Pamela J. Vasquez v. Katrina Mullins
Sua Sponte ORDER REMANDING CASE to Superior Court for the County of Kern,signed by Chief Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill on 11/15/2017. Copy of remand order sent to other court at Superior Court of California, County of Kern, 1773 Highway 58, Mojave, CA 93501 (Case # MCL 17-000653). Ci CASE CLOSED (Martin-Gill, S)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
PAMELA J. VASQUEZ,
SUA SPONTE ORDER REMANDING
ACTION TO STATE COURT
KATRINA MULLINS and Does 1-5,
The undersigned revokes any actual or anticipated referral to a Magistrate Judge for the purposes
12 of Findings and Recommendations in this case.
On November 15, 2017, Defendant Katrina Mullins filed a pro se Notice of Removal with this
14 Court, seeking to remove an action from the Superior Court for the County of Kern. Doc. 1. For the
15 following reasons, the Court sua sponte REMANDS this case to the Superior Court of California for the
16 County of Kern.
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), a defendant may remove an action to federal court if the district
18 court has original jurisdiction. Hunter v. Phillip Morris USA, 582 F.3d 1039, 1042 (9th Cir. 2009). If at
19 any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case
20 shall be remanded. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and can
21 adjudicate only those cases authorized by the United States Constitution and Congress. Generally, those
22 are cases involving diversity of citizenship or a federal question, or where the United States is a party.
23 See 28 U.S.C. § 1442; Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375 (1994); Franchise Tax Bd. of
24 State of Cal. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust for S. California, 463 U.S. 1, 8 (1983). Lack of subject
25 matter jurisdiction is never waived and may be raised by the Court sua sponte. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3);
Snell v. Cleveland, Inc., 316 F.3d 822, 826 (9th Cir. 2002).
In determining the presence or absence of federal question jurisdiction in removal cases, the
“well-pleaded complaint rule” applies, “which provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a
federal question is presented on the face of the plaintiff’s properly pleaded complaint.” Caterpillar Inc.
v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). The removal statute is strictly construed in favor of remand and
against removal. Harris v. Bankers Life and Cas. Co., 425 F.3d 689, 698 (9th Cir. 2005). This means
that the defendant has the burden of establishing that removal is proper. California ex rel. Lockyer v.
Dynegy, Inc., 375 F.3d 831, 838 (9th Cir. 2004). Federal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any
doubt as to the right of removal. Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992).
Here, Defendant is unable to establish federal question jurisdiction because the complaint filed in
11 the state court contains a single cause of action for unlawful detainer based on California Code of Civil
12 Procedure section 1161a. Unlawful detainer actions are strictly within the province of the state courts.
13 See PNC Bank Nat'l Ass'n v. Ahluwalia, No. C 15-01264 WHA, 2015 WL 3866892, at *4 (N.D. Cal.
14 June 22, 2015) (collecting cases). Therefore, Plaintiff’s complaint avoids federal question jurisdiction. A
15 defendant cannot create federal subject matter jurisdiction by adding claims or defenses to a notice of
16 removal. Vaden v. Discover Bank, 556 U.S. 49, 50 (2009) (federal question jurisdiction cannot “rest
17 upon an actual or anticipated counterclaim”); Valles v. Ivy Hill Corp., 410 F.3d 1071, 1075 (9th Cir.
18 2005) (“A federal law defense to a state-law claim does not confer jurisdiction on a federal court, even if
19 the defense is that of federal preemption and is anticipated in the plaintiff's complaint.”).
The next possible basis for this Court’s jurisdiction is diversity. District courts have diversity
21 jurisdiction over “all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000,
22 exclusive of interests and costs,” and the action is between “(1) citizens of different States; (2) citizens
23 of a State and citizens or subjects of a foreign state; (3) citizens of different States and in which citizens
24 or subjects of a foreign state are additional parties; and (4) a foreign state . . . as plaintiff and citizens of
25 a State or of different States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332; see also Geographic Expeditions, Inc. v. Estate of
Lhotka, 599 F.3d 1102, 1106 (9th Cir. 2010).
Defendant cannot establish diversity of citizenship jurisdiction in this case. The complaint filed
in the underlying unlawful detainer action unequivocally states that the amount in controversy is less
than $10,000. Doc. 1 at 10. When a state court complaint affirmatively alleges that the amount in
controversy is less than the jurisdictional threshold, the party seeking removal must prove with “legal
certainty” that the jurisdictional amount is met. Guglielmino v. McKee Foods Corp., 506 F.3d 696, 699
(9th Cir. 2007); see also Glassical Creations, Inc. v. Canter, No. CV 15-04358 MMM PJWX, 2015 WL
4127912, at *4 & n. 10 (C.D. Cal. July 7, 2015). Defendant’s notice of removal does not provide any
basis for a finding that the amount in controversy exceeds the $75,000 threshold. The amount in
10 controversy is determined without regard to any setoff or counterclaim to which defendant may be
11 entitled. Mesa Indus., Inc. v. Eaglebrook Products, Inc., 980 F. Supp. 323, 326 (D. Ariz. 1997). Thus,
12 the amount in controversy is insufficient to provide this Court with diversity jurisdiction.
Moreover, in removal cases where the purported basis of jurisdiction is diversity jurisdiction,
14 removal is not permitted where a defendant is a citizen of the state in which the plaintiff originally
15 brought the action (even if the opposing parties are citizens of different states). See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b).
16 Here, Defendant lists an address in California City, California, and does not provide any alternative
17 basis for a finding of diverse citizenship. Doc. 1 at 1.
Accordingly, the Court REMANDS this case to the Superior Court for the County of Kern for all
19 future proceedings.
20 IT IS SO ORDERED.
/s/ Lawrence J. O’Neill _____
November 15, 2017
UNITED STATES CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE
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