U.S. Bank, N.A. v. Stacia Trimmer et al

Filing 21

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS MOTION TO REMAND AND REQUEST FOR ATTORNEY FEES AND COSTS IN AMOUNT OF $5,218.00 AGAINST JONES AND DENYING REQUEST TO BAR FUTURE REMOVALS 10 by Judge Otis D. Wright, II: cc: order, docket and remand letter to Los Angeles Superior Court, West District, Santa Monica, No. 12U01031. MD JS-6. Case Terminated. (lc). Modified on 4/7/2015 (lc).

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1 2 3 O 4 JS-6 5 6 7 United States District Court Central District of California 8 9 10 11 U.S. BANK, N.A., AS TRUSTEE FOR 12 SERVERTIS REO PASS-THROUGH 13 TRUST I, 14 Plaintiff, 15 v. 16 STACIA TRIMMER; DARRYL JONES; 17 Case No. 2:14-cv-09766-ODW(ASx) ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO REMAND AND REQUEST FOR ATTORNEY FEES AND COSTS AND DENYING REQUEST TO BAR FUTURE REMOVALS [10] AND DOES, Occupants 1–10, 18 19 Defendants. 20 I. INTRODUCTION 21 Plaintiff U.S. Bank, N.A., as Trustee for Servertis REO Pass-Through Trust I 22 (“U.S. Bank”), moves to remand this action to the Superior Court of the State of 23 California, Los Angeles County, for lack of federal subject-matter jurisdiction. (ECF 24 No. 10). Further, U.S. Bank seeks attorney fees and costs in the amount of $5,218.00 25 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) and a bar on any future removals of the action. (Id.) 26 U.S. Bank argues that Mary Jones1, a non-party, lacks standing to remove the state 27 28 1 To avoid confusion, Mary Jones will hereinafter be referred to as “Jones” because she is the removing party. Defendant Darryl Jones will be referred to as “Darryl Jones.” 1 court action. (Id.) In addition, Jones failed to establish a sufficient basis for removal 2 and is simply obstructing U.S. Bank’s ability to recover possession of the real 3 property. 4 objectively reasonable basis for removal. Therefore, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff’s 5 Motion to Remand and AWARDS attorney fees and costs against Jones in the amount 6 of $5,218.00. (Id.) Plaintiff’s request for an order precluding future removals of this 7 action is DENIED.2 (Id.) For the reasons discussed below, the Court finds that Jones had no II. 8 FACTUAL BACKGROUND 9 U.S. Bank’s claim arose out of a non-judicial foreclosure sale of property 10 located at 5467 Bradna Drive, Los Angeles, California 90043 (“Property”). (ECF No. 11 10, Mot. to Remand [“MTR”] 1.) On April 7, 2011, upon sale, a trustee’s deed 12 executed by Defendant Stacia Trimmer was recorded granting the Property to U.S. 13 Bank N.A., Trustee for SerVertis Fund Trust 2009-2 Grantor Trust Certificates, Series 14 2009-2. (ECF No. 11, [“RJN”] Ex. 1.) 15 granted to U.S. Bank. 16 Defendants Stacia Trimmer and Darryl Jones (collectively “Defendants”) written 17 notice to quit and deliver possession of the Property within three days. (Id. Ex. 3.) 18 Defendants did not deliver possession of the Property. (Id.) On March 28, 2012, U.S. 19 Bank filed an unlawful detainer action against Defendants in the Los Angeles County 20 Superior Court. (Id.) 23 24 25 26 27 28 On February 29, 2012, the Property was (RJN Ex. 2.)4 On March 10, 2012, U.S. Bank served On July 21, 2014, Jones filed and served a Notice of Bankruptcy Stay on both 21 22 3 2 After carefully considering the papers filed in support of and in opposition to the Motion, the Court deems the matter appropriate for decision without oral argument. Fed. R. Civ. P. 78; L.R. 7-15. 3 The Court takes judicial notice to the extent it relies on the documents attached to the Request for Judicial Notice (ECF No. 11, Exs. 1–5.). See Fed. R. Evid. Rule 201(b); C.B. v. Sonora Sch. Dist., 691 F. Supp. 2d 1123, 1138 (E.D. Cal. 2009) (“The Court may take judicial notice of matters of public record, including duly recorded documents, and court records available to the public through the PACER system via the internet.”) To the extent the documents are not relied upon, the Request is moot. 4 U.S. Bank N.A., Trustee for Servertis Fund Trust 2009-2 Grantor Trust Certificates, Series 2009-2 granted the Property to U.S. Bank N.A. as Trustee for SerVertis REO Pass-Through Trust I, which is the Plaintiff in this action. 