PNMAC Mortgage Opportunity Fund Investors, LLC v. Rothballer

Filing 5

ORDER REMANDING CASE. Signed by Judge Hamilton on 3/14/2012. (pjhlc1, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 3/14/2012)

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1 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 2 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 3 4 5 6 PNMAC MORTGAGE OPPORTUNITY FUND INVESTORS, LLC, 7 8 9 v. No. C 12-1151 PJH ORDER REMANDING CASE LINDA ROTHBALLER, Defendant. _______________________________/ 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 Plaintiff, 12 Defendant Linda Rothballer removed this unlawful detainer action from the Superior 13 Court of California, County of San Mateo, on March 8, 2012. The court has reviewed the 14 notice of removal and the state court complaint, and finds that the case must be remanded 15 for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. 16 Subject matter jurisdiction is fundamental and cannot be waived. Billingsly v. C.I.R., 17 868 F.2d 1081, 1085 (9th Cir. 1989). Federal courts can adjudicate only those cases which 18 the Constitution and Congress authorize them to adjudicate – those involving diversity of 19 citizenship or a federal question, or those to which the United States is a party. 20 Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of America, 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994); see also Chen- 21 Cheng Wang ex rel. United States v. FMC Corp., 975 F.2d 1412, 1415 (9th Cir. 1992) 22 (federal courts have no power to consider claims for which they lack subject-matter 23 jurisdiction). 24 A defendant may remove a civil action filed in state court if the action could have 25 originally been filed in federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1441. The removal statutes are 26 construed restrictively, however, so as to limit removal jurisdiction. Shamrock Oil & Gas 27 Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 108-09 (1941); see also Matheson v. Progressive Specialty 28 Ins. Co., 319 F.3d 1089, 1090 (9th Cir. 2003). 1 The burden of establishing federal jurisdiction for purposes of removal is on the party 2 seeking removal. Valdez v. Allstate Ins. Co., 372 F.3d 1115, 1117 (9th Cir. 2004). The 3 district court must remand the case if it appears before final judgment that the court lacks 4 subject matter jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c); Albingia Versicherungs A.G. v. Schenker 5 Int’l, Inc., 344 F.3d 931, 936 (9th Cir. 2003). 6 Subject matter jurisdiction is determined from the face of the complaint. Toumajian 7 v. Frailey, 135 F.3d 648, 653 n.2 (9th Cir. 1998) (“[f]or removal to be appropriate, a federal 8 question must appear on the face of the complaint”); see also Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 9 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987) (federal question must be presented on face of plaintiff’s properly pleaded complaint); Fifty Assocs. v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 446 F.2d 1187, 1189-90 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 (9th Cir. 1970) (existence of diversity jurisdiction must be sufficient on the face of the 12 complaint). Jurisdiction may not be based on a claim raised as a defense or a 13 counterclaim. See Smith v. Grimm, 534 F.2d 1346, 1350 (9th Cir. 1976). 14 Plaintiff PNMAC Mortgage Opportunity Fund Investors LLC (“PNMAC”) filed the 15 complaint at issue in San Francisco Superior Court on December 12, 2011, against 16 defendant Linda Rothballer and ten DOE defendants. The complaint alleges a single 17 cause of action under state law, for unlawful detainer to recover possession of property 18 following a non-judicial foreclosure sale of the property. 19 On October 6, 2011, the property was sold to plaintiff in a trustee’s sale. The 20 Trustee’s Deed Upon Sale was recorded in the Official Records in the County of San Mateo 21 on October 20, 2011. A copy of the unlawful detainer complaint, which includes a copy of 22 the Trustee’s Deed Upon Sale as an exhibit, is attached as Exhibit A to defendant’s notice 23 of removal. 24 The unlawful detainer complaint asserts that following the trustee’s sale, defendant 25 was served with a Notice to Vacate Premises, and that defendant failed to deliver up 26 possession of the premises. Defendant demurred to the complaint, asserting that the 27 Notice to Vacate was “inappropriate and defective,” but (according to the notice of removal) 28 the Superior Court overruled the demurrer. 2 1 The notice of removal alleges no facts from which the court can find that it has 2 federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Defendant asserts that jurisdiction is 3 proper under the laws of the United States, because the Notice to Vacate failed to comply 4 with the federal Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act, 12 U.S.C. § 5220, and thus, her 5 demurrer “depend[s] on the determination of Defendants’ rights and Plaintiff’s duties under 6 federal law.” Notice of Removal ¶¶ 8, 10. 7 However, while defendant purported to remove the action under federal question 8 jurisdiction by asserting that she has claims or defenses based on federal law, the 9 complaint itself does not raise any federal statutory or constitutional provision as the basis for the unlawful detainer action. Rather, the complaint alleges only a single claim under 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 state law, for unlawful detainer “against occupants holding over after nonjudicial sale under 12 power of sale in deed of trust.” As no federal question is raised on the face of the 13 complaint, there is no federal question jurisdiction. 14 Nor – although defendant does not so allege – is there diversity jurisdiction under 28 15 U.S.C. § 1332, as the caption page specifies that the amount in controversy is “up to 16 $10,000.” The complaint seeks restitution and possession of the property, plus “costs of 17 suit,” and “such other and further relief as the [c]ourt deems just and proper.” The amount 18 in controversy is not the assessed value or the sales value of the property, but rather 19 whatever sum plaintiff is seeking in the state court action. Thus, liability does not exceed 20 the $75,000 jurisdictional minimum. 21 Accordingly, as the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, and would have no power 22 to consider any of defendant’s claims or defenses, the case must be REMANDED to the 23 San Mateo Superior Court. 24 25 IT IS SO ORDERED. 26 Dated: March 14, 2012 ______________________________ PHYLLIS J. HAMILTON United States District Judge 27 28 3

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