United States District Court, D. Maryland
BBW LAW GROUP, LLC et al.
PIERRE HICKS et al.
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW United States District Judge.
pending and ready for resolution in this foreclosure action
is the motion filed by Plaintiffs Carrie M. Ward, Jacob
Geesing, Richard R. Goldsmith, Jr., Elizabeth C. Jones, Jason
Kutcher, Pratima Lele, Ludeen McCartney-Green, and BWW Law
Group, LLC, (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) to
remand this case to the Circuit Court for Montgomery County,
Maryland. (ECF No. 26). The issues have been briefed, and the
court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local
Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, the motion will be
to Plaintiffs, on December 20, 2006, Tanya Hicks and Pierre
Hicks (collectively, “Defendants”) executed both
a promissory note evidencing their obligation to repay a loan
in the amount of $332, 800.00 and a deed of trust pledging as
security their property located in Damascus, Maryland. (ECF
No. 26-2). The note and deed of trust are currently held by
U.S. Bank, National Association as Trustee under the Pooling
and Servicing Agreement dated as of February 1, 2007, GSAMP
Trust 2007-NC1, Mortgage Pass-Through Certificates, Series
2007-NC1. Plaintiffs were appointed as substitute trustees, a
few months later defendants defaulted on their payment
obligation, and Plaintiffs thereafter initiated an in
rem foreclosure action against the property in the
Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland. Plaintiffs
filed the foreclosure action on November 17, 2015, and
Defendants entered their appearance by filing an affidavit on
February 2, 2016. On June 23, 2016, Defendants, proceeding
pro se and identifying themselves as
“counterclaimants, ” removed the action to this
court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441, asserting federal
question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. (ECF No.
1). Plaintiffs filed their pending motion to remand on July
14, 2016. (ECF No. 26)
Standard of Review
plaintiff challenges the propriety of removal, the defendant
bears the burden of proving proper removal. See Dixon v.
Coburg Dairy, Inc., 369 F.3d 811, 815 (4th
Cir. 2004); Greer v. Crown Title Corp., 216
F.Supp.2d 519, 521 (D.Md. 2002) (citing Mulcahey v.
Columbia Organic Chems. Co., 29 F.3d 148, 151
(4th Cir. 1994)). In considering 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.” Richardson v. Philip Morris
Inc., 950 F.Supp. 700, 702 (D.Md. 1997) (internal
quotation marks omitted); see Barbour v. Int’l
Union, 640 F.3d 599, 605 (4th Cir. 2011).
This standard reflects the reluctance of federal courts
“to interfere with matters properly before a state
court.” Richardson, 950 F.Supp. at 701. Thus,
“[w]hile a district court should be cautious in denying
defendants access to a federal forum because remand orders
are generally unreviewable, it is also true that removal
jurisdiction raises significant federalism concerns.”
Momin v. Maggiemoo’s Int’l, LLC, 205
F.Supp.2d 506, 508 (D.Md. 2002) (citations and internal
quotation marks omitted).
initial matter, the removal is untimely. Pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1446(b), a notice of removal must be filed
within thirty days after receipt of the initial pleading by
the defendant, and Defendants did not do so here. Defendants
filed the notice of removal on June 20, 2016, which was more
than four months after Defendants entered their appearance in
the case. When a defendant fails to remove a case before the
close of the thirty-day window, the defendant loses the right
to remove a case. See McKinney v. Bd. Of Trustees of
Mayland Cmty. Coll., 955 F.2d 924, 925 (4th
the removal had been timely, it would not have been proper.
The 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 Sec.
Consulting, LLC, 460 F.3d 576, 584 (4th Cir.
2006) (“[A]ctions in which defendants merely claim a
substantive federal defense to a state-law claim do not raise
a federal question.”). In determining the propriety of
removal, courts generally look to the face of the underlying
pleading. See Jacob v. Hinds, No. DKC
10-2103, 2010 WL 3782008, at *2 (D.Md. Sept. 23, 2010)
(citing American Fire and Casualty Co. v. Finn, 341
U.S. 6, 14 (1951)).
there is no federal question presented by the Order to Docket
Foreclosure of Residential Property 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. In their notice of removal, Defendants
purport to assert counterclaims based on the Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C.
§ 1692, et seq., which, they contend, serve as
the basis for removal to this court. The FDCPA is a safeguard
for consumers from abusive and deceptive debt collection
practices by debt collectors. Bassoff v. Treanor, Pope
& Hughes P.A., No RDB-14-3753, 2015 WL 8757651, at
*5 (D.Md. Dec. 15, 2015) (citing United States v.
Nat’l Fin. Servs. Inc., 98 F.3d 131, 135
(4th Cir. 1996)). 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,
in addition to the removal being untimely, it also cannot be
sustained in this court based on federal question
jurisdiction. Accordingly, the case was improperly removed by
Defendants and will be remanded.