Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Huang v. Ledbetter

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division

January 29, 2019

Yazhen Huang, Plaintiff,
Deja Ledbetter, Defendant.



         Deja 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.).[1] 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 jurisdiction.

         I. Procedural Background

         Yazhen 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.

         II. Discussion

         Federal 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).

         The 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.

         It is 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.

         Moreover, 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).[2] 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.[3]

         Based 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.”).

         III. ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.