United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
December 12, 2014
BRYAN CYNAMON, Plaintiff,
LORI ELLEN SIMS, Defendant.
JOY FLOWERS CONTI, Chief District Judge.
On December 8, 2014, Lori Ellen Sims ("Sims"), a pro se party, filed a motion to seal, which contained the following attachments: (1) motion to proceed IFP, (2) notice of removal from Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, (3) motion to stop eviction (i.e., injunction), (4) medical notes, and (5) civil cover sheet. The court denied her motion to seal the following day, December 9, 2014, with respect to all the above documents, except for the attached medical notes from her doctors. As a result, having ruled on Sims' motion to seal, the court may now consider her other filings accompanying that motion.
Motion to Proceed IFP
The court has reviewed Sims' application to proceed in forma pauperis and finds that she adequately showed that she is unable to pay the costs of these proceedings, including the filing fee. See Deutsch v. United States, 67 F.3d 1080, 1084 n. 5 (3d Cir. 1995) ("In this Circuit, leave to proceed in forma pauperis is based on a showing of indigence."). Therefore, Sims' motion for IFP will be granted.
Notice of Removal & Motion to Stop Eviction
The documents submitted by Sims indicate that she is attempting to remove a landlord-tenant dispute initiated by Bryan Cynamon ("Cynamon"), her landlord, against Sims, the tenant, for possession of the premises. The court finds, however, that Sims did not establish that the court has jurisdiction to hear such a dispute, and that the notice of removal is procedurally defective.
At the outset, the court notes that Sims did not attach a copy of Cynamon's complaint from the state court proceedings. Additionally, it is apparent from the public record that the complaint for possession was sent to Sims on or around September 30, 2014, more than thirty days from when the notice of removal was filed. See Allegheny County Department of Court Records, Landlord Tenant Docket, LT-14-962, https://dcr.alleghenycounty.us/SelectCaseID.asp (last visited Dec. 10, 2014). Consequently, Sims failed to comply with the removal statute. See 28 U.S.C. § 1446 (providing that a defendant seeking to remove a matter to federal court must supply a "copy of all process, pleadings, and orders served upon defendant... in such action" and that the time of removal generally is thirty days from receipt of the complaint). Additionally, removal is improper because the Landlord Tenant Docket shows that on December 9, 2014, judgment was entered in favor of Cynamon and against Sims for possession, so the matter was already resolved. See Groves v. Wilson, 404 F.Appx. 705, 707 (3d Cir. 2010) ("We agree with the District Court that removal after the state court has decided [the landlord-tenant] claim on the merits is improper...").
Moreover, the court does not have original jurisdiction over the landlord-tenant dispute between Cynamon and Sims, the case cannot be removed to federal court. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441; Groves, 404 F.Appx. at 707 (finding that a district court lacked jurisdiction over claims asserted in a landlord-tenant dispute removed by the defendant when "the facts alleged demonstrated an intent to re-litigate the events leading up to and following the eviction" notwithstanding the citation of several federal statutes in the complaint); Williams v. Rivera, Civ. No. 06-5539, 2007 WL 608973, at *1 n. 4 (D.N.J. Feb. 23, 2007) ("The Court notes that if the underlying case does involve a landlord-tenant dispute, then the case would have to be remanded due to a lack of federal subject matter jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1330-1334."); Windsor at Mariner's Tower v. Greene, Civ. No. 13-5128, 2014 WL 220680, at *2 (D.N.J. Jan. 17, 2014) (holding that federal claims did not exist in a landlord-tenant dispute, "which is purely a state law matter"). Jurisdiction cannot be established by Sims' claims for relief in the notice of removal under Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3631, see (ECF No. 1-2), at 7, because federal jurisdiction is established by the claims in the complaint, which was not provided. See Franchise Tax Bd. v. Construction. Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 10 (1983) ("[A] defendant may not remove a case to federal court unless the plaintiff's complaint establishes that the case arises under federal law."); Holmes Group, Inc. v. Vornado Air Circulation Sys., 535 U.S. 826, 831 (2002) (holding that a federal counterclaim cannot invoke federal jurisdiction).
The court notes that it appears from the Notice of Removal that Sims could be seeking to assert a separate claim under the Fair Housing Act, distinct from her defense in the landlord-tenant dispute, because she specifically demands relief under that statute and there is a heading in the document entitled "Complaint." A removal is not the proper way to initiate a claim. As it stands, the court is unable to hear any claims in this lawsuit because it lacks jurisdiction and the matter was not properly removed here. If Sims wishes to pursue a claim under the Fair Housing Act, she must comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for initiating such an action.
Based on the foregoing, Sims failed to meet her burden of establishing that the court has federal jurisdiction to hear the matter. Frederico v. Home Depot, 507 F.3d 188, 193 (3d Cir. 2007) ("It is now settled in [the Third Circuit] that the party asserting federal jurisdiction in a removal case bears the burden of showing, at all stages of the litigation, that the case is properly before the federal court."). Therefore, the case will be remanded pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1446. An appropriate order will be entered.