2 1 U.S. Bank and the Santa Monica Courthouse, Los Angeles County Superior Court 2 (“State Court”). (ECF No. 1, [“NOR”] ¶ 3.) On July 25, 2014, a jury trial was held in 3 State Court. (NOR ¶¶ 4–5.) On August 12, 2014, judgment was entered against 4 Defendants for $11,050 in total damages and for restitution of the Property. (RJN, Ex. 5 5.) On December 20, 2013, a quitclaim deed was recorded that quitclaimed the 6 Property to U.S. Bank. (RJN Ex. 4.) 7 On December 22, 2014, Jones removed the action to federal court pursuant to 8 28 U.S.C. § 1441 on the basis of purported federal question jurisdiction and diversity 9 jurisdiction. Specifically, Jones alleged that U.S. Bank and the State Court “in 10 violation of 11 U.S.C 362 [sic] Bankruptcy Stay commence[d] movement toward a 11 jury trial on July 25, 2014. . . .” (NOR ¶ 4.) 12 On January 21, 2015, U.S. Bank filed a Motion to Remand seeking: (1) an order 13 from this Court remanding this case to State Court; (2) attorney fees and costs in the 14 amount of $5,218.00; and (3) an order specifically precluding any future removals of 15 this action. (ECF No. 10.) Jones timely opposed and U.S. Bank replied. (ECF Nos. 16 13 [Opp’n], 15.) That motion is now before the Court for consideration. 17 III. LEGAL STANDARD 18 Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, having subject-matter 19 jurisdiction only over matters authorized by the Constitution and Congress. U.S. 20 Const. art. III, § 2, cl. 1; see, e.g., Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 21 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). A suit filed in state court may be removed to federal court if the 22 federal court would have had original jurisdiction over the suit. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). 23 Federal courts have original jurisdiction where an action presents a federal question 24 under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, or diversity of citizenship under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. To 25 exercise diversity jurisdiction, a federal court must find complete diversity of 26 citizenship among the adverse parties, and the amount in controversy must exceed 27 $75,000, usually exclusive of interest and costs. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). 28 Courts strictly construe the removal statute against removal jurisdiction, and 3 1 “[f]ederal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal 2 in the first instance.” Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). The 3 party seeking removal bears the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction. Durham v. 4 Lockheed Martin Corp., 445 F.3d 1247, 1252 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing Gaus, 980 F.2d 5 at 566). IV. 6 7 A. Motion to Remand 8 1. DISCUSSION Timeliness of Removal 9 Jones’ Removal was untimely filed. “The notice of removal of a civil action or 10 proceeding shall be filed within 30 days after the receipt by the defendant, through 11 service or otherwise, of a copy of the initial pleading setting forth the claim for relief 12 upon which such action or proceeding is based[.]” 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b). Proof of 13 Service of the Summons and Complaint upon Defendants was filed with State Court 14 on April 27, 2012. (RJN, Ex. 5.) While Jones’ service date is unknown, the latest 15 possible date would have to be July 21, 2014 in order for her to file the Notice of 16 Bankruptcy Stay on the State Court. (Id., Ex. 3.) Jones filed her Notice of Removal 17 on December 22, 2014. (ECF No. 1.) Even if Jones was served on July 21, 2014 as 18 opposed to April 27, 2012, her removal would still be four months too late. 19 Therefore, the Court finds Jones’ removal untimely pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b). 