United States District Court, D. Maryland
Timothy J. Sullivan United States Magistrate Judge.
before the Court is self-represented Plaintiff Rochell
Talley's (“Talley”) “Motion to Move or
Return Civil Action No. CAE17-38277 Back to the Circuit Court
for Prince George's County, Maryland”
(“Motion”) (ECF No. 21), which will be construed
as a motion to remand pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1447. Having considered the submissions of the
parties (ECF Nos. 21, 30, 31 & 32), I find that a hearing
is unnecessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. For the reasons
set forth below, the Motion will be denied.
filed this lawsuit in the Circuit Court for Prince
George's County, Maryland, on November 28, 2017. (ECF No.
2.) Although the Complaint is difficult to understand, Talley
asserts that his sole claim is for quiet title, and that he
does not seek monetary damages. (See ECF Nos. 21
& 32.) On January 5, 2018, Defendant Ocwen Loan
Servicing, LLC (“Ocwen”) removed the case to this
Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441 on the basis of
federal question and diversity jurisdiction. (ECF No. 1.) On
January 26, 2018, Talley filed his Motion. (ECF No. 21.)
Talley argues that this case must be remanded to the Circuit
Court for Prince George's County because the real
property that is the subject of Talley's quiet title
claim is located in Prince George's County, and because
the amount in controversy does not exceed $75, 000. (ECF Nos.
21 & 32.)
Propriety of Removal
defendant may remove a case from state court to federal court
in instances where the federal court is able to exercise
original jurisdiction over the matter. 28 U.S.C. § 1441.
Federal courts have original jurisdiction over primarily two
types of cases: (1) those involving federal questions under
28 U.S.C. § 1331, and (2) those involving citizens of
different states where the amount in controversy exceeds $75,
000.00, exclusive of interests and costs, pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1332(a). The party “removing a case to
federal court bears the burden of establishing the
court's subject-matter jurisdiction over the case.”
Bartels by & through Bartels v. Saber Healthcare
Grp., LLC, 880 F.3d 668, 680 (4th Cir. 2018). Because
“removal jurisdiction raises significant federalism
concerns, ” it is strictly construed. Mulcahey v.
Columbia Organic Chemicals Co., 29 F.3d 148, 151 (4th
Cir. 1994). If federal jurisdiction is doubtful, remand is
required. Id. This standard reflects the reluctance
of federal courts “to interfere with matters properly
before a state court.” Quintana v. J.P. Morgan
Chase Bank, N.A., No. DKC-14-1586, 2015 WL 1321436, at
*1 (D. Md. Mar. 23, 2015).
Ocwen removed this case to federal court, it bears the burden
of establishing the Court's subject matter
jurisdiction. Ocwen argues that this Court has subject
matter jurisdiction because Talley's claim arises under
the laws of the United States, see 28 U.S.C. §
1331, and because there is complete diversity of the parties
and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, see
28 U.S.C. § 1332.
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.
In deciding whether a plaintiff's claim arises under
federal law, courts “ordinarily . . . look no further
than the plaintiff's [properly pleaded] complaint in
determining whether a lawsuit raises issues of federal law
capable of creating federal-question jurisdiction under 28
U.S.C. § 1331.” Pinney v. Nokia, Inc.,
402 F.3d 430, 442 (4th Cir. 2005). If federal law creates the
cause of action, removal is unquestionably proper.
Mulcahey, 29 F.3d at 151. Otherwise, “there is
only federal jurisdiction when Plaintiff's claim raises
‘a federal issue, actually disputed and substantial,
which a federal forum may entertain without disturbing any
congressionally approved balance of federal and state
judicial responsibilities.'” Papadopoulos v.
Eagle Bank, No. GJH-17-2177, 2017 WL 6550672, at *2 (D.
Md. Dec. 21, 2017) (quoting Grable & Sons Metal
Products, Inc. v. Darue, 545 U.S. 308, 314 (2005)).
Federal courts may exercise federal question jurisdiction
over state law claims that “turn on substantial
questions of federal law” and require the
“experience, solicitude, and hope of uniformity that a
federal forum offers, ” but this represents a
“special and small category” of federal question
jurisdiction. Papadopoulos, 2017 WL 6550672, at *2
(internal citations omitted). The Supreme Court articulated a
four-prong test in Grable for determining whether
this standard is met. The federal issue must be: “(1)
necessarily raised, (2) actually disputed, (3) substantial,
and (4) capable of resolution in federal court without
disrupting the federal-state balance approved by
Congress.” Gunn v. Minton, 568 U.S. 251, 258
(2013) (quoting Grable, 545 U.S. at 313-14).
sole claim is for quiet title pursuant to Md. Code, Real
Prop. § 14-108. Ocwen argues that because Talley alleges
that it violated the Truth in Lending Act
(“TILA”), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1601-1667f, and
related federal regulations, this case arises under federal
law. Under the first prong of the Grable test, a
federal issue is necessarily raised “only when
every legal theory supporting the claim requires the
resolution of a federal issue.” Dixon v. Coburg
Dairy, Inc., 369 F.3d 811, 816 (4th Cir. 2004).
