Pamela J. Vasquez v. Katrina Mullins

Filing 4

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)

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1 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 2 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 3 4 PAMELA J. VASQUEZ, 5 1:17-cv-01523-LJO-JLT Plaintiff, 6 v. 7 SUA SPONTE ORDER REMANDING ACTION TO STATE COURT KATRINA MULLINS and Does 1-5, 8 Defendants. 9 10 11 The undersigned revokes any actual or anticipated referral to a Magistrate Judge for the purposes 12 of Findings and Recommendations in this case. 13 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. 17 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); 1 1 2 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 3 “well-pleaded complaint rule” applies, “which provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a 4 federal question is presented on the face of the plaintiff’s properly pleaded complaint.” Caterpillar Inc. 5 v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). The removal statute is strictly construed in favor of remand and 6 against removal. Harris v. Bankers Life and Cas. Co., 425 F.3d 689, 698 (9th Cir. 2005). This means 7 that the defendant has the burden of establishing that removal is proper. California ex rel. Lockyer v. 8 Dynegy, Inc., 375 F.3d 831, 838 (9th Cir. 2004). Federal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any 9 doubt as to the right of removal. Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). 10 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.”). 20 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 2 1 2 Lhotka, 599 F.3d 1102, 1106 (9th Cir. 2010). Defendant cannot establish diversity of citizenship jurisdiction in this case. The complaint filed 3 in the underlying unlawful detainer action unequivocally states that the amount in controversy is less 4 than $10,000. Doc. 1 at 10. When a state court complaint affirmatively alleges that the amount in 5 controversy is less than the jurisdictional threshold, the party seeking removal must prove with “legal 6 certainty” that the jurisdictional amount is met. Guglielmino v. McKee Foods Corp., 506 F.3d 696, 699 7 (9th Cir. 2007); see also Glassical Creations, Inc. v. Canter, No. CV 15-04358 MMM PJWX, 2015 WL 8 4127912, at *4 & n. 10 (C.D. Cal. July 7, 2015). Defendant’s notice of removal does not provide any 9 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. 13 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. 18 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. 21 Dated: /s/ Lawrence J. O’Neill _____ November 15, 2017 UNITED STATES CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE 22 23 24 25 3

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