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U.S. Bank National Association v. Lasoff

February 23, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: The Honorable Margaret M. Morrow


Proceedings: Order Remanding Action to Los Angeles Superior Court for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction


Acting as trustee, plaintiff U.S. Bank National Association ("U.S. Bank") filed this unlawful detainer action on June 12, 2009 in Los Angeles Superior Court.*fn1 It seeks to recover possession of real property located in Westlake Village, California from multiple named and fictitious defendants. U.S. Bank also seeks damages of $200 per day for each day defendants have continued in possession of the property past May 26, 2009.*fn2

Defendant Karen Logan first attempted to remove the action to federal court on December 7, 2009.*fn3 Judge A. Howard Matz issued an order to show cause why the action should not be remanded for untimely removal.*fn4 Logan failed to respond to the court's order, and the case was remanded on January 5, 2010.*fn5

On January 13, 2010, Logan removed the unlawful detainer action a second time.*fn6 On February 12, 2010, the matter was transferred to this court as related to Logan v. U.S. Bank National Association, Case No. 09-08950 MMM (PLAx), which Logan filed on December 7, 2009.*fn7 In her notice of removal, Logan asserts that the court has subject matter jurisdiction over the unlawful detainer action because she is the plaintiff in a separate federal action pending before this court and the unlawful detainer action involves the same parties.*fn8 Additionally, Logan filed a Memorandum Regarding Removal on February 3, 2010, apparently in anticipation of an order to show cause regarding the procedural defect already identified in the order issued by Judge Matz.*fn9


A. Legal Standards Governing Removal Jurisdiction

The right to remove a case to federal court is entirely a creature of statute. See Libhart v. Santa Monica Dairy Co., 592 F.2d 1062, 1064 (9th Cir. 1979). The removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1441, allows defendants to remove a state court case that could have been filed originally in federal court under either federal question or diversity jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441(a), (b); see also 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332(a). Only state court actions that could originally have been filed in federal court may be removed. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a); see Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987); Ethridge v. Harbor House Rest., 861 F.2d 1389, 1393 (9th Cir. 1988).

Where some of plaintiff's claims fall within the court's subject matter jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) authorizes courts to exercise "supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims . . . within [the court's] original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy under Article III of the United States Constitution." When none of the claims in the action provide an independent basis for federal jurisdiction, supplemental jurisdiction does not come into play. A case cannot be removed on the basis that the claims it raises are related to claims asserted in a separate federal action. See Chase v. Auerbach, No. 94-5892, 1994 WL 590588 *1--2 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 26, 1994) ("The removal statute provides that a state court action over which the district court has "original jurisdiction" may be removed; it does not say that a state court action which is related to an entirely separate action over which the district court has original jurisdiction may be removed. . . .

Simply put, we do not have original jurisdiction over this as a free-standing action"); Fabricius v. Freeman, 466 F.2d 689, 694 (7th Cir. 1972) (finding that a related case pending in federal court was not in itself sufficient grounds for removal under 28 U.S.C. § 1441); In re Estate of Tabas, 879 F.Supp. 464, 467 (E.D. Pa.,1995) ("Section 1367 allows plaintiffs to bring federal claims in[to] federal court even though combined with state-law claims that would not otherwise be within the federal court's jurisdiction. The statute is not, however, an independent source of removal jurisdiction. To remove [a case] from state court to federal court, [defendants] . . . must first find a federal claim in the [case to be removed]. An already-existing federal action cannot provide the mechanism for removal of a non-removable state-court actions").

The Ninth Circuit "strictly construe[s] the removal statute against removal jurisdiction," and "[f]ederal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance." Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992) (citing Boggs v. Lewis, 863 F.2d 662, 663 (9th Cir. 1988), Takeda v. Northwestern Nat'l Life Ins. Co., 765 F.2d 815, 818 (9th Cir. 1985), and Libhart, 592 F.2d at 1064). "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)).

Federal courts have a duty to examine their subject matter jurisdiction whether or not the parties raise the issue. See United Investors Life Ins. Co. v. Waddell & Reed, Inc., 360 F.3d 960, 966 (9th Cir. 2004) ("[A] district court's duty to establish subject matter jurisdiction is not contingent upon the parties' arguments," citing Mitchell v. Maurer, 293 U.S. 237, 244 (1934)); see also Attorneys Trust v. Videotape Computer Products, Inc., 93 F.3d 593, 594--95 (9th Cir. 1996) (lack of subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time by either party or by the court sua sponte); Thiara v. Kiernan, No. C06-03503 MJJ, 2006 WL 3065568, *2 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 25, 2006) ("A district court has an independent obligation to examine whether removal jurisdiction exists before deciding any issue on the merits").

Where a case has been removed, the court may remand for lack of subject matter jurisdiction at any time before final judgment. See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) ("If at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded"). If the court determines that it definitely lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the court must remand an action sua sponte. See Kelton Arms Condominium Owners Ass'n v. Homestead Ins. Co., 346 F.3d 1190, 1192 (9th Cir. 2003) ("[W]e have held that the district court ...

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