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Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. v. Morgan

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

December 5, 2017

FEDERAL HOME LOAN MORTGAGE CORPORATION, a/k/a Freddie Mac, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT MORGAN, Defendant.

          FINAL REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JUSTIN S. ANAND, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation filed this action on or about August 22, 2017, in the Magistrate Court of Douglas County, and Defendant Robert Morgan removed the action to this Court on November 29, 2017. See Notice of Removal [1]. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447, if at any time before final judgment it appears that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over an action that has been removed from a state court, this Court must remand the action. See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). The undersigned must therefore examine Defendant's Notice of Removal [1] to determine whether this Court has jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims.

         The removal of state court actions to federal court is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1441, which provides, in relevant part:

[A]ny civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending.

28 U.S.C. § 1441(a).

         When a state court action is removed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441, the Court must make an independent determination regarding the appropriateness of removal before it resolves any pending motions. See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) (“If at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded.”); see also University of South. Ala. v. American Tobacco Co., 168 F.3d 405, 410 (11th Cir. 1999) (“removal jurisdiction is no exception to a federal court's obligation to inquire into its own jurisdiction” and remand is mandatory when a court determines that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction, notwithstanding the presence of other motions pending before the court).

         The Supreme Court has held that federal courts may not “assume” the presence of subject matter jurisdiction and rule directly on the merits of an action without first finding that jurisdiction exists:

Without jurisdiction the court cannot proceed at all in any cause. Jurisdiction is power to declare the law, and when it ceases to exist, the only function remaining to the court is that of announcing the fact and dismissing the cause.

Steele Co. v. Citizens for a Better Environment, 523 U.S. 83, 94 (1998) (quoting Ex parte McCardle, 7 Wall. 506, 514 (1868)). Thus, any ruling made by a federal court that lacks subject matter jurisdiction is a nullity and either party, even the party that invoked the jurisdiction of the court, can attack jurisdiction at any time even after judgment is rendered. American Fire & Cas. Co. v. Finn, 341 U.S. 6, 17-18 (1951) (“To permit a federal trial court to enter a judgment in a case removed without right from a state court where the federal court could not have original jurisdiction of the suit even in the posture it had at the time of judgment, would by the act of the parties work a wrongful extension of federal jurisdiction and give district courts power the Congress has denied them.”).

         As the party removing the action to federal court, the Defendant bears the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction over the action, and the burden is a “heavy” one. See Kirkland v. Midland Mortg. Co., 243 F.3d 1277, 1281 n.5 (11th Cir. 2001); Diaz v. Sheppard, 85 F.3d 1502, 1505 (11th Cir. 1996); Lampkin v. Media General, Inc., 302 F.Supp.2d 1293, 1294 (M.D.Ala. 2004). Because removal is a purely statutory right, courts must strictly construe removal statutes in favor of state court jurisdiction. Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 108-9 (1941); Rembrant, Inc. v. Phillips Const. Co., Inc., 500 F.Supp. 766, 768 (S.D.Ga. 1980).

         Thus, in determining whether removal is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1441, federal courts must resolve all doubts against removal:

Because removal jurisdiction raises significant federalism concerns, federal courts are directed to construe removal statutes strictly. See Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 108-09, 61 S.Ct. 868, 872, 85 L.Ed. 1214 (1941). Indeed, all doubts about jurisdiction should be resolved in favor of remand to state court. See Burns v. Windsor Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 1092, 1095 (11th Cir. 1994) (citing Boyer v. Snap-on Tools Corp., 913 F.2d 108 (3d Cir. 1990); Coker v. Amoco Oil Co., 709 F.2d 1433 (11th Cir. 1983)). A presumption in favor of remand is necessary because if a federal court reaches the merits of a pending motion in a removed case where subject matter jurisdiction may be lacking it deprives a state court of its right under the Constitution to resolve controversies in its own courts.

University of South. Ala., 168 F.3d at 411.

         In this case, the Defendant removed this action solely on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. See Notice of Removal [1]. The undersigned must therefore examine Defendant's Notice of Removal, along with the attached documents from the state court action, to determine whether this Court has jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims. The undersigned has reviewed the Defendant's Notice of Removal and the documents attached thereto, and finds that Defendant has failed to establish that this Court has subject ...


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