OP Development, Inc. v. Pascal et al

Filing 3

ORDER DENYING AS MOOT 2 Application to Proceed Without Prepayment of Fees and ORDER REMANDING CASE to Merced County Superior Court, signed by District Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill on 8/22/2011. Copy of remand order mailed to other court. CASE CLOSED. (Jessen, A)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 OP DEVELOPMENT, INC., 11 12 13 14 15 ) ) Plaintiff, ) ) v. ) ) MICHAEL PASCAL, REBECCA PASCAL, ) ) Defendants. ) ) _____________________________________ ) 1:11-cv-01363 LJO GSA ORDER REGARDING NOTICE OF REMOVAL BY DEFENDANT MICHAEL PASCAL (Document 1) ORDER DENYING APPLICATION TO PROCEED WITHOUT PREPAYMENT OF FEES AS MOOT 16 (Document 2) 17 18 19 20 21 On August 16, 2011, Defendant1 Michael Pascal filed a Notice of Removal with this Court, seeking to remove an action from the Merced County Superior Court. (Doc. 1.) Pursuant to Title 28 of the United States Code section 1441(a), a defendant may remove 22 an action to federal court if the district court has original jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a); 23 Hunter v. Phillip Morris USA, 582 F.3d 1039, 1042 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Ansley v. 24 25 1 27 Although purportedly a notice of removal on behalf of both named Defendants, only Michael Pascal signed the actual notice itself. (Doc. 1 at 3.) However, it appears Defendant Rebecca Pascal did sign a notice intended for the state court and appended as Exhibit 1 to the instant notice. (See Doc. 1 at 7.) Nonetheless, for the reasons set forth herein, the Court has no jurisdiction in this matter. 28 1 26 1 Ameriquest Mortg. Co., 340 F.3d 858, 861 (9th Cir. 2003)). If at any time before final judgment 2 it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded. 28 3 U.S.C. § 1447(c). Generally, a defendant seeking to remove an action to federal court must file a 4 notice of removal within thirty days of receiving a copy of the initial pleading. 28 U.S.C. § 5 1446(b). The defendant seeking removal of an action to federal court has the burden of 6 establishing federal jurisdiction in the case. California ex rel. Lockyer v. Dynegy, Inc., 375 F.3d 7 831, 838 (9th Cir. 2004). 8 Timeliness 9 Title 28 of the United States Code section 1446 provides, in pertinent part: 10 18 (a) A defendant or defendants desiring to remove any civil action . . . from a State court shall file in the district court of the United States for the district and division within which such action is pending a notice of removal signed pursuant to Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and containing a short and plain statement of the grounds for removal, together with a copy of all process, pleadings, and orders served upon such defendant or defendants in such action. (b) The notice of removal of a civil action or proceeding shall be filed within thirty days after the receipt by the defendant, through service or otherwise, of a copy of the initial pleading setting forth the claim for relief upon which such action or proceeding is based, or within thirty days after the service of summons upon the defendant if such initial pleading has then been filed with the court and is not required to be served on the defendant, whichever period is shorter. If the case stated by the initial pleading is not removable, a notice of removal may be filed within thirty days after receipt by the defendant, through service or otherwise, of a copy of an amended pleading, motion, order or other paper from which it may first be ascertained that the case is one which is or has become removable . . .. 19 Initially, the Court notes that Defendant’s removal notice failed to provide “a copy of all 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 20 process, pleadings and orders served” in the state court action as required. See 28 U.S.C. § 21 1446(a). Defendant’s removal notice references these documents as Exhibits A through C, 22 however, the documents were not actually appended to the notice itself or otherwise filed with 23 this Court. Defendant’s notice does indicate that Plaintiff’s “unlawful detainer complaint” was 24 filed on July 7, 2011, in Merced County Superior Court, case number CVM009244. (Doc. 1 at 25 1-2.) However, while Defendant also indicated an appearance was entered, he has not referenced 26 any date of service of process of the summons and complaint. (Doc. 1 at 1-2.) 27 28 2 1 While Defendant’s pleading does state that the notice is “timely because it is not barred 2 by the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b),” because Defendant did not provide a date upon which 3 he received service of process, this Court cannot make a determination regarding timeliness. 4 5 Nevertheless, although timeliness is unclear, the Court will turn to address the issue of jurisdiction. 