United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
W. Grimm United States District Judge
William and Sierra Dixon filed suit in state court for
“discrimination based on disability, ”
misrepresentation, and “unsafe and uninhabitable
premises.” Compl., ECF No. 2. Plaintiffs filed an
Amended Complaint in state court on August 21, 2017. Am.
Compl., ECF No. 29. Both the Complaint and the Amended
Complaint alleged “discriminat[ion] . . . in violation
of the Fair Housing Act, ” 42 U.S.C. § 3604, a
federal statute. Compl. ¶ 9; Am. Compl. ¶ 10. On
August 25, 2017, Defendants The Donaldson Group and the
Glendale Apartments removed to this Court on the basis of
federal question jurisdiction. Not. of Removal, ECF No. 1.
Plaintiffs filed a Second Amended Complaint that removed the
reference to the Fair Housing Act, along with a Motion to
Remand. Second Am. Compl. & Mot. to Rem., ECF
No. 21. The Second Amended Complaint includes
counts for unlawful discrimination in housing under state
law, fraudulent misrepresentation, and negligence. Because
Plaintiffs had pleaded a claim pursuant to a federal statute
prior to the time when this case was removed, this Court has
supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining claims. 28
U.S.C. § 1367(a). I find that Plaintiffs have amended
their pleadings in an attempt to avoid this Court's
jurisdiction and that other factors do not weigh in favor of
remanding this case. As such, the Court will not decline to
exercise supplemental jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1367(c). Therefore, Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand
and request for costs and fees is denied.
to 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.”
When a plaintiff files such an action in state court, the
action “may be removed by the defendant . . . 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). “The
propriety of the removal of a lawsuit from state to federal
court is determined as of the time of
removal.” B.A. v. Prince George's Cty.,
Md., No. PJM 10-1674, 2010 WL 4225710, at *2 (D. Md.
Oct. 26, 2010) (citing Pullman Co. v. Jenkins, 305
U.S. 534, 537 (1939)).
undisputed that, at the time of removal, Plaintiffs'
pleading alleged a Fair Housing Act claim, which arises under
federal law. Mot. to Rem. 11-12 (“Without the reference
to the Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. § 3604) as a
statutory basis for remedy, the action would not have
contained a federal question nor been appropriate for
removal.”); Defs.' Opp'n 1. Therefore, it was
properly removed to this Court. See 28 U.S.C. §
1441(a); B.A., 2010 WL 4225710, at *2.
that Plaintiffs have amended to eliminate their Fair Housing
Act claim, their claims all arise under state law. When this
Court has original jurisdiction, it also has
“supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that
are so related to claims in the action within such original
jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or
controversy under Article III of the United States
Constitution.” 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).
Plaintiffs' discrimination claim under state law relies
on the same facts alleged to support their discrimination
claim under federal law. Compare Am. Compl
¶¶ 8-16 with Second Am. Compl.
¶¶ 9-23. Plaintiffs' misrepresentation claim
stems from how, in Plaintiffs' view, Defendants handled
their allegations of discrimination before the Maryland
Commission on Civil Rights (MCCR) in settlement proceedings.
This also forms part of the same case or controversy. And,
Plaintiffs' negligence claim, in which they allege that
marijuana use and the keeping of pit bull dogs were permitted
by Defendants in the apartment complex, also stems from
Defendants' management of the apartments where Plaintiffs
lived and the deficiencies Plaintiffs perceived in that
management. Consequently, this Court has supplemental
jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' state law claims. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1367(a). Additionally, while the dismissal of the
federal claim permits the Court to decline to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law
claims, see 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c), the Court is
not required to do so, as the Court continues to have
jurisdiction. Rockwell Int'l Corp. v. United
States, 549 U.S. 457, 474 n.6 (2007) (“[W]hen a
defendant removes a case to federal court based on the
presence of a federal claim, an amendment eliminating the
original basis for federal jurisdiction generally does not
defeat jurisdiction.” (citing Carnegie-Mellon Univ.
v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 346, 357 (1988); St. Paul
Mercury Indemnity Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 293
(1938))); see also B.A., 2010 WL 4225710, at *2
(“Accordingly, the mere fact of the filing of
Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, which no longer contains
federal claims, does not compel the Court to grant
Plaintiff's Motion to Remand or otherwise relinquish its
exercise of jurisdiction over the lawsuit.”).
Therefore, at issue is whether this Court should remand the
case, given that only state law claims remain, or retain
jurisdiction, in light of what Defendants describe as
“forum-manipulation concerns.” See
Defs.' Opp'n 3 (quoting Rockwell Int'l
Corp., 549 U.S. at 474 n.6.
determine whether to retain jurisdiction, the Court
“balance[s] . . . the values of judicial economy,
convenience, fairness, and comity, ” and these
“Cohill factors” typically “point
toward declining to exercise jurisdiction over the remaining
state-law claims” at this early stage. B.A.,
2010 WL 4225710, at *2 (citing Cohill, 484 U.S. at
350 n.7). But here, the Cohill factors do not weigh
in favor of remanding this case. In Count I, Plaintiffs
allege a state law claim that-by their own admission-is
analogous to their Fair Housing Act claim, a claim with which
this Court is very familiar, and their other state law claims
(fraudulent misrepresentation and negligence) are not novel
claims where deference and comity would weigh significantly
in favor of resolution in state court. Additionally, the
factors of judicial economy and convenience weigh against
remand because this case has been proceeding before me for
eight months and remanding this case would only prolong it.
forum manipulation, this factor weighs heavily in favor of
keeping the case in this Court.
A district court can consider whether the plaintiff has
engaged in any manipulative tactics when it decides whether
to remand a case. If the plaintiff has attempted to
manipulate the forum, the court should take this behavior
into account in determining whether the balance of factors to
be considered under the pendent jurisdiction doctrine support
a remand in the case.
Cohill, 484 U.S. at 357. Having purposely pleaded a
federal question claim (albeit in a state court lawsuit)
which established original jurisdiction in this Court,
Plaintiffs amended their complaint to plead a claim pursuant
to “[t]he State analogue to the [Fair Housing Act], MD
Code, State Government, § 20-1035[, which] provides the
basis for the same cause of action, and forms the
basis for Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint.”
Mot. to Rem. 12 (emphasis added). As this amendment pleads
the same cause of action and relies on the same facts, I must
infer that Plaintiffs amended their complaint in an attempt
to strip jurisdiction and force me to remand this case-a
clear indication of forum manipulation. Further, Plaintiffs
also removed a reference to “state and federal
protected rights” in their “unsafe and
uninhabitable premises” claim when they converted it to
a negligence claim involving similar facts. Compare
Am. Compl. ¶ 29 with Second Am. Compl.
considered the balance of factors and finding that Plaintiffs
appear to be engaging in forum manipulation, I will not
decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1367(c). This Court has jurisdiction of these
claims pursuant to § 1367(a), and this case will
proceed. As I have found Defendants' removal of this case
proper, awarding costs and fees to Plaintiffs would be
improper and therefore that request is denied. Flora v.
Everest Wealth Mgmt., Inc., No. ELH-17-1621, 2017 WL
4280744, at *7 (D. Md. Sept. 26, 2017) (declining to award
fees because “Defendants' removal of the case was
‘objectively reasonable' and wholly proper”)
(citing Martin v. Franklin Capital Corp., 546 U.S.
132, 141 (2005)).
it is hereby ORDERED that Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand,
ECF No. 21, IS DENIED. As Defendants already have answered
Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint, ECF No. 33, I will
issue a Scheduling Order and Discovery Order and will