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Law Offices of Mathew Higbee v. Expungement Assistance Services

September 14, 2009

LAW OFFICES OF MATHEW HIGBEE, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
EXPUNGEMENT ASSISTANCE SERVICES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Andrew J. Guilford United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO REMAND

Plaintiff Law Offices of Mathew Higbee ("Plaintiff") has filed a Motion to Remand ("Motion"). Because the court finds that Defendant has not submitted sufficient evidence to show the amount in controversy here exceeds $75,000, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion.

BACKGROUND

This action alleges, among other things, that Defendant Expungement Assistance Services ("Defendant") violated California Unfair Competition Law by engaging in the unauthorized practice of law in California. (First Amended Complaint ("FAC") ¶¶ 8-9, 12-23.) Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant committed defamation and trade libel against Plaintiff by sending threatening letters to attorneys under contract with Plaintiff and to Plaintiff's webmaster that contained false statements about Plaintiff. (FAC ¶¶ 10-11, 24-34.)

Plaintiff's original complaint was filed in the California Superior Court. Defendant later removed the action to this Court, and Plaintiff filed the FAC. In the FAC, Plaintiff asks that "temporary and permanent injunctions be entered in its favor and against Defendant" from operating any website that attempts to offer criminal record clearing services and from contacting attorneys and vendors who contract with Plaintiff. (FAC Prayer for Relief, ¶ A-B.) Plaintiff has also requested compensatory damages and punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial, as well any other legal and equitable relief the Court chooses to award. (FAC ¶ C-E.)

Plaintiff now moves to remand this case to the California Superior Court, arguing that the amount in controversy is insufficient to establish federal jurisdiction.

PRELIMINARY CONSIDERATIONS

Defendant has filed an Evidentiary Objection to the Declaration of Mathew Higbee and Exhibit A on the grounds that Mr. Higbee lacked personal knowledge of the content of a website and that the website was not authenticated. The court did not consider this evidence in making its ruling and thus does not reach this objection.

LEGAL STANDARD

A suit filed in state court may be removed to federal court if the federal court would have had original jurisdiction over the suit. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, federal courts have original jurisdiction over all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interests and costs, and is between citizens of different states.

Upon a plaintiff's motion to remand, a defendant bears the burden of establishing proper removal and federal jurisdiction. Gaus v. Miles, 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). To protect the jurisdiction of state courts, removal jurisdiction should be strictly construed in favor of remand. Harris v. Bankers Life & Cas. Co., 425 F.3d 689, 698 (9th Cir. 2005) (citing Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 108-09 (1941). Removability is determined as of the time the notice of removal was filed. See Pullman v. Jenkins, 305 U.S. 534, 537 (1939).

ANALYSIS

Plaintiff argues that federal jurisdiction is improper here because Dependants cannot establish that the amount in controversy ...


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