Seadrift II, LLC v. Singh et al

Filing 14

ORDER by Judge ARMSTRONG granting 9 Motion to Remand (lrc, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 4/18/2012)

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1 2 3 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 4 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 5 OAKLAND DIVISION 6 7 8 SEADRIFT II, LLC, Plaintiff, 9 vs. 10 Case No: C 11-5823 SBA ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO REMAND AND GRANTING REQUEST FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES AND COSTS 11 SHAILENDRA SINGH; SUNITA SINGH, DOES 1 TO 10 INCLUSIVE, Docket 9. 12 Defendants. 13 14 On August 8, 2011, Plaintiff Seadrift II, LLC (“Plaintiff”) filed an unlawful detainer 15 action against Defendants Shailendra and Sunita Singh (“Defendants”) in the Superior 16 Court of the State of California, County of Alameda. Compl., Dkt. 1. Defendants, 17 proceeding pro se, removed the action to this Court on the basis of federal question 18 jurisdiction. Notice of Removal, Dkt. 1. The parties are presently before the Court on 19 Plaintiff’s motion to remand and request for attorneys’ fees and costs. Dkt. 9. Defendants 20 did not file an opposition or statement of non-opposition to the motion as required by Civil 21 Local Rule 7-3(b). Having read and considered the papers submitted in connection with 22 this matter, and being fully informed, the Court hereby GRANTS the motion to remand and 23 GRANTS the request for attorneys’ fees and costs, for the reasons stated below. The Court, 24 in its discretion, finds this matter suitable for resolution without oral argument. See 25 Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b); N.D. Cal. Civ. L.R. 7-1(b). 26 I. 27 28 BACKGROUND Plaintiff alleges that it is the owner of real property located at 3549 Miller Court, Union City, California, because it purchased the property at a Trustee’s Sale following 1 foreclosure proceedings on July 15, 2011. Compl. ¶¶ 4-5, Dkt. 1. Plaintiff further alleges 2 that Defendants, the former owners of the property, have occupied the property from July 3 15, 2011 to the present without Plaintiff’s consent or authorization. Id. ¶ 7. 4 On August 1, 2011, Plaintiff served Defendants with a Notice to Quit pursuant to 5 California Code of Civil Procedure § 1161 et seq., demanding that Defendants quit and 6 deliver possession of the property to Plaintiff within three days after service of the Notice. 7 Compl. ¶ 8. Defendants, however, have refused to vacate and deliver possession of the 8 property. Id. ¶¶ 8-9. 9 On August 8, 2011, Plaintiffs filed the instant unlawful detainer action against 10 Defendants in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Alameda. See 11 Compl. On December 2, 2011, Defendants removed the action to this Court on the basis of 12 federal question jurisdiction. See Notice of Removal. On December 16, 2011, Plaintiff 13 filed the instant motion to remand. Dkt. 9. 14 II. DISCUSSION 15 A. 16 “A defendant may remove an action originally filed in state court only if the case Legal Standard 17 originally could have been filed in federal court.” In re NOS Commc’nc, MDL No. 1357, 18 495 F.3d 1052, 1057 (9th Cir. 2007). The bases for federal subject-matter jurisdiction are: 19 (1) federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331; and (2) diversity of citizenship 20 jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. 21 “A motion to remand is the proper procedure for challenging removal.” Moore- 22 Thomas v. Alaska Airlines, Inc., 553 F.3d 1241, 1244 (9th Cir. 2009). Remand may be 23 ordered either for lack of subject matter jurisdiction or for any defect in the removal 24 procedure. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). “[R]emoval statutes are strictly construed against 25 removal.” Luther v. Countrywide Home Loans Servicing, LP, 533 F.3d 1031, 1034 (9th 26 Cir. 2008). “The presumption against removal means that the defendant always has the 27 burden of establishing that removal is proper.” Moore-Thomas, 553 F.3d at 1244. As such, 28 -2- 1 any doubts regarding the propriety of the removal favors remanding the case. See Gaus v. 2 Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). 3 B. 4 “The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under Federal Question Jurisdiction 5 the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The presence or 6 absence of federal-question jurisdiction is governed by the well-pleaded complaint rule, 7 which provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented on 8 the face of the plaintiff’s properly pleaded complaint. Caterpillar, Inc., v. Williams, 482 9 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). The rule makes the plaintiff the master of his complaint; he or she 10 may avoid federal jurisdiction by exclusive reliance on state law. Id.; Hunter v. Philip 11 Morris USA, 582 F.3d 1039, 1042 (9th Cir. 2009). 