The John Stewart Company v. Lavie

Filing 33

ORDER by Judge Laurel Beeler granting 16 Motion to Remand.The attached order remands this case to the Superior Court of California. The plaintiff's requests for sanctions, ECF No. 32 , is denied. (lblc1S, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 12/7/2017)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 San Francisco Division United States District Court Northern District of California 11 THE JOHN STEWART COMPANY, 12 Plaintiff, 13 v. 14 SMADAR LAVIE, Defendant. 15 Case No. 17-cv-06301-LB ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR REMAND AND REMANDING ACTION TO STATE COURT Re: ECF No. 16 16 17 OVERVIEW The plaintiff landlord filed this unlawful-detainer case against the tenant defendant in the 18 19 Superior Court of California on September 26, 2017.1 The defendant removed the action from 20 state court, asserting federal-question jurisdiction, arguing (1) the property at issue in the 21 unlawful-detainer claim is located on Treasure Island, a former naval base and a federal enclave, 22 and therefore the unlawful-detainer claim presents a federal question and (2) she planned to assert 23 a defense that the plaintiff was racially discriminating against her and the federal government has 24 a federal interest in preventing such discrimination.2 The plaintiff moved to remand the case back 25 26 27 Notice of Removal – ECF No. 1 at 2 (¶ 1). Record citations are to the Electronic Case File (“ECF”); pinpoint citations are to the ECF-generated page numbers at the top of documents. 28 2 1 Id. at 2 (¶¶ 2–3). ORDER – No. 17-cv-06301-LB 1 to state court.3 Because the unlawful-detainer complaint presents only a state claim on its face and does not 2 3 present a federal question, the court remands the case back to the Superior Court of California. 4 5 ANALYSIS 6 A defendant in state court may remove an action to federal court if the case could have been filed originally in federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Original jurisdiction may be based on 8 federal-question jurisdiction or diversity jurisdiction. Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 9 392 (1987); 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332. A district court must remand a removed action “if at any 10 time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction.” 28 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 7 U.S.C. § 1447(c). Courts must “strictly construe the removal statute against removal jurisdiction.” 12 Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). “The strong presumption against removal 13 jurisdiction means that the defendant always had the burden of establishing that removal is 14 proper.” Id. (quotation omitted). 15 1. Federal-Enclave Jurisdiction The defendant argues that because the property in question is located on Treasure Island, a 16 17 federal enclave, the plaintiff’s unlawful-detainer claim presents a federal question. 18 Unlawful-detainer claims do not arise under federal law and, without more, the court lacks 19 federal-question jurisdiction. See, e.g., Fed. Nat’l Mortg. Assoc. v. Lopez, No. 3:11-cv-00451- 20 WHA, 2011 WL 1465678, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 15, 2011); GMAC Mortg. LLC v. Rosario, No. 21 4:11-cv-01894-PJH, 2011 WL 1754053, at *2 (N.D. Cal. May 9, 2011); Wescom Credit Union v. 22 Dudley, No. CV 10-8203 GAF (SSx), 2010 WL 4916578, at *2 (C.D. Cal. Nov. 22, 2010). And the 23 mere fact that the property in question is located on the federal enclave of Treasure Island does not 24 automatically render this case a federal one. This exact issue has previously been addressed in 25 Community Housing Partnership v. Byrd, No. 13-3031 JSC, 2013 WL 6087350 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 26 19, 2013), another case involving an unlawful-detainer claim on a property located on Treasure 27 28 3 Mot. to Remand – ECF No. 16. ORDER – No. 17-cv-06301-LB 2 1 Island first brought in state court and removed by the defendant there to federal court. The Byrd 2 court remanded that case. The same conclusion is compelled here. 3 As the Byrd court found, “in 1997, the U.S. Navy retroceded ‘exclusive and partial legislative 4 jurisdiction’ to California and expressly provided for the establishment of concurrent federal and 5 state jurisdiction over the lands comprising Naval Station Treasure Island . . . .” Id. at *4. The 6 Byrd court noted that “[s]ome courts have found that state law claims arising within federal 7 enclaves subject to exclusive jurisdiction may present a substantial federal question such that they 8 can be brought in federal courts.” Id. at *5 (emphasis in original, citations omitted). The Byrd 9 court noted there was no clear authority, however, to support the claim of the defendant in that case that a state-law claim on a federal enclave property subject to concurrent jurisdiction 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 presented a federal question. Id. at *7. Consequently, given the requirement that the removal 12 statute be strictly construed against removal jurisdiction, the Byrd court remanded the case to state 13 court. Id. (citing Gaus, 980 F.2d at 566). 