United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
WILLIAM F. JUNG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Wells Fargo Bank,
N.A.’s Motion to Remand and for Attorney’s Fees
and Costs. (Dkt. 5). Defendant Gregory R. Wilson has filed an
objection opposing the motion. (Dkt. 9). Because the Court
lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Wells Fargo’s
state law mortgage foreclosure action, the motion to remand
is due to be granted.
of an action to federal court is governed by 28 U.S.C. §
1441, which provides in relevant part that “[e]xcept as
otherwise expressly provided by Act of Congress, any 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 the defendants, to the district
court of the United States for the district and division
embracing the place where such action is pending.”
Id. § 1441(a). “A removing defendant
bears the burden of proving proper federal jurisdiction. . .
. Any doubts about the propriety of federal jurisdiction
should be resolved in favor of remand to state court.”
Adventure Outdoors, Inc. v. Bloomberg, 552 F.3d
1290, 1294 (11th Cir. 2008) (citations omitted).
“Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction,
” possessing “only that power authorized by
Constitution and statute.” Kokkonen v. Guardian
Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). As
courts of limited jurisdiction, federal court removal is
appropriate for “all civil actions arising under the
Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.”
28 U.S.C. § 1331. Alternatively, removal may be based
upon diversity jurisdiction, where the parties are citizens
of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds
$75, 000. Id. § 1332. Federal courts are
obligated to inquire as to the propriety of their
jurisdiction at the earliest point in the proceeding.
Kirkland v. Midland Mortg. Co., 243 F.3d 1277,
1279–80 (11th Cir. 2001). “A federal district
court must remand to the state court any case that was
removed improvidently or without the necessary
jurisdiction.” Estate of Ayres ex rel. Strugnell v.
Beaver, 48 F.Supp.2d 1335, 1339 (M.D. Fla. May 19,
Fargo initiated this action by filing a single-count
complaint for mortgage foreclosure against multiple
Defendants on June 26, 2019. (Dkt. 1-1). Defendant Gregory R.
Wilson was served with a copy of the Complaint on July 2,
2019. (Dkt. 1 ¶ 2). Mr. Wilson filed a Notice of Removal
on August 1, 2019. (Dkt. 1). In his Notice of Removal, Mr.
Wilson alleges the loan at issue is an FHA (Federal Housing
Administration) loan as indicated by the Note attached to the
Complaint. Id. ¶ 3. Additionally, he
attached a letter addressed to him from Wells Fargo
identifying it as the servicer on the loan and Governmental
National Mortgage Association (“Ginnie
Mae”) as the investor. (Dkt. 1-6 at
Mr. Wilson argues that this Court has jurisdiction pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because the case involves
“issues arising under the laws of the United States and
Ginnie Mae is a government corporation.” (Dkt. 1 ¶
Fargo moves to remand because no federal question appears on
the face of its Complaint. (Dkt. 5 at 3). Wells Fargo argues
that the very small print at the right-hand footer of the
Note indicating it is an FHA form is insufficient to convert
its state law cause of action to a federal claim.
Id. at 3–4. The Court agrees.
a claim arises under federal law for purposes of 28 U.S.C.
§ 1331 is generally determined 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.’” Smith v. GTE Corp., 236
F.3d 1292, 1310 (11th Cir. 2001) (quoting Caterpillar,
Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987)). Under the
well-pleaded complaint rule, “merely having a federal
defense to a state law claim is insufficient to support
removal[.]” Lontz v. Tharp, 413 F.3d 435, 439
(4th Cir. 2005) (citing Louisville & Nashville R.R.
v. Mottley, 211 U.S. 149, 152 (1908)).
case, Wells Fargo Bank’s Complaint contains a single
mortgage foreclosure claim, arising under state law. (Dkt.
1-1). The face of the Complaint does not raise a federal
question or seek any form of relief under federal law.
Federal jurisdiction “must be based on a federal
statute or law governing the Plaintiff’s claims for
relief. No. federal statute grants federal jurisdiction over
state foreclosure claims.” U.S. Bank Nat’l
Assoc. v. Story, 2009 WL 485165, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Feb.
25, 2009). As Wells Fargo Bank’s Complaint is based
solely on state foreclosure law, it raises no federal
questions and removal pursuant to § 1331 is generally
even where a claim finds its origins in state rather than
federal law . . . [the Supreme Court has] identified a
‘special and small category’ of cases in which
arising under jurisdiction still lies.” Gunn v.
Minton, 568 U.S. 251, 258 (2013). When only state-law
claims are asserted in a complaint, a claim arises under
federal law if a federal issue is: “(1) necessarily
raised, (2) actually disputed, (3) substantial, and (4)
capable of resolution in the federal court without disrupting
the federal-state balance approved by Congress.”
Id. All four of these criteria must be satisfied to
find jurisdiction is proper. Id.
Wells Fargo’s Complaint, no federal issue has been
raised. Merely arguing that the Complaint is based on an FHA
loan is not enough to raise a federal issue.
“[M]ortgage foreclosure has traditionally been a matter
for state courts and state law, and there are state law
remedies available to protect mortgagors from unconscionable
mortgages.” Roberts v. Cameron-Brown Co., 556
F.2d 356, 361 (5th Cir. 1977) (footnote
omitted). There is no “necessary federal
question” that hasn’t been pled. Wells
Fargo’s Complaint raises a single claim for mortgage
foreclosure under state law. Therefore, jurisdiction is
lacking and remand to state court is warranted.
motion, Wells Fargo requests an award of attorneys’
fees and costs pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c), which
provides in part that “[a]n order remanding the case
may require payment of just costs and any actual expenses,
including attorney fees, incurred as a result of the
removal.” This Court may award attorneys’ fees
under the attorney fee provision of the removal statute
“only where the removing party lacked an objectively
reasonable basis for seeking removal.” Martin v.
Franklin Capital Corp., 546 U.S. 132, 141 (2005).
“In applying this rule, district courts retain
discretion to consider whether unusual circumstances warrant
a departure from the rule in a given case.”
Eleventh Circuit has recognized that the reasonableness
standard enunciated by the Supreme Court was meant to balance
“the desire to deter removals sought for the purpose of
prolonging litigation and imposing costs on the opposing
party, while not undermining Congress’ basic decision
to afford defendants a right to remove as a general matter,
when the statutory criteria are satisfied.”
Bauknight v. Monroe County, Fla., 446 F.3d 1327,
1329 (11th Cir. 2006) (quoting Martin, 546 U.S. at
140). Therefore, “there is no indication that a trial
court should ordinarily grant an award of attorneys’
fees whenever an effort to remove fails.” Kennedy
v. Health Options, Inc., 329 F.Supp.2d 1314, 1319 (S.D.
Fla. July 21, 2004) (citing Miranti v. Lee, 3 F.3d
925, 928 (5th Cir. 1993)).
there is no “bright line rule” as to the
definition of “objectively reasonable, ” courts
that have applied the Martin standard typically
focus upon whether the removing party has offered a credible
reason for removal, even if it later becomes clear that the
removing party was incorrect on the facts or the law. Here,
Mr. Wilson has offered an arguable, albeit incorrect, basis
for removal. Accordingly, the Court will deny the request for
attorneys’ fees and costs.
reasons stated, it is hereby ORDERED that
Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.’s Motion to Remand and for
Attorney’s Fees and Costs (Dkt. 5) is GRANTE ...