12 More specifically, the “arising under” qualification of § 1331 confers district courts 13 with jurisdiction to hear “[o]nly those cases in which a well-pleaded complaint establishes 14 either that [1] federal law creates the cause of action or that [2] the plaintiff’s right to relief 15 necessarily depends on resolution of a substantial question of federal law.” Armstrong v. 16 N. Mariana Islands, 576 F.3d 950, 954-955 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks 17 omitted). In other words, the federal law must be a “necessary element” of the state law 18 claim. Id. 19 Whether the complaint states a claim arising under federal law must be ascertained 20 by the legal construction of the plaintiff’s allegations, and not by the effect attributed to 21 those allegations by the adverse party. Ultramar America Ltd. v. Dwelle, 900 F.2d 1412, 22 1414 (9th Cir. 1990). 23 C. 24 Plaintiff contends that remand is appropriate because the complaint does not allege a 25 26 Motion to Remand federal claim against Defendants. The Court agrees. The Court has reviewed Plaintiff’s complaint and concludes that it does not contain 27 a well-pleaded federal claim on its face against Defendants. Plaintiff’s complaint is 28 predicated on state law. The complaint alleges a single cause of action for unlawful -3- 1 detainer under California Code of Civil Procedure § 1161a. An unlawful detainer action, 2 on its face, does not arise under federal law because such actions are “wholly created and 3 strictly controlled by statute in California.” Stephens, Partain & Cunningham v. Hollis, 196 4 Cal.App.3d 948, 952 (1987). Further, Plaintiff’s right to relief on the unlawful detainer 5 claim does not depend on the resolution of a substantial question of federal law. Rather, 6 Plaintiff is entitled to judgment upon establishing that the sale of the property was 7 conducted in accordance with California Civil Code § 2924 and that title under such sale 8 was duly perfected. Id. at 952-953. 9 Based on the Notice of Removal, it appears that Defendants intend to rely on federal 10 law to defend against the unlawful detainer action. Specifically, Defendants’ Notice of 11 Removal states that Plaintiff failed to comply with the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure 12 Act, 12 U.S.C. § 5220. Notice of Removal ¶¶ 8-10. A federal defense, however, may not 13 be considered part of the pleadings for the purpose of determining whether a federal 14 question exists. See Vaden v. Discover Bank, 556 U.S. 49, 60 (2009) (“Federal jurisdiction 15 cannot be predicated on an actual or anticipated defense”); Provincial Gov’t of Marinduque 16 v. Placer Dome, Inc., 582 F.3d 1083, 1086 (9th Cir. 2009) (under the “well-pleaded 17 complaint” rule, “the federal question on which jurisdiction is premised cannot be supplied 18 via a defense; rather, the federal question must ‘be disclosed upon the face of the 19 complaint, unaided by the answer’ ”); ARCO Environmental Remediation, L.L.C. v. Dept. 20 of Health and Environmental Quality of the State of Montana, 213 F.3d 1108, 1113 (9th 21 Cir. 2000) (“[T]he existence of federal jurisdiction depends solely on the plaintiff’s claims 22 for relief and not on anticipated defenses to those claims.”). 23 Accordingly, because the complaint does not allege a federal claim or establish that 24 Plaintiff’s right to relief necessarily depends on resolution of a substantial question of 25 federal law, and because Defendants’ asserted violation of federal law is not a proper basis 26 for establishing federal question jurisdiction, Plaintiff’s motion to remand is GRANTED. 27 Defendants failed to sustain their burden to demonstrate that removal is proper on the basis 28 of federal question jurisdiction, and therefore remand of this case is warranted. -4- 1 D. 2 Plaintiff moves for an order requiring Defendants to reimburse it for the expenses Attorneys’ Fees and Costs 3 incurred as a result of the improper removal. Specifically, Plaintiff requests $350.00 for the 4 preparation of the motion to remand. Bankson Decl. ¶ 8, Dkt. 9. Where a case is 5 improperly removed, the Court “may require payment of just costs and any actual expenses, 6 including attorney fees, incurred as a result of the removal.