United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
J. GOSSEN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Ledbetter filed a notice of removal which purports to remove
Civil Case No. 2018CV2910103027 from the Lancaster County
Magistrate's Court. This matter is before the court
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule
73.02(B)(2) (D.S.C.). Having reviewed the pleadings in
accordance with applicable law, the court concludes that this
case should be remanded sua sponte to the Lancaster County
Magistrate's Court for lack of subject matter
Huang filed this eviction action in Lancaster County
Magistrate's Court for Ledbetter's failure to pay
rent. The magistrate issued a rule to vacate the rented
property or show cause on December 17, 2018. Ledbetter filed
a notice of removal in this court on January 7, 2019,
alleging Huang is attempting to collect debt in violation of
the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act of 1978, 15 U.S.C.
§§ 1692 et seq.
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, see Kokkonen
v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377
(1994), and a district court is charged with ensuring that
all cases before it are properly subject to such
jurisdiction. In re Bulldog Trucking, Inc., 147 F.3d 347, 352
(4th Cir. 1998). Generally, a case can be filed in federal
district court if there is diversity of citizenship under 28
U.S.C. § 1332, or if there is federal question
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The removal
statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1441, allows a state court
defendant to remove a case to a federal district court if the
state court action could have been originally filed there.
See Darcangelo v. Verizon Commc'ns, Inc., 292
F.3d 181, 186 (4th Cir. 2002). However, the removing
defendant has the burden of establishing subject matter
jurisdiction, Mulcahey v. Columbia Organic Chems. Co.,
Inc., 29 F.3d 148, 151 (4th Cir. 1994), and a district
court may sua sponte remand a case to state court if federal
jurisdiction is lacking. See Ellenburg v. Spartan Motors
Chassis, Inc., 519 F.3d 192, 196 (4th Cir. 2008).
United States Supreme Court has commanded that, when
considering jurisdiction over a removed case, federal courts
must “scrupulously confine their own jurisdiction to
the precise limits which the statute has defined.”
Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S.
100, 109 (1941) (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted). In addition, “[r]emoval statutes must be
strictly construed against removal, ” Scott v.
Greiner, 858 F.Supp. 607, 610 (S.D. W.Va. 1994), and a
federal court must “resolve all doubts about the
propriety of removal in favor of retained state court
jurisdiction.” Marshall v. Manville Sales
Corp., 6 F.3d 229, 232 (4th Cir. 1993); see also
Palisades Collections LLC v. Shorts, 552 F.3d 327,
333-34 (4th Cir. 2008); Mulcahey, 29 F.3d at 151 (“If
federal jurisdiction is doubtful, a remand is
necessary.”). In the case at bar, the court finds
Ledbetter fails to meet his burden of establishing
jurisdiction based on a federal question or diversity of
citizenship, and no other source of jurisdiction is apparent
from the pleadings.
well settled that a federal question must be presented on the
face of a plaintiff's complaint to satisfy federal
question jurisdiction. Harless v. CSX Hotels, Inc.,
389 F.3d 444, 450 (4th Cir. 2004) (discussing the
well-pleaded complaint rule). Further, a plaintiff may avoid
federal jurisdiction by exclusively relying on state law.
Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386 (1987).
In the present case, Ledbetter seeks to remove a state law
eviction action, but the state pleading contains no federal
question on its face. To the extent Ledbetter attempts to
raise defenses or counterclaims based on a federal law, such
defenses and claims do not establish federal question
jurisdiction. See Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc. v.
Thompson, 478 U.S. 804, 808 (1986); Cook v.
Georgetown Steel Corp., 770 F.2d 1272, 1275 (4th Cir.
1985) (“A federal defense to a state cause of action is
not sufficient to invoke federal jurisdiction.”); see
also Holmes Grp., Inc. v. Vornado Air Circulation Sys.,
Inc., 535 U.S. 826, 830-32 (2002) (providing that a
plaintiff's attempt to raise a counterclaim based on a
federal statute does not invoke federal question
jurisdiction). Accordingly, federal question jurisdiction is
lacking in this case.
this case may not be removed based on diversity of
citizenship because it appears both parties are residents of
the same state. Federal court jurisdiction based on diversity
of citizenship requires complete diversity of citizenship of
the parties and an amount in controversy in excess of
seventy-five thousand dollars ($75, 000.00):
(a) The 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-
(1) citizens of different States[.]
28 U.S.C. § 1332. Complete diversity of parties in a
case means that no party on one side may be a citizen of the
same state as any party on the other side. Owen Equip.
& Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 372-74 &
nn.13-16 (1978). Here, the record before the court
indicates both parties are residents of South Carolina. (ECF
No. 1 at 1-2.) Therefore, diversity of citizenship is lacking
in this matter.
on the preceding analysis, the court finds the court lacks
subject matter jurisdiction in this matter and that the
matter should be remanded sua sponte to state court. See
Ellenburg, 519 F.3d at 196 (“In the case where remand
is based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the remand
order may be entered at any time, for jurisdiction goes to
the very power of the court to act.”).