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Onemain Financial of Indiana Inc. v. Butler

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

May 21, 2018

TIERA BUTLER, Defendant.



         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff OneMain Financial of Indiana, Inc. (“OneMain”) originally filed this lawsuit in Porter County Superior Court in the State of Indiana against defendant Tiera Butler (“Butler”) on November 9, 2017. (DE # 2.) OneMain alleges that Butler owes it money under a Loan Agreement. (Id. at 1-2.)

         Butler, acting pro se, removed the action to this court in a notice of removal filed February 7, 2018. (DE # 1.) On February 12, 2018, Butler filed an amended notice of removal, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b) and § 1446(b). (DE # 6.) In addition to stating her basis for removal, Butler's amended notice of removal also alleged counterclaims against Onemain. (Id.) Additional “counterclaims” are also alleged against David Tipton, Fred Hecht, Julia Andrews, John Cox, Traci Shuttz, Stephen Andrews, Christopher Neeson, and Andrews and Cox, P.C. (collectively, the “Counterclaim Defendants”). (Id.) Although claims against third parties are not technically “counterclaims, ” these parties refer to themselves as the “Counterclaim Defendants” (see DE # 14) and the distinction does not matter for the purposes of this order.

         On March 12, 2018, the Counterclaim Defendants moved to remand the case back to state court because this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. (DE # 14.) The next day, OneMain filed its own motion to remand for lack of jurisdiction. (DE # 16.) The motions are fully briefed and ripe for ruling.


         The removal statute allows for the removal of “any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441. The party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden of demonstrating its existence. Appert v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, Inc., 673 F.3d 609, 617 (7th Cir. 2012). Thus, when a party opposing federal jurisdiction challenges the allegations of jurisdictional facts, the party seeking the federal forum must prove those facts by a preponderance of the evidence. Meridian Sec. Ins. Co. v. Sadowski, 441 F.3d 536, 543 (7th Cir. 2006).

         District courts are to “interpret the removal statute narrowly, ” and any doubts regarding jurisdiction should be resolved in favor of remand to state court. Doe v. Allied-Signal, Inc., 985 F.2d 908, 911 (7th Cir. 1993). “If at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).


         In her amended notice of removal, Butler argues this court has jurisdiction over this matter based on both complete diversity and the existence of a federal question. (DE # 6 at 1.) The court will address diversity jurisdiction first.

         A. Diversity

         A federal court may exercise diversity jurisdiction if the parties are citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs. 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The movants argue that all parties in this case reside in the State of Indiana, destroying diversity of citizenship. Specifically, OneMain asserts that it is an Indiana corporation (see DE # 17-1) and the Counterclaim Defendants assert they all reside or maintain a principal place of business in Indiana (DE # 14 ¶ 12). Butler does not dispute the citizenship of those parties.

         Regarding her own citizenship, however, Butler has a great deal to say. She writes, “Tiera Butler is a nonresident alien, foreign Hebrew Israelite Diplomat, North American republic national so called Black, African American federal employee, Sui Juris, protected, suspect class Eternal Essence Embodied/I AM- a living woman/natural person pursuant to the First, Fourth[, ] Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Federal Statutes . . . .” (DE # 19 at 14.) Nevertheless, Butler admits she lives in Valparaiso, Indiana. (Id. at 16.) Therefore, Butler's argument that she is the subject of a foreign state for diversity purposes fails. See Westby Co-Op Credit Union v. Hertler, No. 12-cv-811-wmc, 2012 WL 6195992, at *2 (W.D. Wis. Dec. 12, 2012) (ruling defendants residing in Wisconsin were not foreign citizens for diversity purposes despite allegations that they were foreign sovereign citizens); see also U.S. v. Benabe, 654 F.3d 753, 767 (7th Cir. 2011) (“We have repeatedly rejected . . . theories of individual sovereignty. . . . Regardless of an individual's claimed status of descent, be it as a ‘sovereign citizen, ' a ‘secured-party creditor, ' or a ‘flesh-and-blood human being, ' that person is not beyond the jurisdiction of the courts. These theories should be rejected summarily, however they are presented.”). Since all parties in this case reside in Indiana, complete diversity does not exist and cannot provide the basis for this court's subject matter jurisdiction.

         B. ...

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