20 2. Subject-Matter Jurisdiction 21 “Whether removal jurisdiction exists must be determined by reference to the 22 well-pleaded complaint.” Am. Homes 4 Rent Props. One, LLC v. Reyes, No. CV 13- 23 2694 SI, 2013 WL 4048984, at *2 (N.D. Cal. July 30, 2013) (citing Merrell Dow 24 Pharms., Inc. v. Thompson, 478 U.S. 804, 808 (1986)). With respect to the Court’s 25 jurisdiction pursuant to a federal question under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, the only claim 26 made in U.S. Bank’s Complaint is unlawful detainer. (RJN, Ex. 3.) Jones argues that 27 this case presents a federal question because it violated the Automatic Bankruptcy 28 Stay pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 362 when the case proceeded to trial. (NOR 3.) U.S. 4 1 Bank argues, and the Court agrees, that a defense in federal law does not grant Jones 2 jurisdiction to remove the case. (MTR 4–5.) See Wayne v. DHL Worldwide Express, 3 294 F.3d 1179, 1183 (9th Cir. 2002) (“[A] case may not be removed to federal court 4 on the basis of a federal defense, . . . even if the defense is anticipated in the plaintiff's 5 complaint, and even if both parties concede that the federal defense is the only 6 question truly at issue.”). Since a federal question did not arise from the well-pleaded 7 complaint, the Court finds this case presents no federal question. Furthermore, regarding diversity jurisdiction, this case does not meet the 8 9 “amount in controversy” requirement under § 1332. In order to claim diversity 10 jurisdiction, the amount in controversy must exceed $75,000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332. “In 11 unlawful detainer actions [ ] the amount of damages sought in the complaint, not the 12 value of the subject real property, determines the amount in controversy.” Litton Loan 13 Servicing, L.P. v. Villegas, No. C 10-05478 PJH, 2011 WL 204322, at *2 (N.D. Cal. 14 Jan. 21, 2011); see also Wells Fargo Bank, NA v. Hunt, No. C-10-04965 JCS, 2011 15 WL 445801, at *4 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 3, 2011) (holding that property value is not 16 considered when calculating the amount in controversy in unlawful detainer actions). 17 U.S. Bank requested damages in its Complaint for $50.00 per day from March 18 28, 2012 (Complaint’s filing date) to the date of judgment. (See RJN, Ex. 3.) Jones 19 alleged in the Notice of Removal that the total amount in controversy is $50.00 per 20 day for 1095 days, totaling $54,750. (NOR 3; MTR 6.) After U.S. Bank addressed in 21 its motion that the amount is too low, Jones responded that the amount in controversy 22 exceeds $75,000 by adding the value of the Property ($450,000) with the Complaint 23 damages ($54,750). (Opp’n 3.) Because this is an unlawful detainer action, only the 24 Complaint damages are at issue. The amount in controversy remains $54,750, which 25 is below the statutory minimum of $75,000. Therefore, the Court finds this case does 26 not present diversity jurisdiction, or any other jurisdictional basis warranting removal. 27 3. 28 Standing for Removal Section 1441(a) states that “any civil action brought in a State court of which 5 1 the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by 2 the defendant or the defendants[.]” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) (emphasis added). U.S. Bank 3 argues that Jones is not a defendant, and she failed to intervene in the State Court 4 action. (MTR 2.) For that reason, she lacks standing to remove the action to federal 5 court. 