IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT
WEKESA O. MADZIMOYO,
THE BANK OF NEW YORK MELLON TRUST COMPANY, N.A., f.k.a. The Bank of New York Trust Company, N.A.,
JP MORGAN CHASE BANK, N.A.,
GMAC MORTGAGE, LLC,
MCCURDY & CANDLER, LLC,
ANTHONY DEMARLO, Attorney,
Appeal from the United States District Court
for the Northern District of Georgia
(September 7, 2011)
Before TJOFLAT, CARNES and KRAVITCH, Circuit Judges.
Wekesa Madzimoyo, proceeding pro se, appeals the district court’s
judgment on the pleadings in favor of the defendants. Because we conclude that
the district court lacked removal jurisdiction, we vacate and remand.
In July 2009, Madzimoyo filed an emergency petition in state court seeking
a temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop foreclosure proceedings on his home
by defendants Bank of New York Mellon Trust Company, JP Morgan Chase Bank,
McCurdy & Candler, and attorney Anthony DeMarlo. According to the petition,
none of the defendants was the original lender and there was no evidence that the
original lender had transferred its rights to any defendant. In support of his
petition, Madzimoyo submitted correspondence sent to the defendants in which he
sought to verify their rights over the mortgage. Some of the correspondence
referenced the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act (FDCPA) and Regulation Z, the
Truth-in-Lending regulations. The state court issued the TRO and scheduled a
hearing on the petition to stop the foreclosure.
The day before the scheduled hearing in state court, the defendants removed
the petition to federal district court in the Northern District of Georgia, asserting
federal-question jurisdiction because Madzimoyo had alleged violations of the
FDCPA and Regulation Z. Madzimoyo moved to remand to state court, disputing
that he raised any basis for federal jurisdiction.
The magistrate judge denied the motion to remand, finding that
Madzimoyo’s petition raised federal questions under the FDCPA and Regulation
Z. The defendants then moved for judgment on the pleadings. In a brief in
support of the motion, the defendants argued that the FDCPA and Regulation Z
claims failed because Madzimoyo had not alleged any violation of these statutes.
The magistrate judge recommended that the motion for judgment on the
pleadings be granted. The district court adopted the recommendation, over
Madzimoyo’s objections, and granted judgment on the pleadings. This appeal
On appeal, both parties address the merits of the order granting judgment on
the pleadings, and there is no discussion of the district court’s jurisdiction over
Madzimoyo’s action. Nevertheless, we are “obliged to notice any lack of
jurisdiction regardless of whether the question is raised by the parties themselves.”
Edge v. Sumter Cnty. Sch. Dist., 775 F.2d 1509, 1513 (11th Cir. 1985).
We review questions of subject-matter jurisdiction de novo. Romero v.
Drummond Co., 552 F.3d 1303, 1313 (11th Cir. 2008). We consider sua sponte
whether the district court had removal jurisdiction. Cotton v. Mass. Mut. Life Ins.
Co., 402 F.3d 1267, 1280 (11th Cir. 2005).
Under the removal statute:
Any civil action of which the district courts have original jurisdiction
founded on a claim or right arising under the Constitution, treaties or
laws of the United States shall be removable without regard to the
citizenship or residence of the parties. Any other such action shall be
removable only if none of the parties in interest properly joined and
served as defendants is a citizen of the State in which such action is
28 U.S.C. § 1441(b). In other words, to be removable on federal-question
jurisdiction grounds, the case must arise under federal law. See Merrell Dow
Pharm. Inc. v. Thompson, 478 U.S. 804, 807-08 (1986). The “well-pleaded
complaint” rule instructs that a case does not arise under federal law unless a
federal question is presented on the face of the plaintiff’s complaint. Id. at 808;
Kemp v. Int’l Bus. Mach. Corp., 109 F.3d 708, 712 (11th Cir. 1997) (citing
Franchise Tax Bd. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 11 (1983)).
A federal question is presented by the complaint when the suit relies on a
federal cause of action or where “the vindication of a right under state law
necessarily turned on some construction of federal law.” See Merrell Dow, 478
U.S. at 808. Under this latter analysis, federal question jurisdiction should be
narrowly construed. See id. at 810-14. “[T]he mere presence of a federal issue in
a state cause of action does not automatically confer federal-question jurisdiction,”
even where the interpretation of federal law may constitute an element of the state
cause of action. Id. at 813. More recently, the Supreme Court fashioned another
test for deciding whether federal courts should exercise federal question
jurisdiction over removed state court proceedings: “does a state-law claim
necessarily raise 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). “If the plaintiff
elects to bring only state law causes of action in state court, no federal question
will appear in the complaint that could satisfy the well-pleaded complaint rule, and
the case may not be removed to federal court.” Kemp, 109 F.3d at 712.
Upon review of the record, we conclude that the district court should not
have exercised federal-question jurisdiction upon the removal of this case.
Although Madzimoyo’s petition referenced federal laws in passing, none of his
causes of action relied on even the interpretation of federal law. Rather,
Madzimoyo merely asserted that he requested his loan information from the
mortgage companies in accordance with federal law to show that he had acted
diligently and merited state relief. Accordingly, we vacate the judgment of the
district court and remand with instructions that the district court remand the
proceeding to the state court.
VACATED AND REMANDED.
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