“[I]f the plaintiff can support his claim with even one
theory that does not call for an interpretation of federal
law, his claim does not ‘arise under' federal law
for purposes of § 1331.” Id. Under the
third prong of the Grable test, “[w]hether a
federal issue is sufficiently substantial turns on the degree
to which federal law must be in the forefront of the case and
not collateral, peripheral or remote.” Packett v.
University of Maryland Med. Ctr., No. RDB-17-1630, 2017
WL 5903759, at *5 (D. Md. Nov. 30, 2017) (internal quotation
marks omitted). Determining whether a federal issue is
sufficiently substantial requires sensitivity to
“whether the existence of federal judicial power is
both appropriate and pragmatic.” Id. (quoting
Ormet Corp. v. Ohio Power Co., 98 F.3d 799, 807 (4th
Cir. 1996)). The court “must determine whether the
dispute is one that Congress intended federal courts to
resolve, taking into account the historical reasons for
establishing federal courts.” Ormet, 98 F.3d
Maryland, a quiet title action enables a plaintiff possessing
real property to challenge the validity of a defendant's
claim “to hold any lien encumbrance” on that same
property, provided that there is not already a pending
lawsuit to enforce the lien. Mickerson v. Am. Brokers
Conduit, No. TDC-17-1106, 2018 WL 1083640, at *4 (D. Md.
Feb. 28, 2018) (citing Md. Code, Real Prop. §
14-108(a)). To prevail in a quiet title action, a plaintiff
must make two showings. First, the “plaintiff must show
that the defendant with a competing claim has an interest
that is ‘actually defective, invalid, or
ineffective.'” Deibler v. Quicken Loans,
Inc., No. TDC-15-2286, 2016 WL 393308, at *3 (D. Md.
Feb. 1, 2016) (quoting Kasdon v. G. W Zierden
Landscaping, Inc., 541 F.Supp. 991, 995 (D. Md. 1982)).
Second, the plaintiff must show “a valid claim of
entitlement to the property at issue, ” which requires
the plaintiff to establish “possession of the property
and legal title by clear proof.” Id. (internal
quotation marks omitted).
that Talley's claim does not turn on substantial
questions of federal law for two reasons. First, although
Talley's Complaint refers to the TILA and related federal
regulations, it is not clear that every legal theory
supporting his claim requires a resolution of federal law.
Second, the federal issues that do arise from the allegations
in Talley's Complaint are not sufficiently substantial.
The resolution of Talley's quiet title claim will not
turn on an interpretation of federal law. Talley's
numerous references to the TILA and related federal
regulations are “collateral, peripheral, [and]
remote” to what must be decided to resolve his claim.
See McKenna v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 693 F.3d 207,
211 (1st Cir. 2012) (finding no federal question jurisdiction
despite complaint's “passing reference to the
federal TILA” when the claims were all styled as
state-law claims); Low v. Vantagesouth Bank, No.
13-3396-BHH, 2014 WL 8239419, at *6 (D.S.C. July 16, 2014),
report and recommendation adopted, 2015 WL 1275396
(D.S.C. Mar. 18, 2015) (finding that a dispute regarding a
violation of TILA disclosure requirements did not involve a
substantial federal question); Whittington v. U.S. Bank
Nat. Ass'n, No. 12-03167-MGL, 2013 WL 2285943, at
*10 (D.S.C. May 23, 2013) (finding no federal question
jurisdiction where complaint made only passing reference to
the TILA). Accordingly, I find that removal was not proper on
the basis of federal question jurisdiction.
courts have jurisdiction over civil actions “where the
matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000,
exclusive of interest and costs, and is between citizens of
different states.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). For
diversity jurisdiction to exist there must be complete
diversity, meaning that “no party shares common
citizenship with any party on the other side.”
Mayes v. Rapoport, 198 F.3d 457, 461 (4th Cir.
1999). Diverse parties also “must be real and
substantial parties to the controversy. Thus, a federal court
must disregard nominal or formal parties and rest
jurisdiction only upon the citizenship of real parties to the
controversy.” Navarro Sav. Ass'n v. Lee,
446 U.S. 458, 460 (1980). A “nominal party” is a
party with “no immediately apparent stake in the
litigation either prior or subsequent to the act of