Ross v. Stooksbury (TV1)
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION as set forth in following order.Signed by District Judge Thomas A Varlan on 10/5/12. (ABF)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
ROBERT T. STOOKSBURY, JR.,
This civil action is before the Court on Plaintiff’s Motion for Remand to Blount
County, Tennessee Chancery Court [Doc. 3]. Defendant filed a response in opposition
[Docs. 5, 6], and plaintiff replied [Doc. 7]. The Court has carefully considered the record
and relevant law, and for the reasons explained herein, the Court will grant plaintiff’s
motion and remand this case to the Chancery Court for Blount County, Tennessee.
Plaintiff, Patricia Ross, commenced this action in the Chancery Court for Blount
County, Tennessee, on or about May 18, 2012 [Doc. 1-1]. Ms. Ross seeks, pursuant to
Tenn. Code Ann. § 45-2-703(a), to establish rights to the funds contained in certain bank
More specifically, Ms. Ross alleges that she had multiple bank accounts of which
she was the sole owner and that, “[a]t some point after each of [the] accounts was
established, in order to assist [Ms. Ross] with her finances, Rebecca Rose Ross Jordan,
and her sister, Susan R. Ross[,] were added as additional owners of the accounts, though
there is dispute as to whether they were to be added solely as signatories to the accounts
as opposed to owners” [Id. ¶ 9]. Ms. Ross also alleges that neither Susan R. Ross nor
Rebecca Rose Ross Jordan contributed to the accounts or withdrew money from the
accounts [Id. ¶ 10].
According to Ms. Ross, she is the personal representative of the Estate of Dale
Ross, and was sued in that capacity in Robert T. Stooksbury, Jr. v. Michael Ross, et al.,
No. 3:09-CV-498, in this Court [Id. ¶ 4]. A judgment was obtained in that lawsuit
against various defendants, including Ms. Ross in her capacity as personal representative
of the Estate of Dale Ross, and Ms. Ross’s daughter, Rebecca Rose Ross Jordan [Id. ¶ 6].
Ms. Ross claims that Mr. Stooksbury instituted proceedings this Court “to attach the
funds belonging solely and exclusively to [Ms. Ross] on the basis that Rebecca Ross
Jordan’s name appears on” the accounts [Id. ¶ 11]. She “seeks relief from [the state
court] under T.C.A. § 45-2-703(a) and would have [the state court] enter an [o]rder
declaring that the funds in the . . . accounts are the sole and exclusive property of [Ms.
Ross] and, thus, are not subject to garnishment or attachment by [Mr. Stooksbury]” [Id. ¶
On or about June 15, 2012, Mr. Stooksbury removed this case to this Court,
asserting that this Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441 [Doc. 1]. Pursuant
to the notice of removal, Mr. Stooksbury informs the Court that he sought to garnish
certain bank accounts that listed both Ms. Ross and Rebecca Rose Ross Jordan as owners
after judgment was entered in Stooksbury v. Ross, but that Ms. Ross filed a motion to
quash, alleging that she had merely added her daughter’s name to the account and that the
funds were solely hers [Id.]. Magistrate Judge H. Bruce Guyton entered an order denying
the motion to quash, finding Tenn. Code Ann. § 45-2-703(a) allowed for garnishment
because Rebecca Rose Ross Jordan was listed as an account owner [Id.]. Mr. Stooksbury
later filed a motion for release of those funds, which was unopposed and granted [Id.].
Mr. Stooksbury asserts that this case “attempts to raise the exact same claim[;]” that is,
that “none of [Ms. Ross’s] individual assets are subject to garnishment or attachment by
[Mr. Stooksbury]” [Id.]. Put another way, Mr. Stooksbury claims this action “is nothing
more than an attempt to re-adjudicate a final [o]rder of . . . this Court” [Id.].
Ms. Ross opposes the removal and requests that the Court remand this case to the
state court [Doc. 3]. She claims that this case was brought solely pursuant to state law—
Tenn. Code Ann. § 45-2-703(a)—and not pursuant to any federal law [Id.].
“[b]ecause . . . no federal question is being implicated” and because there is no allegation
of diversity jurisdiction, she asserts this action should be remanded to the state court [Id.].
Mr. Stooksbury removed this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441 [Doc. 1].
Section 1441 provides for the removal of “any civil action brought in a State court of
which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction . . . .” 28 U.S.C. §
1441(a). In other words, “[o]nly state-court actions that originally could have been filed
in federal court may be removed to federal court by [a] defendant.” City of Warren v.
