United States District Court, D. Maryland
FEDERAL NATIONAL MORTGAGE ASSOCIATION, also known as Fannie Mae, Plaintiff
ALEXANDER LEHR and DOES I through X, Inclusive, Defendants
K. Bredar United States District Judge.
Lehr, a resident of Baltimore, Maryland, filed a Notice of
Removal on May 15, 2017. For the reasons below, the case must
be remanded to its court of origin, the Superior Court of the
State of California.
was sued in the Superior Court of California, County of Los
Angeles, for unlawful detainer of a dwelling located at 1341
N. Mariposa Avenue, Los Angeles, California, in Case No.
16U13002. ECF 2. Plaintiff Federal National Mortgage
Association (“Fannie Mae”) alleged it purchased
the property at a Trustee's Sale on March 9, 2015, and
Lehr refused to vacate the premises. Fannie Mae sought $47.37
per day from January 12, 2016, until it obtained occupancy,
and indicated that the amount of damages requested did not
exceed $10, 000.00. ECF 2 at pp. 1-2. The action was filed on
November 8, 2016. ECF 2 at p. 1.
record does not reflect when Lehr was served with the
complaint. Six months later, Lehr filed a Notice of
Removal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441, citing
jurisdiction based on 28 U.S.C. § 1332 (the
“diversity statute”) and 28 U.S.C. § 1343
(violation of civil rights and elective franchise). Lehr also
moved to proceed in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. §
1915(a)(1), which permits an indigent litigant to commence an
action in this court without prepaying the filing fee.
Because he appears to be indigent, Lehr's motion to
proceed in forma pauperis (ECF 3) shall be granted.
guard against possible abuses of the privilege, the in forma
pauperis statute requires dismissal of any claim that is
frivolous or malicious, or fails to state a claim on which
relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and
(ii). This court is mindful, however, of its obligation to
liberally construe self-represented pleadings. See
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In
evaluating such cases, the factual allegations are assumed to
be true. Id. at 93 (citing Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007)). Nonetheless,
liberal construction does not mean that a district court can
ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts that
set forth a cognizable claim. See Weller v. Dep't of
Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990); see also
Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th
Cir. 1985) (stating a district court may not “conjure
up questions never squarely presented.”). In making
this determination, ''[t]he district court need not
look beyond the complaint's allegations . . . . It must
hold the pro se complaint to less stringent standards than
pleadings drafted by attorneys and must read the complaint
liberally.'' White v. White, 886 F.2d 721,
722-723 (4th Cir. 1989). The Court applies this standard to
Lehr's Notice of Removal (ECF No. 1) in evaluating the
propriety of removal.
under this standard of review, it is apparent that
jurisdictional deficiencies exist in this case. Federal
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and “may not
exercise jurisdiction absent a statutory basis, ”
Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545
U.S. 546, 552 (2005), and must independently determine
whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists, even when no
party challenges it. Hertz Corp. v. Friend, 559 U.S.
77, 94 (2010); see also Sucampo Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v.
Astellas Pharma, Inc., 471 F.3d 544, 548 (4th Cir.
2006). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, federal district courts
have “original jurisdiction of all civil actions
arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the
United States.” Of import here, “'[t]he
presence or absence of federal-question jurisdiction is
governed by the 'well-pleaded complaint rule, ' which
provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal
question is presented on the face of the plaintiffs properly
pleaded complaint.” Rivet v. Regions Bank of
La., 522 U.S. 470, 475 (1998) (citation omitted).
Although Fannie Mae is a federally chartered corporation, its
presence in a lawsuit does not necessarily create an
independent basis for federal jurisdiction. See Federal
Nat. Mort. Ass'n v. Napoles, 2014 WL 68877, *1 (E.D.
Cal. Jan. 7, 2014) (no federal question presented in case
alleging unlawful detainer under state law); Fed.
Nat'l Mort. Ass'n v. Bridgeman, et al, 2010 WL
5330499, *4, 6 (E.D. Cal Dec. 20, 2010) (same). Even if
Fannie Mae is subject to suit as a federal entity, however,
venue would dictate this suit be brought in the appropriate
California federal court, wherein the cause of action arose.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a); see also Seven
Oaks, Inc. v. Federal Housing Administration, et al, 171
F.2d 947, 948-49 (4th Cir. 1948).
28, United States Code, § 1343(a)(1), in relevant part,
confers original jurisdiction in the federal district courts
of any civil action authorized by law to be commenced by any
person (1) to recover damages for injury to his person or
property, or because of the deprivation of any right or
privilege of a citizen of the United states, by any act done
in furtherance of any conspiracy mentioned in 42 U.S.C.
§ 1985. The civil rights statute limits what constitutes
a conspiracy to violate constitutional rights; it is designed
to protect citizens in the following instances:
(1) Preventing officer from performing duties
If two or more persons in any State or Territory conspire to
prevent, by force, intimidation, or threat, any person from
accepting or holding any office, trust, or place of
confidence under the United States, or from discharging any
duties thereof; or to induce by like means any officer of the
United States to leave any State, district, or place, where
his duties as an officer are required to be performed, or to
injure him in his person or property on account of his lawful
discharge of the duties of his office, or while engaged in
the lawful discharge thereof, or to injure his property so as
to molest, interrupt, hinder, or impede him in the discharge
of his official duties;
(2) Obstructing justice; intimidating party, witness, or
If two or more persons in any State or Territory conspire to
deter, by force, intimidation, or threat, any party or
witness in any court of the United States from attending such
court, or from testifying to any matter pending therein,
freely, fully, and truthfully, or to injure such party or
witness in his person or property on account of his having so
attended or testified, or to influence the verdict,
presentment, or indictment of any grand or petit juror in any
such court, or to injure such juror in his person or property
on account of any verdict, presentment, or indictment
lawfully assented to by him, or of his being or having been
such juror; or if two or more persons conspire for the
purpose of impeding, hindering, obstructing, or defeating, in
any manner, the due course of justice in any State or
Territory, with intent to deny to any ...