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Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. v. Arenas

December 8, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Stephen G. Larson, United States District Judge


Jim Holmes None Present Courtroom Deputy Clerk Court Reporter



On September 4, 2008, plaintiff filed this unlawful detainer case against defendant in the Riverside Superior Court. Plaintiff seeks to recover possession of the real property located at 23198 Sunny Canyon Street, Perris, CA 92570, as well as damages of $50 per day for each day defendant continues in possession of the property past August 18, 2008. The complaint alleges that the damages sought do not exceed $10,000; as a result, pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure § 1161a, plaintiff filed the action as a limited civil case. See CAL. CODE CIV. PROC. § 86 (classifying cases where the amount of the prayer is less than $25,000 as limited civil cases). On November 10, 2008, defendant removed the action to federal court.

Defendant asserts that the court has subject matter jurisdiction because the case arises under federal law. He identifies no federal law implicated by plaintiff's claims, however, nor does he reference specific allegations purportedly raising a federal question. Defendant also asserts that "complete diversity" exists and that he "believes that the amount in controversy ex[c]eeds" $75,000.00." Defendant states that he is a citizen of California; he does not specify or present evidence regarding plaintiff's citizenship, however. Plaintiff's complaint, moreover, contains no allegations from which the parties' citizenship can be determined.


A. Standard Governing Removal Jurisdiction

Unless expressly excepted by some other federal statute, "any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending." 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). The Ninth Circuit "strictly construe[s] the removal statute against removal jurisdiction." Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992) (citing Boggs v. Lewis, 863 F.2d 662, 663 (9th Cir. 1988), and Takeda v. Northwestern Nat'l Life Ins. Co., 765 F.2d 815, 818 (9th Cir. 1985)). "The 'strong presumption' against removal jurisdiction means that the defendant always has the burden of establishing that removal is proper." Id. (citing Nishimoto v. Federman-Bachrach & Assocs., 903 F.2d 709, 712 n. 3 (9th Cir. 1990), and Emrich v. Touche Ross & Co., 846 F.2d 1190, 1195 (9th Cir. 1988)); Befitel v. Global Horizons, Inc., 461 F.Supp.2d 1218, 1221 (D. Haw. 2006) ("In diversity cases, the burden of proving all jurisdictional facts rests on the party seeking jurisdiction," Kanter v. Warner-Lambert Co., 265 F.3d 853, 857-58 (9th Cir. 2001)).

Thus, if there is any doubt regarding the existence of federal jurisdiction, the court must resolve it in favor of remanding the action to state court. Gaus, 980 F.2d at 566 ("[f]ederal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance," Libhard v. Santa Monica Dairy Co., 592 F.2d 1062, 1064 (9th Cir. 1979)); Befitel, 461 F.Supp.2d at 1221 ("Diversity jurisdiction is to be strictly construed and any doubts are to be resolved in favor of remand to the state court" (citations omitted)).

B. Whether the Requirements for Federal Question Jurisdiction are Met

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, the district courts "have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." Federal question jurisdiction is presumed absent unless defendant, as the party seeking to invoke the court's jurisdiction, shows that plaintiff has either alleged a federal cause of action, American Well Works Co. v. Layne & Bowler Co., 241 U.S. 257, 260 (1916) ("a suit arises under the law that creates the action"), a state cause of action that turns on a substantial dispositive issue of federal law, Franchise Tax Bd. v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 9 (1983); Smith v. Kansas City Title & Trust , 255 U.S. 180, 199 (1921), or a state cause of action that Congress has transformed into an inherently federal cause of action by completely preempting the field of its subject matter, Avco Corp. v. Aero Lodge No. 735, 390 U.S. 557, 560 (1968); Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 65 (1987).

Whether a claim "arises under" federal law must be determined by reference to the "well-pleaded complaint." Franchise Tax Bd., 463 U.S. at 9-10. Since a defendant may remove a case under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b) only if the claim could have been brought in federal court, the existence of removal jurisdiction must also be determined by reference to the "well-pleaded complaint." Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Thompson, 478 U.S. 804, 808 (1986). The well-pleaded complaint rule makes plaintiff the "master of the claim" for purposes of removal jurisdiction.

, 482 U.S. at 392. Where a plaintiff could maintain claims under both federal and state law, therefore, plaintiff can prevent removal by ignoring the federal claim and alleging only state law claims. Rains v. ...

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