United States District Court, D. Connecticut
ORDER REMANDING ACTION TO STATE COURT
JEFFREY ALKER MEYER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
state court eviction proceedings, defendant Arnitrice Griffin
has filed a notice of removal seeking to litigate this action
in federal court. Griffin alleges that federal jurisdiction
exists because her eviction violates federal law and also
because there is diversity jurisdiction. I do not agree.
Because there is no proper basis for federal jurisdiction, I
will remand the action forthwith to Connecticut state court.
August 2, 2019, plaintiffs Kelly and Christopher Morton filed
a summary process eviction claim pursuant to Connecticut law
against defendant Griffin in state court. See Morton v.
Griffin, DBD-CV19-6032774-S, #100.31 (Conn. Super.
2019). Griffin filed an answer in state court that same
month, asserting eight "special defenses" pursuant
to the U.S. Constitution and various federal (as well as
state) laws, which relate to her participation in the federal
housing assistance program (commonly known as Section 8) and
which involve allegations that plaintiffs "are in
violation of both federal and state housing [laws]...."
Id., #104.00 at 12, 12-43.
September 3, 2019, Griffin filed a notice of removal to this
Court. Doc. #1; see also Doc. #7 (amended notice of
removal). According to Griffin, the Court has
federal jurisdiction because her "civil action is
founded on numerous claims and rights arising under the laws
of the United States...." Doc. #7 at 2; see also
e.g., Doc. #16 at 1-2 (alleging that her "Civil
Rights are protected under Numerous United States
Constitution Laws and Federal Law, which the Federal District
Court has ORIGINAL jurisdiction over the Numerous Federal
Questions, which was [sic] pleaded in the
Defendant's Amended Notice of Removal dated September 9,
2019...."). Reciting largely the same-and indeed,
more-"special defenses" that she included in her
state court filings, see Morton v. Griffin,
DBD-CV19-6032774-S, #100.31 at 12-43, #118, Griffin also
claims that this case falls within this Court's
jurisdiction because it involves a "Civil
Conspiracy" between the "Danbury Housing
Authority" and the "State of Connecticut
Contractor, " both of which are involved with federal
housing programs. Doc. #7 at 30-83, 2-3; Doc. #16-1 at 1-3.
As exhibits, Griffin attaches several of her state court
filings. See, e.g., Doc. #7-2; 7-3.
September 6, 1 entered an order for Griffin to show cause why
this case should not be remanded to state court for lack of
federal jurisdiction. Doc. #6. Griffin has since filed an
amended notice of removal, Doc. #7, as well as a simultaneous
motion for extension of time and response purporting to show
cause, Docs. #15, 16. Both were filed four days after this
Court's deadline. Ibid. Although I will
ultimately deny the motion as moot, in light of Griffin's
pro se status and the lack of any resulting
prejudice to the Mortons, I will grant Griffin the benefit of
considering her most recent filings. Docs. #16, 17.
by law allows for a defendant who has been sued in a 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.
evident to me that this case does not qualify for federal
question jurisdiction because it does not arise under federal
law. "A suit arises under the Constitution and laws of
the United States only when the plaintiffs statement of his
own cause of action shows that it is based upon those laws or
that Constitution." Beneficial Nat. Bank v.
Anderson, 539 U.S. 1, 6 (2003) (internal quotations
omitted). The Supreme Court has "long held that
'[t]he 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
plaintiffs properly pleaded complaint.'" Rivet
v. Regions Bank of La., 522 U.S. 470, 475 (1998)
(citations omitted). Under the well-pleaded complaint rule,
the fact that a defendant may interpose federal law as a
defense to a state law cause of action does not give
rise to federal-question jurisdiction. See, e.g.,
Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392-93
Mortons' complaint against Griffin in state court is thus
the focal point for my inquiry. Based on a review of the
publicly available state court docket and filings, the
Mortons' complaint against Griffin alleges claims arising
solely under state law. See Morton v. Griffin,
DBD-CV19-6032774-S, #100.31 (alleging breach of lease,
non-payment of rent, and possession by one who has no right
to occupy the premises). Notwithstanding Griffin's
allegations that the apartment rental involves the federal
Section 8 program, as well as her conclusory assertions that
plaintiffs have violated various federal laws, it appears
that there is no basis for federal removal jurisdiction
because the underlying state court complaint does not present
any federal claims on its face. Ibid.; see also Bank of
New York v. Stacey, 2017 WL 384025, at *2 (D. Conn.
2017) (remanding action to state court after determining that
the state court summary process eviction action arose solely
under state law); Bank of Am., N.A. v. Derisme, 2019
WL 156936, at *1 (D. Conn. 2019) (remanding state court
foreclosure action that was improperly removed to federal
court in the absence of any basis for federal court
fact that Griffin wishes to assert federal law defenses to a
state court eviction action does not allow her to remove her
case from state court to federal court. "[A] case may
not be removed to federal court on the basis of a federal
defense, ... even if the defense is anticipated in the
plaintiffs complaint, and even if both parties admit that the
defense is the only question truly at issue in the
case." Franchise Tax Bd. of Cal. v. Constr. laborers
Vacation Trust for S. Cal., 463 U.S. 1, 14 (1983);
see also Stacey, 2017 WL 384025, at *2; Bank of
Am. Nat. Ass'n v. Derisme, 743 F.Supp.2d 93, 102 (D.
Griffin's removal be supported by diversity jurisdiction.
The parties do not appear to be citizens of different states.
In her filings in this Court, Griffin makes no allegation to
suggest that she is a citizen of a different state than
plaintiffs. See, e.g., Doc. #16-1 at 2
(Griffin's latest filing, in which she discusses the
amount-in-controversy requirement to invoke diversity
jurisdiction but makes no mention of citizenship). The
Mortons' state law complaint alleges nothing that would
refute this conclusion. See Morton v. Griffin,
DBD-CV19-6032774-S, #100.31. Furthermore, although Griffin
asserts that $111, 825 is at issue, see Doc. #16-1
at 2, that figure appears nowhere in the Mortons' state
court complaint. See Morton v. Griffin,
DBD-CV19-6032774-S, #100.31 at 3 (alleging failure to pay
security deposit in the amount of $3, 550.00); id.
at 3, Exhibit A (Count 2 for non-payment of rent for June
2019 in the amount of $1, 775.00). In the absence of complete
diversity of citizenship, and without more than $75, 000 in
controversy, Griffin's removal cannot fall within this
Court's diversity jurisdiction.
remand the case for lack of federal jurisdiction.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) ("If at any time
before final judgment it appears that the district court
lacks subject ...