Deutsche Bank National Trust v. Harrell et al

Filing 4

ORDER Reassigning Case to a District Judge; Report and Recommendation to Remand to State Court; Order Granting 2 In Forma Pauperis Application. Objections due by 9/22/2017. Signed by Judge Kandis A. Westmore on 9/1/2017. (kawlc2, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 9/1/2017) (Additional attachment(s) added on 9/1/2017: # 1 Certificate/Proof of Service) (sisS, COURT STAFF).

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 DEUTSCH BANK NATIONAL TRUST COMPANY, 8 ORDER REASSIGNING CASE TO A DISTRICT JUDGE; REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO REMAND TO STATE COURT; ORDER GRANTING IN FORMA PAUPERIS APPLICATION Plaintiff, 9 v. 10 WALTER HARRELL, et al., 11 Defendants. United States District Court Northern District of California Case No. 17-cv-04980-KAW Re: Dkt. Nos. 1, 2 12 On August 28, 2017, Defendant Walter Harrell removed this unlawful detainer action from 13 14 San Mateo County Superior Court, and applied to proceed in forma pauperis. (Not. of Removal, 15 Dkt. No. 1; IFP Appl., Dkt. No. 2.) As removal is clearly improper, and the parties have not consented to the undersigned, for 16 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. I. 20 BACKGROUND Plaintiff Deutsche Bank National Trust Company commenced this unlawful detainer action 21 22 against Defendant in San Mateo County Superior Court on or around June 5, 2017. (Not. of 23 Removal at 8.1) The complaint contains a single cause of action for unlawful detainer. Id. The 24 case is a “limited civil case,” in which Plaintiff seeks immediate possession of a certain property 25 located in Montara, California, which Defendant occupies. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Walter Harrell and Bonnie Harrell defaulted on the 26 27 28 1 The page numbers refer to the ECF header. 1 payment of a promissory note, resulting in the property being sold to Plaintiff at public auction on 2 January 17, 2017 to satisfy the obligations secured by the deed of trust. Id. at 9. On April 17, 3 2017, after Plaintiff's title was perfected, Plaintiff allegedly served a written notice on Defendants 4 to quit within three days. Id. at 10. On June 5, 2017, Plaintiff filed the instant unlawful detainer 5 suit in state court, and summons was issued. (Not. of Removal at 8.) On August 28, 2017, 6 Defendant Walter Harrell removed the action to federal court on the grounds that it presents a 7 federal question. (Id. at 2.) 8 9 II. LEGAL STANDARD Federal courts exercise limited jurisdiction. A “federal court is presumed to lack jurisdiction in a particular case unless the contrary affirmatively appears.” Stock W., Inc. v. 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 Confederated Tribes, 873 F.2d 1221, 1225 (9th Cir. 1989) (citation omitted). A defendant may 12 remove a civil action from state court to federal court if original jurisdiction would have existed at 13 the time the complaint was filed. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). “[R]emoval statutes are strictly 14 construed against removal.” Luther v. Countrywide Homes Loans Servicing, LP, 533 F.3d 1031, 15 1034 (9th Cir. 2008). “Federal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of 16 removal in the first instance,” such that courts must resolve all doubts as to removability in favor 17 of remand. Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). The burden of establishing that 18 federal jurisdiction exists is on the party seeking removal. See id. at 566-67. 19 Federal district courts have original jurisdiction over actions that present a federal question 20 or those based on diversity jurisdiction. See Wayne v. DHL Worldwide Express, 294 F.3d 1179, 21 1183 & n.2 (9th Cir. 2002). Federal district courts have federal question jurisdiction over "all civil 22 actions arising under the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331. 23 Federal question jurisdiction is governed by the well-pleaded complaint rule, which provides that 24 the basis for federal jurisdiction must appear on the face of the properly pleaded complaint, either 25 because the complaint directly raises an issue of federal law or because the plaintiff's "right to 26 relief under state law requires resolution of a substantial question of federal law in dispute 27 between the parties." Franchise Tax Bd. of Cal. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust for S. Cal., 28 463 U.S. 1, 13 (1983). "[A] case may not be removed to federal court on the basis of a federal 2 1 defense . . . , even if the defense is anticipated in the plaintiff's complaint . . . ." Caterpillar Inc. v. 2 Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 393 (1987) (citation omitted). III. 3 4 5 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. 6 A. 7 Defendant claims that a federal question exists because Plaintiff violated the federal Real Federal Question Jurisdiction Estate Settlement Procedures Act ("RESPA"). (Not. of Removal at 2.) Defendant purports to 9 bring a lawsuit against Plaintiff based on this violation. Id. Defendant’s counterclaims in an 10 unlawful detainer action, however, are irrelevant for purposes of determining federal question 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 8 jurisdiction. The well-pleaded complaint rule prevents the Court from considering any additional 12 claims, such that a defendant cannot create federal question jurisdiction by adding claims or 13 defenses to a notice of removal. See Provincal Gov't of Marinduque v. Placer Dome, Inc., 582 14 F.3d 1083, 1086 (9th Cir. 2009); see also McAtee v. Capital One, F.S.B., 479 F.3d 1143, 1145 (9th 15 Cir. 2007) (even previously asserted counterclaims raising federal issue will not permit removal). 16 Accordingly, Defendant’s claim that Plaintiff violated RESPA does not establish federal question 17 jurisdiction in this matter. Thus, Defendant’s contention that there are federal questions at issue in 18 this litigation is misplaced. 19 Lastly, the limited scope of unlawful detainer proceedings precludes cross-complaints or 20 counterclaims. See Knowles v. Robinson, 60 Cal. 2d 620, 626-27 (1963). Thus, to the extent that 21 Defendants’ assertions could be contained in any such filing, they would, nonetheless, fail to 22 introduce a basis for federal question jurisdiction. 23 B. Diversity Jurisdiction 24 District courts also have original jurisdiction over all civil actions “where the matter in 25 controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interests and costs, and is between . 26 . . citizens of different States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). When federal subject-matter jurisdiction is 27 predicated on diversity of citizenship, complete diversity must exist between the opposing parties. 28 Owen Equip. & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 373-74 (1978). Under the forum defendant 3 1 rule, “a civil action otherwise removable solely on the basis of [diversity jurisdiction] may not be 2 removed if any of the parties in interest properly joined and served as defendants is a citizen of the 3 State in which such action is brought.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b). Here, Plaintiff’s citizenship is 4 unknown, and Defendant is a citizen of California. (Not. of Removal at 2.) Thus, the forum 5 defendant rule applies, and the action is not removable on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. See 6 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b). IV. 7 8 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 CONCLUSION For the reasons set forth above, the Court REASSIGNS this action to a district judge with the recommendation that the action be REMANDED to state court for further proceedings. The Court GRANTS Defendant’s request to proceed in forma pauperis. Any party may file objections to this report and recommendation with the district judge 12 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. 13 Civil L.R. 72-3. The parties are advised that failure to file objections within the specified time 14 may waive the right to appeal the district court’s order. IBEW Local 595 Trust Funds v. ACS 15 Controls Corp., No. C-10-5568, 2011 WL 1496056, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 20, 2011). 16 17 IT IS SO RECOMMENDED. Dated: September 1, 2017 __________________________________ KANDIS A. WESTMORE United States Magistrate Judge 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 4

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