PENNYMAC HOLDINGS, LLC v. SORIANO et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION filed. Signed by Judge Michael A. Shipp on 9/23/2015. (kas, )
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
PENNYMAC HOLDINGS, LLC,
Civil Action No. 15-841 (MAS) (TJB)
STEVEN A. SORIANO, et al.,
SHIPP, District Judge
This matter comes before the Court on the motion of Plaintiff Pennymac Holdings, LLC
("Plaintiff' or "Pennymac") to remand this action to state court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).
(ECF No. 3 .) Defendants Steven A. Soriano and Barbara Soriano (collectively, "Defendants") filed
opposition (EFC No. 5), and Plaintiff replied (ECF No. 6). The Court, having considered the
parties' arguments, decides the matter without oral argument pursuant to Local Civil Rule 78.1.
For the reasons stated below, the Court grants Plaintiffs motion to remand.
Plaintiff originally filed a foreclosure Complaint in New Jersey Superior Court. (Notice of
Removal, Ex. A. ("Compl."), ECF No. 1.) Defendants filed a Notice of Removal in the United
States District Court for the District of New Jersey based on federal question jurisdiction. (ECF
No. 1.) Defendants assert that their answer and counterclaims raise federal questions, thus
providing the Court with jurisdiction over this matter. (Notice of Removal ,-r,-r 9-14.) Plaintiff
argues that the Superior Court ofNew Jersey has original jurisdiction because "no federal question
exists on the face of Plaintiffs properly pleaded complaint" and Defendants' answer and defenses
would not confer federal jurisdiction. (Pl.'s Moving Br. 1-2, ECF No. 3-2.)
Matters removed to federal court should be remanded "[i]f at any time before final
judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction." 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).
The party asserting federal jurisdiction has the burden of demonstrating that the matter is properly
before the federal court. Frederico v. Home Depot, 507 F.3d 188, 193 (3d Cir. 2007). "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 plaintiffs properly plead complaint." Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386,
392 (1987) (citing Gully v. First Nat'/ Bank, 299 U.S. 109, 112-13 (1936)). This leaves plaintiff
"the master of the claim; he or she may avoid federal jurisdiction by exclusive reliance on state
law." Caterpillar, Inc., 482 U.S. at 392. Federal defenses are not grounds for removal; this is true
"even if the defense is anticipated in the plaintiffs complaint, and even if both parties concede
that the federal defense is the only question truly at issue." Id. at 393.
Here, Defendants' removal to federal court was improper. With limited exceptions, "a
counterclaim-which appears as part of the defendant's answer, not as part of the plaintiffs
complaint-cannot serve as the basis for [federal] jurisdiction." Holmes Grp., Inc. v. Vornado Air
Circulation Sys., Inc., 535 U.S. 826, 831 (2002). Defendants fail to cite relevant legal authority for
their assertion that counterclaims under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, the Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act, and the Truth in Lending Act can confer federal question jurisdiction
when the complaint does not implicate a federal question. The Court recently addressed a similar
issue in Bank of New York Mellon Corp. v. Fischer, where the defendant removed the action to
federal court claiming federal questionjurisdiction based on his counterclaims. No. 15-1465, 2015
WL 4569077, at *1 (D.N.J. July 28, 2015). The Bank of New York Mellon Corp. court held that
removal was improper because "[a]nticipated counterclaims do not confer federal question
jurisdiction" and"[n]o federal question appear[ ed] on the face of [p]laintiff s mortgage foreclosure
complaint." 2015 WL 4569077, at *2. Similar to the complaint in Bank of New York Mellon
Corp., no federal question appears on the face of Pennymac' s Complaint. Since Defendants did
not meet their burden of demonstrating that the case is properly before the federal court,
Pennymac' s motion to remand is granted.
For the reasons set forth above, the Court grants Plaintiffs motion to remand. An order
reflecting this decision accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.
s/ Michael A. Shipp
MICHAEL A. SHIPP
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated: September 23, 2015
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