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U.S. Bank, N.A. v. Parson

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

January 8, 2020



          Sam A. Lindsay United States District Judge.

         This mortgage foreclosure action was removed by pro se Defendant Bridget Parson (“Parson” or “Defendant”), from the 134th Judicial District Court, Dallas County, Texas, on September 30, 2019. The case was automatically referred to the magistrate judge for screening after Parson did not pay the requisite case filing fee and was allowed to proceed in forma pauperis. The court vacates the screening referral and, for the reasons that follow, sua sponte remands this action to the 134th Judicial District Court, Dallas County, Texas, from which it was removed, after determining that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the removed action.

         I. Background

         Parson removed Dallas County District No. 19-12319 to federal court on September 30, 2019, alleging that the state court action was yet another attempt by U.S. Bank, N.A. (“US Bank”) and Select Portfolio Servicing (“SPS”)[*] to fraudulently foreclose on and steal her property (“Property”) located at 508 Grady Lane, Cedar Hill, Texas, 75104. According to Parson, U.S. Bank and SPS lack authority to foreclose on the Property because they are not the original note holders; they do not possess and cannot produce the original note that is pending in another federal case; and they failed to provide her with the requisite notice or proof of service. She alleges that such conduct amounts to a crime and violates her right to due process. Parson, therefore, requests that the court dismiss the state court action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and impose sanctions against U.S. Bank and SPS in the amount of $4, 350, 000. Parson does not affirmatively allege the basis or bases for removing the action to federal court, but she indicates in her corresponding Civil Cover Sheet that the “Basis of Jurisdiction” is federal question jurisdiction by checking the box for “Federal Question.” Doc. 5. As Parson is proceeding pro se, the court considers whether subject matter jurisdiction based on a federal question or diversity jurisdiction exists.

         II. Legal Standard for Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         A. The General Standard

         A federal court has subject matter jurisdiction over civil cases “arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States, ” or over civil cases in which the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and in which diversity of citizenship exists between the parties. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332. Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and must have statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate a claim. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994) (citations omitted); Home Builders Ass'n of Miss., Inc. v. City of Madison, 143 F.3d 1006, 1010 (5th Cir. 1998). Absent jurisdiction conferred by statute or the Constitution, they lack the power to adjudicate claims and must dismiss an action if subject matter jurisdiction is lacking. Id.; Stockman v. Federal Election Comm'n, 138 F.3d 144, 151 (5th Cir. 1998) (citing Veldhoen v. United States Coast Guard, 35 F.3d 222, 225 (5th Cir. 1994)). A federal court must presume that an action lies outside its limited jurisdiction, and the burden of establishing that the court has subject matter jurisdiction to entertain an action rests with the party asserting jurisdiction. Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 377 (citations omitted). “[S]ubject-matter jurisdiction cannot be created by waiver or consent.” Howery v. Allstate Ins. Co., 243 F.3d 912, 919 (5th Cir. 2001).

         Federal courts may also exercise subject matter jurisdiction over a civil action removed from a state court. Unless Congress provides otherwise, a “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).

         A federal court has an independent duty, at any level of the proceedings, to determine whether it properly has subject matter jurisdiction over a case. Ruhgras AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 583 (1999) (“[S]ubject-matter delineations must be policed by the courts on their own initiative even at the highest level.”); McDonal v. Abbott Labs., 408 F.3d 177, 182 n.5 (5th Cir. 2005) (A “federal court may raise subject matter jurisdiction sua sponte.”) (citation omitted).

         B. Federal Question

         A federal court has subject matter jurisdiction over cases arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States, which is commonly referred to as federal question jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1331. This provision for federal question jurisdiction is generally invoked by a plaintiff pleading a cause of action created by federal law. This, however, is not the only manner in which federal question jurisdiction may arise.

         An action that asserts only state law claims may “arise under” federal law if “the vindication of a right under state law necessarily turn[s] on some construction of federal law.” Franchise Tax Bd. v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 9 (1983) (citations omitted). This means that a federal district court has jurisdiction over a state claim that “necessarily raise[s] a stated federal issue, actually disputed and substantial, which a federal forum may entertain without disturbing any congressionally approved balance of federal and state judicial responsibilities.” Grable & Sons Metal Prods., Inc. v. Darue Eng'g & Mfg., 545 U.S. 308, 314 (2005). Otherwise stated, as “the presence of a disputed federal issue and the ostensible importance of a federal forum are never necessarily dispositive, ” a federal court is to decline jurisdiction if the exercise of its jurisdiction is inconsistent “with congressional judgment about the sound division of labor between state and federal courts governing application of [28 U.S.C.] § 1331.” Id. at 313-14. Under Grable, federal question jurisdiction exists only when “(1) resolving a federal issue is necessary to the resolution of the state-law claim; (2) the federal issue is actually disputed; (3) the federal issue is substantial; and (4) federal jurisdiction will not disturb the balance of federal and state judicial responsibilities.” Singh v. Morris, LLP, 538 F.3d 334, 338 (5th Cir. 2008). In the final analysis, when a plaintiff's pleadings set forth only state law claims, a federal district court has federal question jurisdiction to entertain the action only if “(1) the state law claims necessarily raise a federal issue or (2) the state law claims are completely preempted by federal law.” Bernhard v. Whitney Nat'l Bank, 523 F.3d 546, 551 (5th Cir. 2008).

         Whether an action “arises under” federal law and creates federal question jurisdiction over a case removed from state to federal court, or one originally filed in such court, ordinarily “must be determined by reference to the ‘well-pleaded complaint.'” Merrell Dow Pharms. Inc. v. Thompson, 478 U.S. 804, 808 (1986) (citation omitted). “[A] case may not be removed to federal court on the basis of a federal defense . . . even if the defense is anticipated in the plaintiff's complaint, and even if both parties concede that the federal defense is the only question truly at issue.” Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 393 (1987). “A defense that raises a federal question is inadequate to confer federal jurisdiction.” Thompson, 478 U.S. at 808 (citation omitted). “Even an inevitable federal defense does not provide a basis for removal jurisdiction.” Bernhard, 523 F.3d at 551 (citations omitted). In other words, the complaint must “raise[] issues of federal law sufficient to support federal question jurisdiction.” Rodriguez v. Pacificare of Tex., Inc., 980 F.2d 1014, 1017 (5th Cir. 1993) (citation omitted).

         A “corollary of the well-pleaded complaint rule developed in the case law, however, is that Congress may so completely pre-empt a particular area, that any civil complaint raising this select group of claims is necessarily federal in character.” Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 63-64 (1987); Arana v. Ochsner Health Plan, 338 F.3d 433, 437 (5th Cir. 2003) (en banc). In other words, “[w]hen the federal statute completely pre-empts the state law cause of action, a claim which comes within the scope of that cause of action, even if pleaded in terms of state law, is in reality, based ...

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