Bank of New York v. Lindsey Stacey et al
ORDER: For the reasons stated in the attached ruling, plaintiff's motion to dismiss (Doc. # 9 ) is GRANTED, and this case is remanded to the Housing Session of the Connecticut Superior Court in Norwalk, Connecticut. Signed by Judge Jeffrey A. Meyer on 1/26/2017. (Townsend, D.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
BANK OF NEW YORK,
No. 3:16-cv-02051 (JAM)
LEE LINDSEY STACEY, et al.
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS AND REMANDING TO STATE COURT
Facing 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.
Plaintiff 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.
More 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.
Congress 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.
Regardless 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).
Here, 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).
For the 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
Lastly, 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. 1993) (same).
Even if 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
Because the Court lacks jurisdiction, plaintiff’s motion to dismiss (Doc. #9) is
GRANTED, and this case is remanded to the Housing Session of the Connecticut Superior Court
in Norwalk, Connecticut.
It is so ordered.
Dated at New Haven this 25th day of January 2017.
/s/ Jeffrey Alker Meyer
Jeffrey Alker Meyer
United States District Judge
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