United States District Court, D. Connecticut
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS AND REMANDING TO
Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge
state court eviction proceedings, defendants removed this
case from state housing court to this Court. Defendants
allege that federal jurisdiction exists because their
eviction violates federal law and also because there is
diversity jurisdiction. I do not agree and therefore I will
grant plaintiff's motion to dismiss and remand the case
to the Connecticut Superior Court.
Bank of New York foreclosed on a mortgage for property in
Norwalk, Connecticut that was occupied by defendants Moses
Stephenson and Stacy Lindsey. After defendants declined to
leave the premises, the Bank then filed a “summary
process complaint” in the Housing Session of
Connecticut Superior Court on October 24, 2016, to seek a
judgment for immediate possession of the premises. Doc. #1 at
10-11; see also Conn. Gen. Stat. §§
47a-23a, 47a-27 (summary process procedures). Defendants were
served with a copy of the Bank's state court complaint on
October 24, 2016, and they filed appearances in the state
court four days later on October 28, 2016. Doc. #1 at 13.
than six weeks later, on December 14, 2016, defendant
Stephenson filed a notice of removal (later joined by
Lindsey) to remove the case from state court to this Court.
The notice of removal cites several grounds for federal
jurisdiction. First, it contends that the case involves a
federal statute known as the Protecting Tenants at
Foreclosure Act of 2009, which purportedly required plaintiff
to give defendants at least 90 days notice before filing its
summary process court complaint. Doc. #1 at 4-5. Second,
defendants contend that there are federal constitutional
protections at issue under the Fifth Amendment (on account of
plaintiff's allegedly false and fraudulent conduct in
connection with the foreclosure) and under the Seventh
Amendment (on account of defendants' being denied a right
to jury trial in state court). Id. at 5-6. Third,
defendants contend that there is federal diversity
jurisdiction, because “the Plaintiff does not reside in
the same State as the defendant and the amount in dispute is
over $75, 000.” Id. at 5. Plaintiff has now
filed a motion to dismiss, contending in part that the Court
does not have jurisdiction over this case.
by law allows for a defendant who has been sued in state
court to “remove” the case to federal court if a
federal court would otherwise have jurisdiction over the
complaint. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441. Two of the
most common grounds for a federal court's jurisdiction
are “federal question” jurisdiction pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1331 and “federal diversity”
jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
of the grounds asserted for federal jurisdiction, a defendant
who seeks to remove a complaint has a limited time to do so.
Ordinarily, a defendant must file a notice of removal to
federal court within 30 days of its receipt of the initial
summons or complaint. See 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(1).
Alternatively, if a defendant cannot ascertain from the face
of the state court complaint whether a federal court would
have jurisdiction over the case, then a case may be properly
removed at a later time within 30 days of the receipt by
defendant of any “amended pleading, motion, order, or
other paper from which it may first be ascertained that the
case is one which is or has become removable.” 28
U.S.C. § 1446(b)(3); see also Cutrone v. Mortg.
Elec. Registration Sys., Inc., 749 F.3d 137, 142 (2d
Cir. 2014) (explaining time limits for removal).
it is evident to me that there is no basis for federal
jurisdiction over this case. First, as to defendants'
claim that jurisdiction may rest on a federal statute (the
Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009), this argument
ignores the fact that plaintiff did not file this action
under any federal statute but filed an action solely under
state property law. The fact that defendants may interpose
the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009 as a
defense to the state law cause of action does not give this
Court federal-question jurisdiction. See, e.g.,
Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392-93
(1987) (noting that “only state-court actions that
originally could have been filed in federal court may be
removed to federal court by the defendant, ” that
“the presence or absence of federal-question
jurisdiction is governed by the ‘well-pleaded complaint
rule, ' which provides that federal jurisdiction exists
only when a federal question is presented on the face of the
plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint, ” and that
“it is now settled law that a case may not be
removed to federal court on the basis of a federal defense,
including the defense of pre-emption, even if the defense is
anticipated in the plaintiff's complaint, and even if
both parties concede that the federal defense is the only
question truly at issue”); Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.
v. Weber, 2015 WL 5175496, at *1 (E.D. Cal. 2015)
(tenant's federal-law defense under the Protecting
Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009 was not valid basis for
removal of state law detainer action); Fed. Nat. Mortg.
Ass'n v. Detmer, 2012 WL 1435018, at *2-*3 (E.D.
Cal. 2012) (same).
same reason, the fact that defendants may assert a federal
constitutional defense to plaintiff's state law property
claim does not create federal-question jurisdiction to allow
for removal of the case to this Court. See, e.g.,
Beneficial Nat. Bank v. Anderson, 539 U.S. 1, 6
(2003) (noting that “a suit arises under the
Constitution and laws of the United States only when the
plaintiff's statement of his own cause of action shows
that it is based upon those laws or that
to the extent that defendants claim that there is federal
diversity jurisdiction, the amount in controversy does not
exceed $75, 000 as required for federal diversity
jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Because the
underlying property has already been foreclosed upon and
legal ownership transferred to plaintiff, the state court
action involves solely the right to imminent physical
possession of the premises; this controversy by itself does
not exceed the monetary threshold. “A claim seeking
only ejectment in a dispossessory action cannot be reduced to
a monetary sum for the purposes of determining the amount in
controversy.” Citimortgage, Inc. v. Dhinoja,
705 F.Supp.2d 1378, 1382 (N.D.Ga. 2010); Mousel v.
Knutson Mortg. Corp., 823 F.Supp. 658, 662 (D. Minn.
I am incorrect about the amount in controversy, plaintiff is
a bank from New York, and defendants are Connecticut
residents. Defendants have failed to show that the removal
was filed within 30 days of when it would have been readily
ascertainable that federal diversity jurisdiction existed.
the Court lacks jurisdiction, plaintiff's motion to
dismiss (Doc. #9) is GRANTED, and this case is remanded to
the Housing Session of the ...