United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga
CHRISTOPHER H. STEGER MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
R. MCDONOUGH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is a motion to remand filed by Plaintiff Forest
Cove Apartments (“Forest Cove”). (Doc. 3.) For the
following reasons, Forest Cove's motion is
about August 16, 2017, Forest Cove filed a detainer action in
General Sessions Court of Hamilton County, Tennessee, seeking
possession of the property at issue, unpaid rent, damages,
attorney's fees, and court costs. (Doc. 2, at 4.) On
September 6, 2017, Belle removed the action to this Court,
invoking subject-matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1331. (Doc. 2.) On September 21, 2017, Forest Cove
filed a motion to remand this case back to state court. (Doc.
3.) Belle has not filed a response, and the time for filing a
response has now lapsed.
STANDARD OF LAW
a defendant may remove to federal court any civil action over
which the federal courts have original jurisdiction. 28
U.S.C. § 1441(a). The party seeking removal carries the
burden of establishing that the district court has original
jurisdiction over the matter by a preponderance of the
evidence. Long v. Bando Mfg. of Am., Inc., 201 F.3d
754, 757 (6th Cir. 2000). “[A]ll doubts as to the
propriety of removal are resolved in favor of remand.”
Smith v. Nationwide Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 505
F.3d 401, 405 (6th Cir. 2007) (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted). Because Belle is proceeding pro
se, however, her filings will be “be held to less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers” and, therefore, will be liberally construed.
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted).
removed this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, which
provides for federal-question jurisdiction. (Doc. 2.) She
asserts that Forest Cove's detainer proceeding was
“brought under the Federal Fair Debt Collection
Practices Act” (“FDCPA”) and that Forest
Cove “continues to mislead the court by pleading state
law claims that actually arise under federal law.”
(Id. at 1.) Belle also asserts that Forest
Cove's detainer proceeding was brought in violation of
the FDCPA. (Id.)
28 U.S.C. § 1331, district courts have original
jurisdiction over “all civil actions arising under the
Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.”
“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, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392
(1987). Belle, however, appears to be invoking the
“artful-pleading” exception to the well-pleaded
complaint rule. Under the artful-pleading doctrine,
plaintiffs “may not avoid removal jurisdiction by
artfully casting their essentially federal claims as
state-law claims.” Mikulski v. Centerior Energy
Corp., 501 F.3d 555, 560 (6th Cir. 2007) (citations and
internal quotation marks omitted).
Forest Cove does not assert any federal claims in its
detainer proceeding. The detainer proceeding was brought
pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated §§ 29-18-101
to 134, which specifically grants jurisdiction to General
Sessions courts in § 29-18-107. Nothing in the detainer
proceeding suggests it is disguising a claim under the FDCPA
as a detainer action. With respect to Belle's assertion
that Forest Cove's detainer proceeding is in violation of
the FDCPA, a defense based on federal law is not sufficient
to confer federal jurisdiction. Klepsky v. United Parcel
Serv., Inc., 489 F.3d 264, 269 (6th Cir. 2007).
Accordingly, any defense Belle is attempting to raise under
the FDCPA is insufficient to confer federal-question
jurisdiction upon this Court.
though Belle's notice of removal did not address it,
diversity jurisdiction exists under 28 U.S.C. § 1332
when the action is between citizens of different states and
the matter in controversy exceeds $75, 000. Belle is a
citizen of Tennessee. (Doc. 2, at 5.) Therefore, even
assuming the parties are diverse, as a home-state defendant,
Belle may not remove this action. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1441(b)(2) (“A civil action otherwise removable
solely on the basis of the jurisdiction under section 1332(a)
. . . 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.”) Accordingly,
the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over this action
and will REMAND the case to Hamilton County
General Sessions Court.
foregoing reasons, Forest Cove's motion to remand (Doc.
3) is GRANTED. An ...