OCWEN LOAN SERVICING, LLC. v. GUARNIERI et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER Granting 4 Motion to Remand to the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Cape May County. Signed by Judge Renee Marie Bumb on 3/8/17. (js)
[Docket No. 4]
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
OCWEN LOAN SERVICING, LLC,
Civil No. 17-484 (RMB/JS)
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
RONALD EDWARD GUARNIERI,
THIS MATTER comes before the Court upon its own motion, as
well as the Motion to Remand to State Court by Plaintiff Ocwen
Loan Servicing, LLC (the “Plaintiff”) [Docket No. 4].
December 15, 2016, Plaintiff filed the instant foreclosure
action in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division,
Cape May County [Docket No. 1-3].
Thereafter, on January 24,
2017, pro se Defendant Ronald Edward Guarnieri (the “Defendant”)
removed the action to federal court [Docket No. 1].
Subsequently, Plaintiff timely moved to remand the action to
state court on February 17, 2017 [Docket No. 4].
The Court has
received no timely opposition to said motion by Defendant.
This Court has an independent obligation to satisfy itself
of its subject matter jurisdiction, whether or not any party
Hertz Corp. v. Friend, 559 U.S. 77, 94 (2010).
It is well-settled that when a case is removed to federal court,
the removing defendant bears the burden of establishing the
court’s subject matter jurisdiction.
See Samuel-Bassett v. KIA
Motors Am., Inc., 357 F.3d 392, 396 (3d Cir. 2004); Martin v.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 709 F. Supp. 2d 345, 347 (D.N.J. 2010)
(citing Brill v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 427 F.3d 446, 447
(7th Cir. 2005)).
Defendant does not specifically identify the
basis for removal in the Notice of Removal.
the Court must construe Defendant’s pro se submissions
liberally, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), and
because the Court has an independent obligation to ensure that
it has subject matter jurisdiction over this action, the Court
considers whether removal was proper under federal question or
See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), “any civil action brought
in a State court of which the district courts of the United
States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the
defendant or the defendants, to the district court of the United
States for the district and division embracing the place where
such action is pending.”
A district court, however, must remand
an action to state court “[i]f at any time before final judgment
it appears that the district court lacks subject matter
28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).
Defendant, as the party
asserting federal jurisdiction in this removal action, “bears
the burden of showing, at all stages of the litigation, that the
case is properly before the federal court.”
Depot, 507 F.3d 188, 193 (3d Cir. 2007).
Federico v. Home
“Removal statutes are
to be strictly construed, with all doubts to be resolved in
favor of remand.”
Brown v. Jevic, 575 F.3d 322, 326 (3d Cir.
2009) (citing Batoff v. State Farm Ins. Co., 977 F.2d 848, 851
(3d Cir. 1992)).
The United States Supreme Court has made clear that “[o]nly
state-court actions that originally could have been filed in
federal court may be removed to federal court by the defendant.
Absent diversity of citizenship, federal–question jurisdiction
Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392
The Court first addresses diversity jurisdiction.
district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil
actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value
of $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between
. . . citizens of different states.”
28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1).
“The traditional explanation of the purpose of diversity
jurisdiction is the fear that state courts would be prejudiced
against out-of-state litigants.”
Swiger v. Allegheny Energy,
Inc., 540 F.3d 179, 189 (3d Cir. 2008).
Accordingly, under the
“forum defendant” rule, “[a] civil action otherwise removable
solely on the basis of the jurisdiction under section 1332(a) of
this title [diversity jurisdiction] may not be removed if any of
the parties in interest properly joined and served as defendants
is a citizen of the State in which such action is brought.”
28 U.S.C. § 1441(b)(2).
This rule “recognizes that the
rationale for diversity jurisdiction no longer exists when one
of the defendants is a citizen of the forum state since the
likelihood of local bias is reduced, if not eliminated.”
v. McEntee, 2016 WL 6997013, at *1 (D.N.J. Nov. 29, 2016)
(quoting Hokanson v. Kerr Corp., 2014 WL 936804, at *2 (D.N.J.
Mar. 10, 2014)).
Here, Defendant is a citizen of New Jersey and this action
was filed in New Jersey state court.
Accordingly, pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1441(b)(2), this action is not removable on the
basis of diversity jurisdiction as Defendant “is a citizen of
the State in which [this] action [was] brought.”
§ 1441(b)(2); see also Hudson City Sav. Bank, FSB v. Barrow,
2017 WL 701381, at *2 (D.N.J. Feb. 22, 2017) (collecting cases
applying forum defendant rule in mortgage foreclosure actions).
FEDERAL QUESTION JURISDICTION
Having found that removal was improper on the basis of
diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b)(2), the Court
next turns to whether federal question jurisdiction exists.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, “[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.
“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.”
Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 392
(citing Gully v. First Nat. Bank, 299 U.S. 109, 112-13 (1936)).
This “rule makes the plaintiff the master of the claim; he or
she may avoid federal jurisdiction by exclusive reliance on
Id.; accord Briones v. Bon Secours Health Sys.,
69 F. App’x 530, 534 (3d Cir. 2003); Trans Penn Wax Corp. v.
McCandless, 50 F.3d 217, 228 (3d Cir. 1995).
Furthermore, “it is now settled law that a case may not be
removed to federal court on the basis of a federal defense, 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.”
(emphasis in original).
Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 393
Similarly, a defendant’s “counterclaim
— which appears as part of the defendant’s answer, not as part
of the plaintiff’s complaint — cannot serve as the basis of
‘arising under’ jurisdiction.”
Holmes Grp., Inc. v. Vornado Air
Circulation Sys., Inc., 535 U.S. 826, 831 (2002).
Plaintiff’s Complaint does not present any federal
questions or claims on its face.
Rather, this is purely a
foreclosure action seeking relief against Defendant pursuant to
New Jersey contract and foreclosure law.
Accordingly, as this
Court does not have federal question jurisdiction over
Plaintiff’s claims, removal was improper and remand is required.
Deutsche Bank Nat’l Trust Co. v. Harding, 655 F. App’x 113, 115
(3d Cir. 2016) (“Inasmuch as the complaint in this case is a
straightforward state-law foreclosure complaint, it does not
provide a basis for federal question jurisdiction and thus this
action could not have originally been brought in federal court.
Consequently, it was not removable under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a).”).
Additionally, to the extent that Defendant attempts to invoke
federal jurisdiction via a defense or counterclaim, the Court
reiterates that, “as is well established, a federal question
cannot be predicated on a defense or a counterclaim.”
As there is no proper basis for removal of this action to
federal court, the Court finds that remand to the Superior Court
of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Cape May County is necessary.
ACCORDINGLY, IT IS HEREBY on this 8th day of March 2017,
ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Motion to Remand to State Court
[Docket No. 4] is GRANTED; and it is further
ORDERED that the above-captioned matter shall be REMANDED
to the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Cape May
County; and it is further
ORDERED that the Clerk of the Court shall CLOSE the file in
the above-captioned matter.
s/Renée Marie Bumb
RENÉE MARIE BUMB
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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