United States District Court, D. Maryland
Xinis United States District Judge
Sept. 12, 2017, pro se Plaintiff Jose Chicas
(“Chicas”) asserted statutory and common law
claims in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County against
Defendants Orlans PC (“Orlans”), Wells Fargo
Bank, NA, (“Wells Fargo”) and James E. Clark
(“Clark”), in connection with the pending
foreclosure on his home. Chicas alleges violations of the Fair
Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), and
common law claims of fraud and civil conspiracy. Chicas
requests declaratory and injunctive relief preventing
Defendants' foreclosure on the home, which is presently
pending in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland,
an unspecified amount in damages. See ECF No. 2 at
¶¶ 1, 10.
November 7, 2017, Defendant Wells Fargo removed the case to
this Court, citing federal question and supplemental
jurisdiction. ECF No. 1. On November 14, 2017, Defendant
Wells Fargo moved to dismiss all claims pursuant to Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure 8, 9, and 12(b), and Local Rule 105.
See ECF No. 11. On November 22, 2017, Chicas moved
to remand the case to the Circuit Court for Montgomery
County, arguing that the Court did not have jurisdiction
because the amount in controversy was less than $75, 000, and
the federal claims were not “necessary or
dependent” to the resolution of the Complaint.
See ECF No. 13. For the foregoing reasons,
Chicas' Motion to Remand, ECF No. 13, is DENIED, and
Wells Fargo's Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 11, is GRANTED.
14, 2006, Chicas' wife, Rosmery Chicas, purchased a home
located at 12021 Galena Road, Rockville, Maryland, with a
mortgage loan of $352, 000.00 (“the Loan”) from
Resource Bank. ECF No.11-3. A Deed of Trust secured the
obligations on the Loan and included Plaintiff Chicas as a
mortgagor of the property. ECF No.11-4. On April 10, 2012,
Resource Bank assigned its interest in the Deed of Trust to
Wells Fargo. ECF No.11-5.
2008, Chicas and his wife fell behind on their loan payments.
ECF No.11-6. On January 12, 2016, Wells Fargo initiated
foreclosure proceedings in the Circuit Court for Montgomery
County, which remain ongoing. ECF No.11-7. Chicas states that
Defendants sent him a letter dated January 14, 2016 to
collect payments on the mortgage. See ECF No. 2 at
¶ 26. Since the filing of the foreclosure, Chicas has
filed for bankruptcy three times, with each ending in
dismissal. ECF Nos. 11-8 to 11-11. While the most recent
bankruptcy proceeding was pending, Wells Fargo filed a Motion
For Relief From Automatic Stay and Co-Debtor Stay And For
Prospective Relief From the Automatic Stay Pursuant to 11
U.S.C. § 1301(C)(3). See ECF No.11-4. The
bankruptcy court granted the motion, allowing Wells Fargo to
foreclose on the Property under the Deed of Trust. ECF
No.11-12. Chicas did not contest Wells Fargo's Motion.
now asserts common law claims of fraud and civil conspiracy
and six claims arising under the Fair Debt Collection
Practices Act (“FDCPA”). He requests damages and
equitable relief, to which Defendant Wells Fargo asserts an
array of challenges. Chicas has also requested that the Court
remand this action back to the Circuit Court for Montgomery
County. Each motion is addressed below.
Motion to Remand
urges remand of this action, arguing that his claims do not
require “resolution of a substantial question of
federal law” and that this Court lacks jurisdiction
because the amount in controversy is less than $75, 000.
See ECF No. 13. However, federal district courts
exercise original jurisdiction in “all civil actions
arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the
United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331. “Most
directly, a case arises under federal law when federal law
creates the cause of action asserted.” Gunn v.
Minton, 568 U.S. 251, 257 (2013). Here, the Complaint
asserts nine causes of action, a number of which arise under
the FDCPA, a federal statute.
Chicas' remaining claims brought under Maryland common
law, 28 U.S.C. § 1367 grants district courts discretion
to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims
that are sufficiently “related to claims in the action
within [the court's] original jurisdiction” so as
to “form part of the same case or controversy under
Article III of the United States Constitution.”
See 28 U.S.C. §1367(a)-(c). Claims form part of
the same case or controversy if they “derive from a
common nucleus of operative fact, ” such that a
plaintiff would “ordinarily be expected to try them all
in one judicial proceeding, ” regardless of their
federal or state character. Issac v. North Carolina Dept.
of Transp., 192 Fed.Appx. 197, 199 (4th Cir. 2006)
(quoting United Mine Workers of Am. v. Gibbs, 383
U.S. 715, 725 (1966)).
claims asserted in the Complaint derive from the same nucleus
of operative fact: Defendants' allegedly illegal conduct
in foreclosing on Chicas' home. See, e.g. ECF
No. 2 at ¶ 1. Further, Chicas does not assert that any
of his claims raise novel or complex issues of law best
adjudicated by a state court, or that the state law claims
“substantially predominate” over the federal
claims “in terms of proof, of the scope of the issues
raised, or of the comprehensiveness of the remedy
sought.” See ECF No. 13; Willis v. Bank of
America Corp., 2014 WL 3829520, at *43 (D. Md. Aug. 1,
2014) (quoting United Mine Workers of Am. v. Gibbs,
383 U.S. 715, 726) (1966)). Thus, supplemental jurisdiction
over the state law claims is proper, and the Court will deny
Chicas' motion for remand.
Motion to Dismiss
Fargo argues that the pending state foreclosure action
compels this Court to abstain from hearing this case under
Younger abstention doctrine. Younger
abstention is a “mandatory rule of equitable restraint,
requiring the dismissal of a federal action, ”
Nivens v. Gilchrist, 444 F.3d 237, 247 (4th Cir.
2006) (citation omitted). It applies in narrow circumstances,
arising only when there is: “(1) an ongoing state
judicial proceeding, instituted prior to any substantial
progress in the federal proceeding; that (2) implicates
important, substantial, or vital state interests; and (3)
provides an adequate opportunity for the plaintiff to raise
the lawsuit.” Laurel Sand & Gravel, Inc. v.
Wilson, 519 F.3d 156, 165 (4th Cir. 2008). Circumstances
fitting within the Younger doctrine . . . are
exceptional, ” and as a general rule “[t]he
pendency of an action in [a] state court is no bar to