United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division
STEVEN L. ADAMS ELLEN L. ADAMS, Plaintiffs,
BANK OF AMERICA, N.A., SUCCESSOR BY MERGER TO BAC HOME LOANS SERVICING, LP FKA COUNTRYWIDE HOME LOANS SERVICING, LP, FOR THE BENEFIT OF WMALT 2007-OA1 TRUST, Defendant.
SPARKS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
REMEMBERED on this day the Court reviewed the file in the
above-styled cause, and specifically, Plaintiffs Steven and
Ellen Adams's Motion to Remand [#9] and Defendant Bank of
America, N.A. (BANA)'s Response [#16] in opposition, as
well as BANA's Motion to Dismiss [#11], the Adamses'
Response [#16] in opposition, and BANA's Reply [#20] in
support. Having reviewed the documents, the relevant law, and
the case file as a whole, the Court now enters the following
opinion and orders.
2006, Steven and Ellen Adams purchased a subdivision lot in
Cedar Park, Texas. Adams v. Bank of Am., N.A., No.
A-12-CA-366-SS, 2013 WL 12094271, at *l-2 (W.D. Tex. June 7,
2013), aff'd, 570 Fed.App'x 375 (5th Cir.
2014) (per curiam). The Adamses paid for the property by
taking out a loan from Countrywide Bank (the Loan).
Id. The Loan was secured by a lien against the
property (the Deed of Trust). Id. The Loan is owned
by the WMALT 2007-OA1 Trust (the Trust); the Deed of Trust
has been owned by BANA since 2011 "for the benefit of
the [T]rust." Id.BANA has serviced both the Loan
and the Deed of Trust since 2006. Id. The trustee of
the Trust, however, is U.S. Bank-not BANA. Id.
Adamses defaulted on the Loan in May 2009, and BANA served
notice of a foreclosure sale in November 2011. Id.
When the foreclosure sale took place in December 2011, BANA
purchased the property "for the benefit of the
[T]rust." Id. The Adamses brought suit in state
court in April 2012 challenging BANA's authority to
foreclose on the property. Id. BANA removed that
prior lawsuit to this Court, and this Court dismissed the
Adamses' claims with prejudice on July 7, 2013.
Id. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. Adams, 570
in November 2016, BANA initiated a forcible detainer suit in
state court asserting a right to immediate possession of the
property. Am. Compl. [#8] at 3. Travis County Justice Court
ruled in favor of the Adamses, but BANA appealed and
prevailed in Travis County Court at Law. Id. The
Adamses have appealed the decision of the Travis County Court
at Law. Id.
the pendency of their appeal in the forcible detainer suit,
the Adamses brought this second action in state court seeking
a declaratory judgment that BANA is not the legal owner of
the property. Notice Removal [#1-2] Ex. 1 (Petition). BANA
removed the action to this Court on July 30, 2017. Following
amendment of their complaint, the Adamses' sole claim for
relief arises under the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C.
§ 2201. See Am. Compl. [#8] at 4-5.
now asks this Court to dismiss the Adamses' suit on the
basis of res judicata. Mot. J. Pleadings [#11]. The Adamses
request this Court remand to state court or, in the
alternative, deny BANA's motion for judgment on the
pleadings. Mot. Remand [#9]; Resp. Mot. Dismiss. [#16]. These
pending motions are now ripe for review.
the Court addresses the Adamses' contention the Court
lacks diversity jurisdiction over this action. See
Mot. Remand [#9]. Second, the Court considers whether it
should exercise its discretion to stay or dismiss the
Adamses' claim for declaratory relief under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2201. Because the Court in its discretion concludes
the Adamses' claim for declaratory relief should be
dismissed, the Court does not reach BANA's motion to
dismiss. See Mot. Dismiss [#16].
Motion to Remand
burden of establishing federal jurisdiction is placed upon
the party seeking removal." Willy v. Coastal
Corp., 855 F.2d 1160, 1164 (5th Cir. 1988). Moreover,
because removal jurisdiction raises significant federalism
concerns, courts must strictly construe removal jurisdiction.
Id. Any doubts or ambiguities regarding the
propriety of removal are construed against removal and in
favor of remand to the state court. Manguno v. Prudential
Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 276 F.3d 720, 723 (5th Cir.
2002). BANA has invoked federal court diversity jurisdiction
under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).
courts have diversity jurisdiction over civil actions between
citizens of different States when the amount in controversy
exceeds $75, 000.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Section 1332
requires "complete diversity"-that is, the
citizenship of every plaintiff must be different from that of
every defendant. Caterpillar Inc. v. Lewis, 519 U.S.
61, 68 (1996). "Citizens upon whose diversity a
plaintiff grounds jurisdiction must be real and substantial
parties to the controversy." Navarro Sav. Ass'n
v. Lee,446 U.S. 458, 460-461 (1980). Thus, the Court
must "disregard nominal or formal parties and rest
jurisdiction only ...