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Chicas v. Orlans PC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 1, 2018

JOSE CHICAS, Plaintiff,
v.
ORLANS PC, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Paula Xinis United States District Judge

         On 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.[1] 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, [2] and an unspecified amount in damages. See ECF No. 2 at ¶¶ 1, 10.

         On 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.

         I. Background

         On July 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.

         In 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.

         Chicas 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.

         II. Motion to Remand

         Chicas 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.

         As to 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)).

         All 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.

         III. Motion to Dismiss

         a. Younger Abstention

         Wells 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 ...


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