United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case is before the court on Defendant Henry Johnson,
III's (“Defendant”) Notice of Removal and
Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. Plaintiff Brookside
Properties, Inc. (“Plaintiff”), agent for Marq
Vestavia Apartments, commenced this action against Defendant
in the District Court of Jefferson County, Alabama, by filing
a form complaint for eviction or unlawful detainer. (Doc.
1-1). Defendant removed this action on July 23, 2019. (Doc.
1). He simultaneously filed a motion to proceed in forma
pauperis. (Doc. 2). Defendant's motion to proceed in
forma pauperis is moot, and for the reasons discussed below,
Defendant's claims are due to be dismissed.
brought legal proceedings against Defendant on June 24, 2019
in the District Court of Jefferson County, Alabama. (Doc #
1-1 at 1). Plaintiff claimed that Defendant “willfully
failed to pay rent [and] late fees in accordance with the
lease agreement” after timely notice, and that he
failed to “return possession of the leased premises
after the lease agreement was properly terminated.”
(Doc. # 1-1 at 1). Plaintiff seeks $5, 405.12, plus
attorney's fees and reasonable costs. (Doc. # 1-1 at 1).
removed this case on July 23, 2019 and was assigned to
Magistrate Judge Staci G. Cornelius. (Doc. # 1). Also on July
23, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion to proceed in forma
pauperis. (Doc. # 2). In his Notice of Removal, Defendant
claims that Plaintiff's state court complaint was filed
in violation of the “Uniform Commercial Code . . . 15
U.S.C. [§] 1692, ” and that pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
[§] 1441(b), the state court cannot “proceed with
any eviction against the petitioner until it is remanded or
so ordered from the United States District Court.”
(Doc. # 1 at 1).
August 8, 2019, Magistrate Judge Cornelius issued an order to
show cause why the matter should not be remanded for lack of
subject-matter jurisdiction. (Doc. # 4). Defendant failed to
respond within the required ten (10) days, and on August 28,
2019, this case was reassigned the to the undersigned. (Doc.
court has an obligation to inquire into its own jurisdiction.
Univ. S. Ala. V. Am. Tobacco Co., 168 F.3d 405, 410
(11th Cir. 1999) (“[R]emoval jurisdiction is no
exception to . . . [this] obligation”). Under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1441(a), a defendant may remove an action brought in
state court to a United States district court that has
original jurisdiction. A district court has original
jurisdiction over claims brought under 28 U.S.C. § 1331
(federal question) or 28 U.S.C. § 1332 (diversity). With
federal question jurisdiction, “[a]s a general rule, a
case arises under federal law only if it is federal law that
creates the cause of action.” Conn. St. Dental
Ass'n v. Anthem Health Plans, Inc., 591 F.3d 1337,
1343 (11th Cir. 2009). The well-pleaded complaint rule
governs whether a federal question does in fact exist on a
plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint. Caterpillar,
Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). Relatedly,
“[j]urisdiction may not be sustained on a theory that
the plaintiff has not advanced.” Merrell Dow
Pharmaceuticals Inc. v. Thompson, 479 U.S. 804, 810 n.6
(1086). And, while “[a] court should afford pro se
litigants wide leeway in their pleadings, ” the
pleadings must still provide “more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).
respect to diversity jurisdiction, there must be complete
diversity among the parties and the amount in controversy
must exceed $75, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a);
Underwriters at Llyod's, London v.
Osting-Schwinn, 613 F.3d 1079, 1085 (11th Cir. 2010). A
“party commencing suit in federal court [under §
1332] . . . has the burden of establishing, by a
preponderance of the evidence, facts supporting the existence
of federal jurisdiction.” Underwriters, 613
F.3d at 1085. Specifically, the party must provide sufficient
evidence--such as domicile of each party, the amount of
damages sought--to support a finding of both complete
diversity and satisfaction of the amount in controversy.
Travaglio v. Am. Express Co., 735 F.3d 1266, 1269
(11th Cir. 2013).
contends that jurisdiction is proper in this court. However,
Defendant has utterly failed to specifically plead why this
court may exercise subject-matter jurisdiction over this
case. In his Notice of Removal, Defendant alleges that
Brookside Properties, Inc. is registered and headquartered in
Tennessee and that Marq Vestavia Apartments is registered in
Alabama. (Doc. # 4 at 2). This seemingly is Defendant's
basis for diversity jurisdiction. However, in the very next
sentence, Defendant contends that Plaintiff's lawsuit
against him violates” the Uniform Commercial Code of 15
U.S.C. [§] 1692” and that Plaintiffs “are
attempting to collect a debt in violation of the Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act of 15 U.S.C. [§] 1692.”
(Doc. # 4 at 2). To the extent this is an attempt to plead
federal question jurisdiction, for the reasons discussed
below, the court finds that it does not have subject-matter
jurisdiction over Defendant's claim, and that
Defendant's case is due to be remanded.
with regard to diversity jurisdiction, although Defendant
half-heartedly states where Plaintiffs are domiciled, he
wholly fails to specify where he is domiciled.
Defendant's home address is located on the Notice of
Removal, and Plaintiff's state-court complaint, though
redacted, contains Defendant's home address. But, he has
not alleged or shown in which state is a citizen. This defect
precludes the court from being able to determine that there
is complete diversity among the parties.
critically, and even if the parties are completely diverse,
Defendant has not come close to alleging that the amount in
controversy is satisfied. Plaintiff's claims are
approximately $5, 045.12. (Doc. # 4 at 5). He also seeks
attorney's fees and costs, but he is not represented by
counsel. Thus, as he cannot claim any amount for fees, it is
clear that the amount in controversy is well below the
jurisdictional threshold of $75, 000. Nationwide Prop.
and Casualty Ins. Co. v. Dubose, 180 F.Supp.3d 1068,
1071 (S.D. Ala. 2016) (“[T]he party seeking to invoke
federal jurisdiction bears the burden of proving by a
preponderance of the evidence that the claim on which it is
basing jurisdiction meets the jurisdictional
minimum.” (emphasis added)). Therefore, the court
finds that Defendant fails to sufficiently plead a basis for
with respect to federal question jurisdiction, Defendant has
failed to satisfy the well-pleaded complaint rule.
Notwithstanding Defendant's reliance on 15 U.S.C. §
1692, it is well-settled that “a defendant may not
remove a case to federal court unless the plaintiff
‘s complaint establishes that the case ‘arises
under' federal law.” Franchise Tax Bd.
of State of Cal. V. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust for
Southern Cal., 463 U.S. 1, 11 (1983). There is no
federal claim asserted in Plaintiffs state-court complaint.
Rather, it consists wholly of state-law claims seeking
state-law remedies. To be sure, ...