January 2, 2014
Federal National Mortgage Association, Plaintiff,
Hector Marquez Guevara, John Doe, and Mary Roe, Defendants.
Gary Joseph Evers, Esq., Shapiro & Zielke, LLP, counsel for Plaintiff.
William B. Butler, Esq., Butler Liberty Law, LLC, counsel for Defendant Guevara.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
JEFFREY J. KEYES, Magistrate Judge.
This matter is before the Court, United States Magistrate Judge Jeffrey J. Keyes, on sua sponte consideration of remand. This eviction action was originally initiated by Plaintiff Federal National Mortgage Association ("Fannie Mae") in Minnesota District Court, Dakota County, on December 12, 2013. Defendants are the former owners of the property located at 2090 Carnelian Lane, Eagan, Minnesota. The property was previously the subject of a mortgage foreclosure sale on May 9, 2013.
On December 23, 2013, Defendant Guevara removed this action from Minnesota state court on the basis that this Court has jurisdiction over the matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1345 and 1349 asserting that Plaintiff is deemed a federal agency.
This case is similar to numerous other eviction actions that have been removed from state court to this court in recent months. The District Court has referred all dispositive and non-dispositive matters to the Magistrate Judge under 28 U.S.C. § 636. (Doc. No. 3.) It is this Court's determination that sua sponte remand is appropriate.
Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Thomas v. Basham, 931 F.2d 521, 522 (8th Cir. 1991). Therefore, the Court may raise sua sponte issues of subject-matter jurisdiction and abstention from exercising jurisdiction, even if the parties concede the issues. Id. at 523; MCC Mortg. LP v. Office Depot, Inc., 685 F.Supp.2d 939, 942 (D. Minn. 2010) (noting that the court raised the issue of abstention sua sponte). The district court must strictly construe the removal statute against removal jurisdiction and resolve all doubts as to the propriety of federal jurisdiction in favor of state court jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c); Masepohl v. Am. Tobacco Co., Inc., 974 F.Supp. 1245, 1249 (D. Minn. 1997) (internal citation omitted).
Without deciding whether this action was properly removed under 28 U.S.C. § 1441 and 28 U.S.C. § 1345, this Court is persuaded that abstention from exercising jurisdiction is appropriate in this instance. This Court has abstained from exercising jurisdiction over substantially similar cases. See Fed. Home Loan Mtg. Corp. v. Contreras, No. 13-cv-897, Doc. No. 25 (ADM/AJB) (D. Minn. Aug. 29, 2013) (citing cases), adopted at Doc. No. 29 (D. Minn. October 1, 2013).
Federal courts may decline to exercise jurisdiction in "exceptional circumstances." Quackenbush v. Allstate Ins. Co., 517 U.S. 706, 716 (1996) (quotation omitted). Abstention involves weighing principles of federalism and comity against the federal interest in retaining jurisdiction. See id. at 716, 728-29, 733-34. Federal courts exercise discretion to "restrain their authority because of scrupulous regard for the rightful independence of the state governments and for the smooth working of the federal judiciary." Burford v. Sun Oil Co., 319 U.S. 315, 317-34 (1943) (citations omitted).
In MCC Mortgage LP v. Office Depot, Inc., 685 F.Supp.2d 939 (D. Minn. 2010), a district court in this District determined that it could abstain from hearing an eviction action removed from Minnesota state court, citing Burford v. Sun Oil Co., 319 U.S. 315, 317-34 (1943). MCC Mortg., 685 F.Supp.2d at 947. Under Burford, abstention is appropriate where the action involves "difficult questions of state law bearing on policy problems of substantial public import, " or where the exercise of federal review "would be disruptive of state efforts to establish a coherent policy with respect to a matter of substantial public concern." Quackenbush, 517 U.S. at 726-27 (quoting Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v. United States, 424 U.S. 800, 814 (1976)). The court in MCC Mortgage noted that "even where jurisdiction otherwise exists, courts often abstain from hearing eviction matters to avoid completely emasculat[ing] the state structure for dealing with such disputes.'" 685 F.Supp.2d at 946-47 (quoting MRM Mgmt. Co. v. Ali, No. 97-cv-1029, 1997 WL 285043, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. May 27, 1997)); see also, e.g., Homesales Inc., of Delaware v. Greene, No. CV 10-3024-CL, 2010 WL 1630469, at *2-3 (D. Or. March 25, 2010) (stating that because unlawful detainer actions involve a state regulatory statute and important state policy issues, the federal court should abstain and remand the matter to state court) (report and recommendation adopted by district court on other grounds, 2010 WL 1630468 (D. Or. April 19, 2010); CPG Finance I, L.L.C. v. Shopro, Inc., No. 06-3015-CV-S-RED, 2006 WL 744275, at *4 (W.D. Mo. March 22, 2006) (noting that policy objectives underlying abstention support remand of removed dispossessory action) (quoting Quackenbush v. Allstate Ins. Co., 517 U.S. at 716) ("[A]bstention is warranted by considerations of proper constitutional adjudication, regard for federal-state relations, or wise judicial administration.")); Glen 6 Assocs. v. Dedaj, 770 F.Supp. 225, 228-29 (S.D.N.Y. 1991) (finding that principles of comity and federalism dictate abstaining from eviction matter and noting that accepting removal of eviction proceedings to federal court would overburden the federal system).
Although "abstention is the exception, not the rule, '" MCC Mortg., 685 F.Supp.2d at 947 (quoting Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v. United States, 424 U.S. 800, 813 (1976)), this Court concludes that abstention is proper in this instance. This post-foreclosure eviction action is a summary proceeding created by Minnesota state law (Minn. Stat. § 504B), the enforcement of which is tasked to Minnesota law enforcement personnel. See generally Minn. Stat. §§ 504B.001, subd. 4, 504B.365; see also Homesales Inc., of Delaware, 2010 WL 1630469, at *2-3 (noting that unlawful detainer "is a special statutory proceeding" regulated by state law, which provides such action be brought in state circuit courts). Eviction actions are fundamentally a matter of state law. See MCC Mortg., 685 F.Supp.2d at 946. There is no federal interest in retaining the proceedings or federal right at stake, and there is no apparent prejudice in the action proceeding in state court. See, e.g., Glen 6 Assocs., 770 F.Supp. at 228. Minnesota state district courts and the various County Housing Courts have a superior ability to handle efficiently the large volume of post-foreclosure eviction cases to which Fannie Mae is a party. As the district court in Fed. Home Loan Mortg. Corp. v. Matassino (N.D.Ga. Dec. 3, 2012) noted: "The court is very aware that dispossessory actions are now, and have always been, primarily state court matters. State courts are highly familiar with dispossessory procedure, and federal courts are ill-equipped to adjudicate these actions." Fed. Home Loan Mortg. Corp. v. Matassino, No. 1:11-CV-3895-CAP, 2012 WL 6622607, at *8 (N.D.Ga. Dec. 3, 2012). Considering principles of comity, federalism, and judicial economy, this Court recommends abstaining from this matter and finds that remand is warranted.
Based on the foregoing and all of the files, records, and proceedings herein, IT IS HEREBY RECOMMENDED that:
1. This action be remanded to Minnesota state district court.