Augustus v. Rusteen

Filing 6

ORDER REASSIGNING CASE to a district judge; REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS to remand case to start court; ORDER granting 2 MOTION for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis filed by Christopher Rusteen. Objections to the report and recommendation are due by 6/23/2017. Signed by Judge Kandis A. Westmore on 6/6/2017. (kawlc2, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 6/6/2017) (Additional attachment(s) added on 6/6/2017: # 1 Certificate/Proof of Service) (sis, COURT STAFF).

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 MICHAEL AUGUSTUS, Plaintiff, 8 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 Case No. 4:17-cv-02705-KAW ORDER REASSIGNING CASE TO A DISTRICT JUDGE; REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO REMAND TO STATE COURT; ORDER GRANTING IN FORMA PAUPERIS APPLICATION v. CHRISTOPHER RUSTEEN, Defendant. Re: Dkt. Nos. 1 & 2 12 13 On May 10, 2017, Defendant Christopher Rusteen removed this unlawful detainer action 14 from Sonoma County Superior Court, and applied to proceed in forma pauperis. (Not. of 15 Removal, Dkt. No. 1; IFP Appl., Dkt. No. 2.) 16 As removal is clearly improper, and the parties have not consented to the undersigned, for 17 the reasons set forth below, the Court reassigns this case to a district judge and recommends that 18 the case be remanded to state court. Additionally, the Court grants Defendant’s application to 19 proceed in forma pauperis. 20 21 I. BACKGROUND Plaintiff Michael Augustus commenced this unlawful detainer action against Defendant in 22 Sonoma County Superior Court on or around April 14, 2017. (Not. of Removal, Dkt. No. 1 ¶ 2.) 23 The complaint contains a single cause of action for unlawful detainer. Id. The case is a “limited 24 civil case,” in which Plaintiff seeks immediate possession of a certain property located in Santa 25 Rosa, California, which Defendant occupies. 26 On April 10, 2017, Plaintiff allegedly served a written notice on Defendant to pay rent or 27 quit within three days. (Dkt. No. 1 at 11.) On April 14, 2017, Plaintiff filed the instant unlawful 28 detainer suit in state court. (Compl., Dkt. No. 1 at 7.) On April 25, 2017, Defendant filed an 1 answer. (Dkt. No. 1 at 13.) On May 10, 2017, Defendant removed the action to federal court on 2 the grounds that it presents a federal question. (Not. of Removal at 2.) 3 II. 4 LEGAL STANDARD Federal courts exercise limited jurisdiction. A “federal court is presumed to lack 5 jurisdiction in a particular case unless the contrary affirmatively appears.” Stock W., Inc. v. 6 Confederated Tribes, 873 F.2d 1221, 1225 (9th Cir. 1989) (citation omitted). A defendant may 7 remove a civil action from state court to federal court if original jurisdiction would have existed at 8 the time the complaint was filed. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). “[R]emoval statutes are strictly 9 construed against removal.” Luther v. Countrywide Homes Loans Servicing, LP, 533 F.3d 1031, 1034 (9th Cir. 2008). “Federal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 removal in the first instance,” such that courts must resolve all doubts as to removability in favor 12 of remand. Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). The burden of establishing that 13 federal jurisdiction exists is on the party seeking removal. See id. at 566-67. 14 Federal district courts have original jurisdiction over actions that present a federal question 15 or those based on diversity jurisdiction. See Wayne v. DHL Worldwide Express, 294 F.3d 1179, 16 1183 & n.2 (9th Cir. 2002). Federal district courts have federal question jurisdiction over "all civil 17 actions arising under the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331. 18 Federal question jurisdiction is governed by the well-pleaded complaint rule, which provides that 19 the basis for federal jurisdiction must appear on the face of the properly pleaded complaint, either 20 because the complaint directly raises an issue of federal law or because the plaintiff's "right to 21 relief under state law requires resolution of a substantial question of federal law in dispute 22 between the parties." Franchise Tax Bd. of Cal. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust for S. Cal., 23 463 U.S. 1, 13 (1983). "[A] case may not be removed to federal court on the basis of a federal 24 defense . . . , even if the defense is anticipated in the plaintiff's complaint . . . ." Caterpillar Inc. v. 25 Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 393 (1987) (citation omitted). 26 27 28 III. DISCUSSION Defendant removed this unlawful detainer action from state court on the grounds that the district court has jurisdiction because the case presents a federal question. 2 1 A. 2 Defendant claims that a federal question exists because Plaintiff allegedly served a 3 defective three day notice to pay rent or quit, which he contends violates the Protecting Tenants at 4 Foreclosure Act. (Not. of Removal ¶ 8.) Defendant’s rights in an unlawful detainer action, 5 however, depend on the interpretation of state law. Further, Defendant has not shown why the 6 resolution of Plaintiff’s unlawful detainer claim will turn on a substantial question of federal law. 7 The complaint, therefore, fails to present a federal question or a substantial question of federal 8 law. 9 Federal Question Jurisdiction Moreover, the well-pleaded complaint rule prevents the Court from considering any additional claims, such that a defendant cannot create federal question jurisdiction by adding 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 claims or defenses to a notice of removal. See Provincal Gov't of Marinduque v. Placer Dome, 12 Inc., 582 F.3d 1083, 1086 (9th Cir. 2009); see also McAtee v. Capital One, F.S.B., 479 F.3d 1143, 13 1145 (9th Cir. 2007) (even previously asserted counterclaims raising federal issue will not permit 14 removal). Accordingly, Defendant’s claim that service of the three-day notice was defective does 15 not establish federal question jurisdiction in this matter. Thus, Defendant’s contention that there 16 are federal questions at issue in this litigation is misplaced. 17 Lastly, the limited scope of unlawful detainer proceedings precludes cross-complaints or 18 counterclaims. See Knowles v. Robinson, 60 Cal. 2d 620, 626-27 (1963). Thus, to the extent that 19 Defendants’ assertions could be contained in any such filing, they would, nonetheless, fail to 20 introduce a basis for federal question jurisdiction. 21 B. Diversity Jurisdiction 22 District courts also have original jurisdiction over all civil actions “where the matter in 23 controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interests and costs, and is between . 24 . . citizens of different States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). When federal subject-matter jurisdiction is 25 predicated on diversity of citizenship, complete diversity must exist between the opposing parties. 26 Owen Equip. & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 373-74 (1978). Under the forum defendant 27 rule, “a civil action otherwise removable solely on the basis of [diversity jurisdiction] may not be 28 removed if any of the parties in interest properly joined and served as defendants is a citizen of the 3 1 State in which such action is brought.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b). Here, Plaintiff’s citizenship is 2 unknown, and Defendant is a citizen of California. Thus, the forum defendant rule applies, and 3 the action is not removable on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b). IV. 4 5 CONCLUSION For the reasons set forth above, the Court REASSIGNS this action to a district judge with 6 the recommendation that the action be REMANDED to state court for further proceedings. The 7 Court GRANTS Defendant’s request to proceed in forma pauperis. 8 9 Any party may file objections to this report and recommendation with the district judge within 14 days of being served with a copy. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(l); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b); N.D. Civil L.R. 72-3. The parties are advised that failure to file objections within the specified time 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 may waive the right to appeal the district court’s order. IBEW Local 595 Trust Funds v. ACS 12 Controls Corp., No. C-10-5568, 2011 WL 1496056, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 20, 2011). 13 14 IT IS SO RECOMMENDED. Dated: June 6, 2017 __________________________________ KANDIS A. WESTMORE United States Magistrate Judge 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 4

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