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Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Dey-El

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

January 3, 2018

WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A., Plaintiff,
v.
CRYSTAL FENTY DEY-EL, et al. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Esther Salas, United States District Judge

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.'s[1] (“Wells Fargo”) motion to remand this action to the Superior Court of New Jersey. (D.E. No. 9). This Court referred Wells Fargo's motion to the Hon. Steven C. Mannion, U.S.M.J., for a report and recommendation. The parties briefed Wells Fargo's motion, and Judge Mannion held oral argument. Thereafter, Judge Mannion issued a Report and Recommendation recommending that this Court grant Wells Fargo's motion. (D.E. No. 18 (the “R&R”)). Pro se Defendant Crystal Fenty Dey-El (“Defendant”) objected to Judge Mannion's R&R (D.E. No. 19 (“Def. Obj.”)), and Wells Fargo responded to Defendant's objections. (D.E. No. 20). For the following reasons, the Court ACCEPTS Judge Mannion's recommended disposition and GRANTS Wells Fargo's motion to remand.

         I.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         “When a litigant files an objection to a Report and Recommendation, the district court must make a de novo determination of those portions to which the litigant objects.” Leonard Parness Trucking Corp. v. Omnipoint Commc'ns, Inc., No. 13-4148, 2013 WL 6002900, at *2 (D.N.J. Nov. 12, 2013) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A), Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b), and L. Civ. R. 72.1(c)(2)).[2] The district court may then “accept, reject or modify the recommended disposition . . . .” Weber v. Mcgrogan, No. 14-7340, 2016 WL 3381233, at *2 (D.N.J. June 9, 2016) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3)). “Unlike an Opinion and Order issued by a Magistrate Judge on a non-dispositive matter, a Report and Recommendation does not have the force of law unless and until the district court enters an order accepting or rejecting it.” Id. (citing United Steelworkers of Am. v. N.J. Zinc Co., Inc., 828 F.2d 1001, 1005 (3d Cir. 1987)).

         II.DISCUSSION

         A. Background

         The parties are familiar with the facts and procedural posture of this case, so the Court will be brief.[3] Wells Fargo seeks foreclosure of a mortgaged property owned by Defendant. (D.E. No. 1-4 (“Compl.”) at 31-50). On August 18, 2016, Wells Fargo filed a residential Mortgage Foreclosure Complaint against Defendant and other individuals and entities in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Essex County, alleging that the mortgage loan was in default. (Id.). Wells Fargo served Defendant with the Complaint on August 21, 2016. (See D.E. No. 9-3 (“Chamberlin Cert.”) at Ex. A). On March 28, 2017, the Superior Court entered an Order for Final Judgment and a Writ of Execution. (See Chamberlin Cert. at Ex. B).

         On March 13, 2017, Defendant removed the state foreclosure action to this Court. (D.E. No. 1-3 (“Removal Notice”)). Defendant's Removal Notice relies on 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question jurisdiction), as Defendant contends that Wells Fargo is a “debt collector” seeking to collect a “debt” under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (“FDCPA”). (Id. at 1-2). Defendant's Removal Notice also relies on 28 U.S.C. § 1332 (diversity jurisdiction). (Id. at 2). To that end, Defendant's Civil Cover Sheet states that Defendant is a “citizen or subject of a foreign country.” (D.E. No. 1-5).

         B. The R&R and Defendant's Objections

As Judge Mannion observed in his R&R, “Wells Fargo provides numerous reasons in support of remanding this action to state court.” (R&R at 4; see also D.E. No. 9-1). Nevertheless, Judge Mannion focused his analysis only on the forum-defendant rule. (R&R at 4). The forum-defendant rule provides that “[a] civil action otherwise removable solely on the basis of [diversity jurisdiction] may not be removed if any of the parties in interest properly joined and served as defendants is a citizen of the state in which such action is brought.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b)(2). Because Judge Mannion found that Defendant's domicile is New Jersey, and because Wells Fargo brought the foreclosure action in New Jersey, Judge Mannion concluded that “this action is subject to remand under the forum-defendant rule even if complete diversity exists.” (R&R at 5). Judge Mannion did not address whether this case presents a federal question for purposes of 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         Defendant argues that Judge Mannion erred by not considering whether federal-question jurisdiction exists. (See generally Def. Obj.). Defendant cites a portion of a document included with the Removal Notice, called “Demand for Dismissal of New Jersey State / City Superior Court Action and Counterclaim” (D.E. No. 1), which appears to invoke federal-question jurisdiction. (See Def. Obj. at 2-5). Defendant also argues that diversity jurisdiction exists. (See Id. at 7-8, 10). In particular, Defendant states: “I AM an Indigenous of this land and a Moorish American National on this land. I am NOT a state citizen.” (Id. at 7) (emphasis in original). Defendant also advances several arguments going to the merits of the foreclosure action, all of which appear to be inapplicable to Wells Fargo's remand motion. (See Id. at 6, 9-12).

         Accordingly, the Court will address whether federal-question jurisdiction or diversity jurisdiction exists in this case.

         C. ...


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