Waverly Place at Madison Somerset Apartment Management v. Guerrier
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins on 12/1/2017. (JLC)
2017 Dec-01 AM 09:48
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
WAVERLY PLACE AT MADISON )
) Case No.: 5:17-CV-1989-UJH-VEH
Defendant Reba Guerrier (“Ms. Guerrier”), who is representing herself, filed
a Notice of Removal (doc. 1) (the “Notice”) on November 28, 2017, and an Amended
Notice of Removal (doc. 5) (the “Amended Notice”) on November 29, 2017. Ms.
Guerrier’s efforts to remove relate to DV-2012-901347, an action filed by Plaintiff
Waverly Place at Madison Somerset Apartment Management (“Waverly Place”) in
the District Court of Madison County that has apparently proceeded to judgment in
state court. (See Doc. 5 at 4 (attaching Order entered on October 26, 2017, denying
Ms. Guerrier’s Motion To Set Aside Judgment)).1 For the reasons discussed below,
this case is due to be remanded for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION
Unlike state courts, federal tribunals are bodies of limited jurisdiction, meaning
that the grounds for the Court’s jurisdiction over the claims asserted by the plaintiff
must be present at the time the complaint is filed and must be obvious on the face of
the complaint. FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a). The law is clear that Ms. Guerrier, the party
seeking to invoke federal jurisdiction in this case, has the burden to demonstrate that
the Court has subject matter jurisdiction. See McNutt v. Gen. Motors Acceptance
Corp. of Ind., 298 U.S. 178, 189, 56 S. Ct. 780, 785, 80 L. Ed. 1135 (1936) (“They
are conditions which must be met by the party who seeks the exercise of jurisdiction
in his favor …. [and a]s he is seeking relief subject to this supervision, it follows that
he must carry throughout the litigation the burden of showing that he is properly in
Further, “a federal court has an independent obligation to review its authority
to hear a case before it proceeds to the merits.” Mirage Resorts, Inc. v. Quiet Nacelle
Corp., 206 F.3d 1398, 1400-01 (11th Cir. 2000). Consequently, the Court cannot
ignore jurisdictional concerns even if the parties have none. Relatedly, the Court is
All page references to Doc. 5 correspond with the Court’s CM/ECF numbering system.
equipped with the power to order a sua sponte remand when it finds the absence of
subject matter jurisdiction.
Whenever a defendant removes a case to federal court, the primary
jurisdictional statutes that are invoked are 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question) and 28
U.S.C. § 1332 (diversity). Here, Ms. Guerrier has vaguely mentioned both as bases
for this Court’s exercise of subject matter jurisdiction. (Doc. 5 at 2). However,
because both the Notice and Amended Notice are so deficient, the Court cannot verify
the existence of subject matter jurisdiction under either avenue.
Ms. Guerrier Has Not Shown Diversity Jurisdiction.
Turning to § 1332 first, “[d]iversity jurisdiction exists where the suit is between
citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds the statutorily
prescribed amount, in this case $75,000.” Williams v. Best Buy Co., 269 F.3d 1316,
1319 (11th Cir. 2001) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)). Therefore, removal jurisdiction
based upon diversity requires: (1) complete diversity of citizenship between the
plaintiff(s) and the defendant(s); and (2) satisfaction of the amount-in-controversy
Here, Ms. Guerrier has not provided any information about the citizenship of
the parties, much less established that this lawsuit is between citizens of different
states. Further, because the underlying complaint is not attached to the Notice or the
Amended Notice, the Court cannot evaluate whether the amount-in-controversy
component is satisfied. Therefore, Ms. Guerrier has not established the presence of
diversity jurisdiction to support her removal.
Ms. Guerrier Has Not Shown Federal Question Jurisdiction.
Section 1331 provides that “[t]he district courts shall have original jurisdiction
of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United
States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Under § 1331, federal courts have jurisdiction to hear
“only those cases in which a well-pleaded complaint establishes either that federal
law creates the cause of action or that the plaintiff’s right to relief necessarily depends
on resolution of a substantial question of federal law.” Franchise Tax Bd. v. Constr.
Laborers Vacation Tr., 463 U.S. 1, 27-28, 103 S. Ct. 2841, 2856, 77 L. Ed. 2d 420
(1983). Thus, to sustain federal question jurisdiction in this case, Ms. Guerrier must
demonstrate either: (1) the existence of a federal law that potentially creates a cause
of action for Waverly Place based on the allegations of its complaint, or (2) that
disposition of this case, as alleged by Waverly Place, depends on the resolution of a
substantial federal question.
Ms. Guerrier has met neither one of these standards. Instead, federal question
jurisdiction is simply stated, but not explained at all. (Doc. 5 at 2). Further, federal
question jurisdiction cannot be created by anything outside of the complaint which
critical document (as noted above) Ms. Guerrier has omitted from her removal papers.
See Merrell Dow Pharm. Inc. v. Thompson, 478 U.S. 804, 808, 106 S. Ct. 3229, 3232,
92 L. Ed. 2d 650 (1986) (“Since a defendant may remove a case only if the claim
could have been brought in federal court, 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b), moreover, the
question for removal jurisdiction must also be determined by reference to the
Therefore, Ms. Guerrier has not carried her burden of demonstrating the
existence of subject matter jurisdiction, and this case cannot remain in federal court.
Consequently, by separate Order, this lawsuit is due to be remanded to the District
Court of Madison County, Alabama, where it was originally filed.
DONE this the 1st day of December, 2017.
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS
United States District Judge
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