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Credit Bureau Strategy Consulting, LLC v. Bridgeforce, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 23, 2018

CREDIT BUREAU STRATEGY CONSULTING, LLC, Plaintiff
v.
BRIDGEFORCE, LLC, et al ., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          James K. Bredar Chief Judge

         Plaintiff Credit Bureau Strategy Consulting, LLC (“Plaintiff” or “CBSC”), filed a lawsuit against Bridgeforce, Inc., in the Circuit Court for Worcester County, Maryland, on January 27, 2017. (See Compl., ECF No. 2.) Plaintiff subsequently amended its complaint naming Bridgeforce LLC, f/k/a Bridgeforce, Inc. (“Bridgeforce”), and Bridgeforce Data Quality Solutions LLC as Defendants. (First Am. Compl., ECF No. 15.) After almost a year of litigation in state court, Bridgeforce removed the case to this Court on January 9, 2018. (See Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff moved to remand on February 9, 2018 (ECF No. 104), and that motion is fully briefed and ripe (see ECF Nos. 119, 122). Bridgeforce moved for leave to file a surreply on June 15, 2018 (ECF No. 123), and that motion is fully briefed and ripe as well (see ECF Nos. 124, 127). There is no need to hold a hearing to resolve either matter. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). Bridgeforce's motion for leave to file a surreply will be denied by accompanying order. The Court does not have jurisdiction over this matter, and therefore Plaintiff's motion to remand will be granted by accompanying order.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff asserts that it is a “Maryland plaintiff.” (See Mot. Remand 10, ECF No. 104.) Plaintiff is an LLC and has not explained who its members are, but alleges that its “owner and Chief Executive Officer” is a Maryland resident. (First Am. Compl. ¶ 2.) Bridgeforce is an LLC as well, and now asserts that one of its members is a Maryland citizen. (See Opp'n Mot. Remand 3, ECF No. 119.) Therefore, both Plaintiff and Bridgeforce appear to be Maryland citizens for purposes of diversity jurisdiction. See Smith v. Westminster Mgmt., LLC, Civ. No. 17-3282, 2018 WL 572867, at *2 (D. Md. 2018).

         Plaintiff's lawsuit asserts six state law causes of action. (First Am. Compl. ¶¶ 45-80.) Bridgeforce has brought nine state law counterclaims. (See First Am. Counterclaim and First Am. Third-Party Compl., ECF No. 76.) No party to this action has brought a claim for relief under federal law, and neither Plaintiff nor Bridgeforce has directed the Court to a claim that any party has brought in this action that arises under federal law.

         On December 20, 2017, Plaintiff's counsel sent Bridgeforce's counsel a letter. (See Letter, Notice of Removal Ex. 1, ECF No. 1-1.) In this letter, Plaintiff's counsel wrote that CBSC “ha[d] discovered, in the course of litigation ongoing during this year, that Bridgeforce LLC and/or its related companies . . . have made use of CBSC's copyrighted materials in a way that is outside” a licensing agreement Plaintiff and Bridgeforce purportedly signed. (Id. at 1.) Plaintiff's counsel further wrote, “CBSC asserts that these acts constitute violations of 17 U.S.C. § 106 - 122 and 1201, et seq., ” referring to federal copyright provisions of the United States Code. (Id. at 2.) Twenty days later, Bridgeforce removed the case to this Court, asserting federal question jurisdiction. Plaintiff then moved to remand.

         II. Discussion

         a. Motion for Leave to File Surreply

          “Surreplies are highly disfavored in this District, ” and may only be filed with the Court's permission. Roach v. Navient Solutions, Inc., 165 F.Supp.3d 343, 351 (D. Md. 2015) (citing Local Rule 105.2(a)). Surreplies, however, “may be permitted when the moving party would be unable to contest matters presented to the court for the first time in the opposing party's reply.” Khoury v. Meserve, 268 F.Supp.2d 600, 605 (D. Md. 2003).

         In Plaintiff's motion to remand it made two arguments: A) “Bridgeforce Has Not Complied with the Removal Statute” (arguing that the criteria for diversity jurisdiction had been apparent in this case for over a year) and B) “A Cease and Desist Letter Does Not Create a Claim or Federal Jurisdiction.” (Mot. Remand 10-11, ECF No. 104.)

         In Bridgeforce's opposition, it explained that the criteria for diversity jurisdiction have never existed in this case and are still not present. It then argued that the December 20 letter constitutes “other paper” within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(3), that the letter alerted Bridgeforce to the presence of a federal question in this case, and thus removal within 30 days of receipt of the letter was proper. (See Opp'n Mot. Remand.) In Plaintiff's reply, it conceded there is no diversity jurisdiction, and then addressed Bridgeforce's “other paper” argument. Plaintiff, echoing almost verbatim its opening brief, wrote “There is No Federal Question Jurisdiction in this Case.” (Reply 3, ECF No. 122.)

         Bridgeforce now argues Plaintiff sneaked a “brand new argument” into its reply. Plaintiff did no such thing. Perhaps Plaintiff's initial memorandum did not give certain issues, like whether federal question jurisdiction exists in this case, the attention they may have ultimately deserved. But that is not a sufficient reason to permit Bridgeforce a surreply. See Mirowski Family Ventures, LLC v. Boston Sci. Corp., Civ. No. WDQ-13-2627, 2014 WL 2574615, at *3 (D. Md. June 5, 2014) (“[The defendant] has offered no authority to support its argument that [the plaintiff's] failure in its opening brief to give [an issue] the attention that [the defendant] believes it deserves justifies the filing of a surreply.”). Plaintiff presented no new arguments in its reply, and Bridgeforce's motion for leave to file a surreply will be denied.

         b. Motion to Remand

         An action brought in a state court may be removed only if the district court would have had original jurisdiction over it. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). “The burden of establishing federal jurisdiction is placed upon the party seeking removal.” Mulcahey v. Columbia Organic Chems. Co.,29 F.3d 148, 151 (4th Cir. 1994). “If at any time before final judgment it appears that the ...


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