City of Detroit, 495 F.3d 282, 286 (6th Cir. 2007) (footnote omitted) (quoting
Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987)).1 Thus, “[u]nder the plain terms
of § 1441(a), in order to properly remove [this action] pursuant to that provision, [Mr.
Stooksbury] must demonstrate that original subject-matter jurisdiction lies in the federal
courts.” Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc. v. Henson, 537 U.S. 28, 33 (2002).
Mr. Stooksbury fails to meet this burden. See Long v. Bando Mfg. of Am., Inc.,
201 F.3d 754, 757 (6th Cir. 2000) (“The burden of showing that the district court has
original jurisdiction is on the party seeking removal.”). In his notice of removal, Mr.
Stooksbury asserts that “[t]he claim at issue arises from [d]efendant Stooksbury’s
execution of the underlying federal Judgment,” and that this Court has “ancillary,
supplemental and/or enforcement jurisdiction” [Id.].2 He cites Epperson v. Entertainment
Express, Inc., 242 F.3d 100 (2d Cir. 2001), Thomas, Head, & Greisen Employees Trust v.
Buster, 95 F.3d 1449 (9th Cir. 1996), Dewey v. West Fairmont Gas Coal Co., 123 U.S.
329 (1887), and Empire Lighting Fixture Co., Inc. v. Practical Lighting Fixture Co., Inc.,
20 F.2d 295 (2d Cir. 1927), all of which generally discuss the concept that federal courts
possess ancillary jurisdiction over post-judgment fraudulent conveyance actions because
federal courts may assert authority over non-federal claims when needed to give effect to
Because they implicate federalism concerns, statutes conferring removal jurisdiction are
to be strictly construed, Brierly v. Alusuisse Flexible Packaging, Inc., 184 F.3d 527, 534 (6th Cir.
1999), and all doubts regarding the removal petition must be resolved against removal, Queen ex
rel. Province of Ont. v. City of Detroit, 874 F.2d 332, 339 (6th Cir. 1989).
Mr. Stooksbury does not assert that one of the grounds set forth in 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 or
1332 provides a basis for jurisdiction, and the Court finds that this case neither presents a federal
question nor involves diverse parties.
their judgments [See Docs. 1, 6]. None of these cases, however, involve removal and are
therefore distinguishable from this case.
Nonetheless, Mr. Stooksbury cannot remove this action on the basis of ancillary or
The Supreme Court has announced that “[a]ncillary
jurisdiction . . . cannot provide the original jurisdiction that [a defendant] must show in
order to qualify for removal under § 1441.” Syngenta, 537 U.S. at 34; see also City of
Warren, 495 F.3d at 286 n.2 (“Ancillary jurisdiction is insufficient to support removal.”).
This is because “a court must have jurisdiction over a case or controversy before it may
assert jurisdiction over ancillary claims.” Id. (quoting Peacock v. Thomas, 516 U.S. 349,
Likewise, the Sixth Circuit has instructed that “[t]he supplemental-
jurisdiction statute[, 28 U.S.C. § 1367,] is not a source of original subject-matter
jurisdiction, and a removal petition therefore may not base subject-matter jurisdiction on
The Supreme Court explained:
“[A]ncillary jurisdiction typically involves claims by a defending party
haled into court against his will, or by another person whose rights might
be irretrievably lost unless he could assert them in an ongoing action in a
federal court.” Ancillary jurisdiction may extend to claims having a
factual and logical dependence on “the primary lawsuit,” but that primary
lawsuit must contain an independent basis for federal jurisdiction. The
court must have jurisdiction over a case or controversy before it may
assert jurisdiction over ancillary claims. In a subsequent lawsuit involving
claims with no independent basis for jurisdiction, a federal court lacks the
threshold jurisdictional power that exists when ancillary claims are
asserted in the same proceeding as the claims conferring federal
jurisdiction. Consequently, claims alleged to be factually interdependent
with and, hence, ancillary to claims brought in an earlier federal lawsuit
will not support federal jurisdiction over a subsequent lawsuit.
Peacock, 516 U.S. at 355 (citations omitted).
the supplemental-jurisdiction statute.” Ahearn v. Charter Twp. of Bloomfield, 100 F.3d
451, 456 (6th Cir. 1996) (citations omitted).
Because Mr. Stooksbury has failed to demonstrate that this Court has original
jurisdiction, Plaintiff’s Motion for Remand to Blount County, Tennessee Chancery Court
[Doc. 3] will be GRANTED, and this case will be REMANDED to the Chancery Court
for Blount County, Tennessee.4
s/ Thomas A. Varlan
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Mr. Ross filed a motion to dismiss after removing this action [Doc. 5]. In light of the
Court’s ruling, that motion [Doc. 5] will be DENIED as moot.
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