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). The 7 Court has “wide discretion” under §1447(c). Moore v. Permanente Medical Group, Inc., 8 981 F.2d 443, 447 (9th Cir. 1992). However, “[a]bsent unusual circumstances, courts may 9 award attorney’s fees under § 1447(c) only where the removing party lacked an objectively 10 reasonable basis for seeking removal.” Martin v. Franklin Capital Corp., 546 U.S. 132, 141 11 (2005). 12 Here, the Court finds that Defendants’ Notice of Removal lacks an objectively 13 reasonable basis for asserting federal question jurisdiction. The law is clear that federal 14 courts lack jurisdiction over unlawful detainer actions, and that federal jurisdiction cannot 15 be predicated on a federal defense. Further, given the suspect timing of Defendants' 16 removal, coupled with Defendants' failure to file an opposition explaining their position 17 with respect to the timing of and basis for removal, the Court finds that Defendants 18 removed this action for the improper purpose of delaying the resolution of this case. 19 The instant unlawful detainer action was commenced on August 8, 2011. 20 Defendants, however, did not file their Notice of Removal until approximately four months 21 later on December 2, 2011.1 According to Plaintiff, Defendants removed this action to 22 delay the unlawful detainer proceedings. Plaintiff states that in addition to filing their 23 Notice of Removal three days before the summary judgment hearing scheduled for 24 1 Under 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b), Defendants' were required to file their Notice of Removal within thirty days after they received a copy of the initial pleading setting forth the claim for relief upon which this action is based. See Babasa v. LensCrafters, Inc., 498 26 F.3d 972, 974 (9th Cir. 2007) (“If a notice of removal is filed after this thirty-day window, it is untimely and remand to state court is therefore appropriate.”). Here, while it appears 27 that Defendants' Notice of Removal was filed outside of the 30-day period, because Plaintiff did not move for remand on the basis that the Notice of Removal was untimely 28 filed, the Court will not reach this issue. 25 -5- 1 December 5, 2011, Defendants previously filed a petition for bankruptcy in response to 2 Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, which resulted in the rescheduling of the 3 summary judgment hearing from October 21, 2011 to December 5, 2011.2 Defendants, for 4 their part, have not filed an opposition explaining their position, despite having ample 5 opportunity to do so. Under the circumstances, the Court concludes that an award of 6 attorneys' fees and costs is appropriate. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s request for attorneys’ fees 7 and costs is GRANTED. 8 III. 9 CONCLUSION For the reasons stated above, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT: 10 1. Plaintiff’s motion to remand is GRANTED. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c), 11 the instant action is remanded to the Superior Court of the State of California, County of 12 Alameda. 13 14 2. Plaintiff’s request for attorneys’ fees and costs is GRANTED in the amount of $350.00. 15 3. This Order terminates Docket No. 9. 16 4. The Clerk shall close the file. 17 IT IS SO ORDERED. 18 Dated: 4/18/12 ______________________________ SAUNDRA BROWN ARMSTRONG United States District Judge 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 2 28 The bankruptcy petition, which stayed the action, was dismissed on November 9, 2011. -6- 1 2 3 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 4 SEADRIFT II, LLC et al, 5 Plaintiff, 6 7 8 9 v. SINGH et al, Defendant. / 10 11 Case Number: CV11-05823 SBA 12 CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 I, the undersigned, hereby certify that I am an employee in the Office of the Clerk, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California. That on April 18, 2012, I SERVED a true and correct copy(ies) of the attached, by placing said copy(ies) in a postage paid envelope addressed to the person(s) hereinafter listed, by depositing said envelope in the U.S. Mail, or by placing said copy(ies) into an inter-office delivery receptacle located in the Clerk's office. Puneet Kaur Singh Kimball Tirey & St. John 500 Ygnacio Valley Road Suite 290 Walnut Creek, CA 94596 21 22 23 Shailendra Singh 354 Miller Court Union City, CA 94587 25 Sunita Singh 354 Miller Court Union City, CA 94587 26 Dated: April 18, 2012 24 27 Richard W. Wieking, Clerk By: Lisa Clark, Deputy Clerk 28 -7-

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