Wells Fargo Bankv.Hollingsworth

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS DALLAS DIVISIONApr 28, 2015
No. 3:15-CV-1298-N-BH (N.D. Tex. Apr. 28, 2015)

No. 3:15-CV-1298-N-BH

04-28-2015

WELLS FARGO BANK, NATIONAL ASSOICATION, AS TRUSTEE FOR ABFC 2006-OPT2 TRUST, ASSET BACKED CERTIFICATES, SERIES 2006-OPT2, Plaintiff, v. JEFF HOLLINGSWORTH AND SHERRY HOLLINGSWORTH AND/OR ALL OCCUPANTS, Defendants.


FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATION

Pursuant to Special Order 3-251, this pro se in forma pauperis case has been automatically referred for pretrial management. Based on the relevant filings and applicable law, this Court lacks jurisdiction and the case sua sponte should be REMANDED to the state court.

I. BACKGROUND

On April 13, 2015, Wells Fargo Bank, National Association, as Trustee for ABFC 2006-OPT2 Trust, Asset Back Certificates, Series 2006-OPT2 (Plaintiff), filed a petition for forcible detainer against Jeff and Sherry Hollingsworth and all occupants of 710 Lakeway Drive, Keller, Texas, 76248 (the Property) in the Justice Court of Tarrant County, Texas, Precinct 3. (See doc. 3 at 7-9.) On April 27, 2015, James Wilson (Defendant), who contends that he is an occupant of the property, filed a notice of removal of the action to the federal district court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, on grounds of diversity jurisdiction. (Id. at 3.)

Citations refer to the cm/ecf system page number at the top of each page rather than the page numbers at the bottom of each filing.

II. JURISDICTION

The notice of removal asserts that federal jurisdiction exists based on diversity of citizenship. (doc. 3 at 3.)

"Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They possess only that power authorized by Constitution and statute, which is not to be expanded by judicial decree." Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994) (citations omitted). They "must presume that a suit lies outside this limited jurisdiction, and the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction rests on the party seeking the federal forum." Howery v. Allstate Ins. Co., 243 F.3d 912, 916 (5th Cir. 2001). Courts have "a continuing obligation to examine the basis for their jurisdiction." See MCG, Inc. v. Great W. Energy Corp., 896 F.2d 170, 173 (5th Cir. 1990). They may sua sponte raise the jurisdictional issue at any time. Id.; EEOC v. Agro Distrib., LLC, 555 F.3d 462, 467 (5th Cir. 2009) (even without an objection to subject matter jurisdiction, a court must consider sua sponte whether jurisdiction is proper). Accordingly, the Court must sua sponte determine whether it has jurisdiction over this removed case.

Any civil action brought in state court may be removed to federal court if the district court has original jurisdiction over that action. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). A district court's original jurisdiction is of two types: federal question jurisdiction and diversity jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332. Federal question jurisdiction exists in all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. Id. § 1331. Diversity jurisdiction exists in all civil actions where the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.00 exclusive of interests and costs, and there is diversity of citizenship. Id. § 1332(a). "The removing party bears the burden of showing that federal question jurisdiction exists and that removal was proper." Manguno v. Prudential Prop. and Cas. Ins. Co., 276 F.3d 720, 723 (5th Cir.2002). "[A]ny doubt about the propriety of removal must be resolved in favor of remand." Gasch v. Hartford Acc. & Indem. Co., 491 F.3d 278, 281-82 (5th Cir.2007). A. Citizenship

A case removed under § 1332 must have complete diversity of citizenship. Lincoln Property Co. v. Roche, 546 U.S. 81, 84 (2005). "Complete diversity" means that a plaintiff may not share citizenship with any defendant. Whalen v. Carter, 954 F.2d 1087, 1094 (5th Cir.1992). A party asserting diversity jurisdiction must "distinctly and affirmatively" allege the citizenship of the parties. Getty Oil Corp. v. Ins. Co. of N. Am., 841 F.2d 1254, 1259 (5th Cir.1988) (citing McGovern v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 511 F.2d 803, 805 (5th Cir. 1991)). Because Defendants' notice of removal does not "distinctly and affirmatively" allege Plaintiff's citizenship or their own, they have not met their burden to show diversity of citizenship. B. Amount in Controversy

The amount-in-controversy threshold is a necessary element of subject-matter jurisdiction and must be met before a federal court properly exercises diversity jurisdiction. Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 514 (2006). The defendant, as the removing party, bears the burden of establishing by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. De Aguilar v. Boeing Co., 11 F.3d 55, 58 (5th Cir. 1993). The removing party may satisfy this burden by demonstrating that it is facially apparent from the petition that the claim likely exceeds $75,000, or by setting forth the facts in controversy that support a finding of the requisite amount. Allen v. R & H Oil & gas Co., 63 F.3d 1326, 1335 (5th Cir.1995).

In the context of forcible detainer actions involving foreclosed property, courts have held that the amount in controversy is not the value of the property, but rather, the value of the right of possession. See Fed. Nat. Mortg. Ass'n v. Talley, No. 3:12-CV-1967-N-BH, 2012 WL 4005910, at *2 (N.D. Tex. Aug. 16, 2012), report and recommendation adopted, 2012 WL 4005760 (N.D. Tex. Sept. 11, 2012) (collecting cases). By contrast, when the loss of title to property is at issue, the property itself is the object of the litigation and its value is the proper measure of the amount in controversy. Burr v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., No. 4:11-CV-03519, 2012 WL 1016121, at *3 (S.D. Tex. Mar. 23, 2012).

In this case, the only issue apparently raised by the state court forcible detainer action is the right to possession. (See doc. 3 at 7-9.) Defendant has not shown that Plaintiff seeks money damages, dispute the title to property, or seek any debt related to the property in the forcible detainer action, so he cannot show that the amount in controversy requirement for diversity jurisdiction has been met. Consequently, he has not shown a basis for the exercise of subject-matter jurisdiction over this case.

III. RECOMMENDATION

This case should be sua sponte REMANDED to the Justice Court of Tarrant County, Texas, Precinct 3, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

SO RECOMMENDED this 28th day of April, 2015.

/s/_________


IRMA CARRILLO RAMIREZ


UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE


INSTRUCTIONS FOR SERVICE AND

NOTICE OF RIGHT TO APPEAL/OBJECT

A copy of these findings, conclusions and recommendation shall be served on all parties in the manner provided by law. Any party who objects to any part of these findings, conclusions and recommendation must file specific written objections within 14 days after being served with a copy. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b). In order to be specific, an objection must identify the specific finding or recommendation to which objection is made, state the basis for the objection, and specify the place in the magistrate judge's findings, conclusions and recommendation where the disputed determination is found. An objection that merely incorporates by reference or refers to the briefing before the magistrate judge is not specific. Failure to file specific written objections will bar the aggrieved party from appealing the factual findings and legal conclusions of the magistrate judge that are accepted or adopted by the district court, except upon grounds of plain error. See Douglass v. United Servs. Automobile Ass'n, 79 F.3d 1415, 1417 (5th Cir. 1996).

/s/_________


IRMA CARRILLO RAMIREZ


UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE