, Inc., 369
F.3d 811, 815 (4th Cir. 2004). On a motion to
remand, the court must "strictly construe the removal
statute and resolve all doubts in favor of remanding the case
to state court, " indicative of the reluctance of
federal courts "to interfere with matters properly
before a state court." Barbour v. Int’l.
Union, 640 F.3d 599, 615 (4th Cir. 2011) (en
banc), abrogated by statute on other grounds by 28
U.S.C. § 1446(b)(2)(B).
removal statute provides, in relevant part:
Except as otherwise expressly provided by Act of Congress,
any civil action brought in a State court of which the
district courts of the United States have original
jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the
defendants, to the district court of the United States for
the district and division embracing the place where such
action is pending.
28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Federal district courts have
"original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising
under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United
States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Such jurisdiction arises
from "those cases in which a well-pleaded complaint
establishes either that federal law creates the cause of
action or that the plaintiff’s right to relief
necessarily depends on resolution of a substantial question
of federal law." Franchise Tax Bd. v. Constr.
Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 27-28
(1983); see also In re Blackwater Security
Consulting, LLC, 460 F.3d 576, 584 (4th
Cir.2006) ("actions in which defendants merely claim a
substantive federal defense to a state-law claim do not raise
a federal question").
the arguments presented by Defendants in their notice of
removal are difficult to discern, they appear to assert that
this court has jurisdiction over the claims in this action
because they are "property and Franchise of the Federal
Government known as a U.S. Citizen" and "Therefore,
the U.S. citizens residing in one of the states of the union,
are classified as property and franchises of the federal
government as an ‘individual entity.’" In
determining the propriety of removal, however, courts
generally look to the face of the underlying pleading.
See Griffin v. Ford Consumer Finance Co., 812
F.Supp. 614, 616 (M.D. N.C. 1993) (quoting American Fire
and Casualty Co. v. Finn, 341 U.S. 6, 14 (1951)). Here,
there is no federal question presented by the Order to Docket
or the accompanying papers filed by Plaintiffs in state
court. To the contrary, the pleading cites various provisions
under the Real Property Article of the Annotated Code of
Maryland and the Maryland Rules as grounds for the
foreclosure action. To the extent that Defendants challenge
Plaintiffs’ ability to enforce the promissory note and
deed of trust, such determinations are governed exclusively
by Maryland law. See Md. Code Ann., Comm. Law
§§ 3-101, et seq. Moreover, any defensive
claims Defendants may wish to present cannot provide a basis
for removal jurisdiction. See In re Blackwater Sec.
Consulting, LLC, 460 F.3d at 584 ("a defendant may
not defend his way into federal court because a federal
defense does not create a federal question under §
1331"). Thus, the case cannot be sustained in this court
on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. Because all
parties are Maryland residents, there is not complete
diversity of citizenship such that jurisdiction could be
proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Accordingly, the case was
improperly removed by Defendants.
as Plaintiffs point out, removal is allowed only if a notice
of removal is filed within 30 days after the receipt by the
defendant of the initial pleading. Removal here took place
well after that thirty day period, as admitted by Defendants.
They state that they only recently learned of the purported
basis for the removal. That, however, is an insufficient
basis to excuse the tardiness, and this procedural defect is
an additional reason to remand this case.