14 The defendant, in her opposition to remand, tries to distinguish Byrd by citing to two cases, 15 neither of which help her. The first case she cites, Federico v. Lincoln Military Housing, 901 F. 16 Supp. 2d 654 (E.D. Va. 2012), was expressly considered and distinguished by the Byrd court. As 17 the Byrd court noted: 18 21 In Federico, the plaintiffs were military housing residents bringing suit against their property manager for failing to keep their premises free from toxic mold growth. The property manager in question was in a public-private venture with the Navy and managed over 31,000 military homes nationwide. . . . The [Federico] court concluded there was “no question” that the facts and the parties presented “unique and significant” federal interests since “almost everything in th[e] case implicates the United States Navy in one form or another.” 22 Byrd, 2013 WL 6087350, at *6 (citing Federico, 901 F. Supp. 2d at 656, 672–73). By contrast, in 23 both the Byrd case and this one, the plaintiff is a private entity bringing a claim for unlawful 24 detainer, a claim grounded entirely in California statute, which does not “present a substantial 25 question of federal law.” Id. 19 20 26 As for the second case the defendant cites, Ching v. Aila, No. 14-00253 JMS-RLP, 2014 WL 27 4216051 (D. Haw. Aug. 22, 2014), far from helping her, it actually undermines her argument and 28 confirms that remand is appropriate. That case involved a state-law breach-of-trust claim related to ORDER – No. 17-cv-06301-LB 3 1 a lease agreement on a federal enclave over which the United States and Hawaii had concurrent 2 jurisdiction. Id. at *1. The case was originally brought in state court but was removed to federal 3 court, and then subject to a motion to remand. Id. at *2. The court there granted remand, following 4 Byrd and similarly remanding the case in light of the state’s concurrent jurisdiction over the 5 federal enclave. Id. at *8.4 The defendant has not met her burden of establishing why the Byrd analysis should not apply 6 7 here. This case is virtually identical to that one. The claim is the same: unlawful detainer. The 8 enclave in question is the same: Treasure Island. And the one new case issued after Byrd that the 9 defendant cites — Ching — only further affirmed the Byrd analysis. In light of this, the same outcome that the Byrd court reached is warranted here as well. 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 2. Jurisdiction Based on Purported Defenses The defendant next argues that there is federal-question jurisdiction because she plans to assert 12 13 a defense based on racial discrimination and preventing racial discrimination is a federal interest. 14 But the well-pleaded complaint rule requires a federal question to be presented on the face of the 15 plaintiff’s complaint at the time of removal for federal-question jurisdiction to exist. Metro. Life 16 Ins. Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 63 (1987); Duncan v. Stuetzle, 76 F.3d 1480, 1485 (9th Cir. 1996). 17 An actual or anticipated federal defense is not sufficient to confer jurisdiction. Franchise Tax Bd. 18 of Cal. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 10 (1983); Hunter v. Phillip Morris USA, 19 582 F.3d 1039, 1042–43 (9th Cir. 2009). 20 3. Diversity Jurisdiction 21 There is also no alternative basis for jurisdiction, such as diversity. While the civil cover sheet 22 that the defendant filed upon removing the case to this court does not give the parties’ citizenship, 23 the addresses that appear on the parties’ filings indicate the defendant resides in California and the 24 plaintiff is a California corporation. Diversity jurisdiction therefore does not exist in this case. 25 26 27 28 4 The defendant also cites an earlier report and recommendation in the Ching case, 2014 WL 4215880 (D. Haw. July 22, 2014), that recommended denying the motion to remand, but that recommendation was ultimately rejected by the Ching court. ORDER – No. 17-cv-06301-LB 4 1 2 CONCLUSION For the foregoing reasons, the undersigned directs the clerk of court to remand this action to the Superior Court of San Francisco County, California. 3 4 IT IS SO ORDERED. 5 Dated: December 7, 2017 6 ______________________________________ LAUREL BEELER United States Magistrate Judge 7 8 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 ORDER – No. 17-cv-06301-LB 5

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