6 Jurisdiction 7 Defendant is attempting remove an unlawful detainer action based on federal question 8 subject matter jurisdiction. (Doc. 1 at 2.) However, Defendant cannot establish jurisdiction that 9 is proper. Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and lack inherent or general subject 10 matter jurisdiction. Federal courts can adjudicate only those cases authorized by the United 11 States Constitution and Congress. Generally, those cases involve diversity of citizenship or a 12 federal question, or cases in which the United States is a party. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. 13 Co., 511 U.S. 375, 114 S.Ct. 1673, 1677 (1994); Finley v. United States, 490 U.S. 545, 109 S.Ct. 14 2003, 2008 (1989). Federal courts are presumptively without jurisdiction over civil actions. 15 Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 377. Lack of subject matter jurisdiction is never waived and may be 16 raised by the Court sua sponte. Attorneys Trust v. Videotape Computer Products, Inc., 93 F.3d 17 593, 594-95 (9th Cir. 1996). "Nothing is to be more jealously guarded by a court than its 18 jurisdiction. Jurisdiction is what its power rests upon. Without jurisdiction it is nothing." In re 19 Mooney, 841 F.2d 1003, 1006 (9th Cir. 1988). 20 Furthermore, the law is clear in the Ninth Circuit that the removal statute should be 21 strictly construed in favor of remand and against removal. Harris v. Bankers Life and Cas. Co, 22 425 F.3d 689, 698 (9th Cir. 2005). The “strong presumption” against removal jurisdiction 23 means that the defendant always has the burden of establishing that removal is proper. 24 Nishimoto v. Federman-Bachrach & Assocs., 903 F.2d 709, 712 n. 3 (9th Cir. 1990); Emrich v. 25 Touche Ross & Co., 846 F.2d 1190, 1195 (9th Cir. 1988). Federal jurisdiction must be rejected if 26 27 28 3 1 there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance. Gaus v. Miles, 980 F.2d 564, 2 566 (9th Cir. 1992). 3 In this case, Defendant is unable to establish subject matter jurisdiction before this Court 4 because the complaint filed in the state court apparently contains a single cause of action for 5 unlawful detainer based on California Code of Civil Procedure section 1161a. Unlawful detainer 6 actions are strictly within the province of state court. Defendant’s attempt at creating federal 7 subject matter jurisdiction by adding claims or defenses to a notice of removal will not succeed. 8 See Catee v. Capital One, F.S.B., 479 F.3d 1143, 1145 (9th Cir. 2007) (even previously asserted 9 counterclaims raising federal issue will not permit removal). In other words, Defendant’s 10 reference to “Title VII of the Emergency Economic Stabilization ‘Protecting Tenants at 11 Foreclosure Act of 2009’” (Doc. 1 at 2 [“Defendants assert a defense . . .”]) is an attempt to add a 12 claim or raise a defense to a notice of removal that cannot succeed. 13 Further, in determining the presence or absence of federal jurisdiction in removal cases, 14 the “‘well-pleaded complaint rule,’ applies which provides that federal jurisdiction exists only 15 when a federal question is presented on the face of the plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint.” 16 Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). Moreover, “it is well established that 17 plaintiff is the ‘master of her complaint’ and can plead to avoid federal jurisdiction.” 18 Lowdermilk v. U.S. Bank Nat’l Ass’n, 479 F.3d 994, 997-98 (9th Cir. 2007); Metropolitan Life 19 Ins. Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 63 (1987) (citing Gully v. First Nat’l Bank, 299 U.S. 109 (1936)) 20 (“It is long settled law that a cause of action arises under federal law only when the plaintiff’s 21 well-pleaded complaint raises issues of federal law”). While a copy of Plaintiff OP 22 Development, Inc.’s complaint for unlawful detainer is not available to the Court, such an action 23 typically raises a single state law claim. The face of a properly-pled state law unlawful detainer 24 action does not present a federal question. Therefore, Plaintiff’s complaint avoids federal 25 jurisdiction. 26 // 27 28 4 1 Application to Proceed Without Prepayment of Fees 2 In light of the foregoing, Defendant’s application to proceed without prepayment of fees 3 is DENIED as MOOT. 4 CONCLUSION AND ORDER 5 Based on the above, this action is REMANDED sua sponte to the Merced County 6 Superior Court of California for all future proceedings. Accordingly, the Clerk of the Court is 7 directed to remand the matter to the Merced County Superior Court and to close this case. 8 9 10 IT IS SO ORDERED. 11 Dated: 66h44d August 22, 2011 /s/ Lawrence J. O'Neill UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 5

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