6 Complaint, nor the Notice of Removal, lists Jones as a defendant or explains her 7 relationship to this action. (ECF Nos. 11, 1.) (Id.) Jones never responded to the issue of standing, and neither the 8 Absent any evidence that elaborates on Jones’ connection to the Defendants, the 9 Court cannot rule on her standing to remove. Nevertheless, even if Jones were 10 considered a defendant, her removal would be improper because there is no federal 11 claim alleged against her. (RJN, Ex. 3) See Rosset v. Hunter Eng’g Co., No. C 14- 12 01701 LB, 2014 WL 3569332, at *6 n.3 (N.D. Cal. July 17, 2014); Sylvestre v. Wells 13 Fargo Bank, N.A., No. 14-CV-03740 JST, 2014 WL 6872898, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 14 4, 2014) (holding that only defendants with a federal claim alleged against them can 15 remove an action based on federal question jurisdiction.). 16 B. Request for Attorney Fees 17 U.S. Bank argues it is entitled to attorney fees and costs of $5,218.00 incurred 18 as a result of filing the present motion. (MTR 6–7; ECF No. 20.) 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) 19 provides that “[a]n order remanding the case may require payment of just costs and 20 any actual expenses, including attorney fees, incurred as a result of the removal.” 28 21 U.S.C. § 1447(c) (emphasis added). 22 The Supreme Court has held that “[a]bsent unusual circumstances, courts may 23 award attorney’s fees under § 1447(c) only where the removing party lacked an 24 objectively reasonable basis for seeking removal.” Martin v. Franklin Capital Corp., 25 546 U.S. 132, 141 (2005) (emphasis added). 26 acknowledged that an “appropriate test for awarding fees under § 1447(c) should 27 recognize the desire to deter removals sought for the purpose of prolonging litigation 28 and imposing costs on the opposing party, while not undermining Congress’ basic 6 In Martin, the Supreme Court 1 decision to afford defendants a right to remove as a general matter, when the statutory 2 criteria are satisfied.” Id. at 140. 3 The Court agrees with U.S. Bank’s assertion that Jones’ removal was nothing 4 more than an attempt to delay U.S. Bank’s possession of the Property. (MTR 7.) As a 5 result, Jones subjected U.S. Bank to the expense of unnecessary attorney fees and 6 litigation costs through the process of an untimely removal, based on improper 7 subject-matter jurisdiction. 8 objectively reasonable basis for seeking removal and awards U.S. Bank attorney fees 9 and costs in the amount of $5,218.00. See Moore v. Permanente Med. Grp., Inc. 981 10 F.2d 443, 447 (9th Cir. 1992) (stating that courts have “wide discretion” to grant 11 reasonable attorney fees and costs). 12 C. Therefore, the Court finds Jones did not have an Request for a Court Order Precluding Future Removals in This Action An order precluding future removals of this particular action is unnecessary 13 14 because Jones only filed for removal once. 15 Gonzales, No. 1:11-CV-00060 OWW JLT, 2011 WL 1327753, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Apr. 16 6, 2011); Quantum Servicing Corp. v. Castaneda, No. C-11-2890 EMC, 2011 WL 17 3809926, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 29, 2011) (holding that improperly removing a case 18 once is not sufficient grounds to bar future removal.) Additionally, U.S. Bank failed 19 to cite any law suggesting that barring future removals would be appropriate under 20 these circumstances. Therefore, the Court DENIES U.S. Bank’s request to preclude 21 future removals. 22 /// 23 /// 24 /// 25 /// 26 /// 27 /// 28 /// 7 See, e.g., U.S. Bank Nat. Ass’n v. V. 1 CONCLUSION 2 For the reasons discussed above, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff’s Motion to 3 Remand and AWARDS attorney fees and costs of litigation against Jones in the 4 amount of $5,218.00. (ECF No. 10.) Plaintiff’s request for an Order precluding 5 future removals of this action is DENIED. This action is remanded to the Superior 6 Court of the State of California, Los Angeles County, Santa Monica Judicial District. 7 The Clerk of the Court shall close this case. 8 9 IT IS SO ORDERED 10 11 April 7, 2015 12 13 14 ____________________________________ OTIS D. WRIGHT, II UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 8

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