The opinion of the court was delivered by: The Honorable Gary Allen Feess
Renee Fisher None N/A Deputy Clerk Court Reporter / Recorder Tape No.
Attorneys Present for Plaintiffs: Attorneys Present for Defendants:
Proceedings: (In Chambers)
Plaintiff U.S. Bank National Association as trustee for SARM 05-19XS ("U.S. Bank") filed this unlawful detainer action against Defendant Pepito V. Milan ("Milan") in Los Angeles County Superior Court on March 16, 2011. (Docket No. 1, Not. of Removal, Ex. A [Compl.].) On May 11, 2011, Milan removed the action to this Court on the purported basis of federal question jurisdiction. (Not. ¶¶ 2, 11.)
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(h)(3), "[i]f the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3). "[A] court may raise the question of subject matter jurisdiction, sua sponte, at any time during the pendency of the action . . . ." Snell v. Cleveland, Inc., 316 F.3d 822, 826 (9th Cir. 2002); see also United Investors Life Ins. Co. v. Waddell & Reed, Inc., 360 F.3d 960, 966 (9th Cir. 2004) ("Here the district court had a duty to establish subject matter jurisdiction over the removed action sua sponte, whether the parties raised the issue or not."). Thus, a court may remand a case sua sponte for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Scofield v. Ball, No. 11-0378, 2011 WL 830104, at *1 (S.D. Cal. Mar. 4, 2011) (citing Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221 (9th Cir. 1984)). When a case is removed, "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). Removal is proper only if the Court could have exercised jurisdiction over the action had it originally been filed in federal court. Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987).
Generally speaking, the two ways a party may bring a case within the jurisdiction of the federal courts are: (1) diversity of citizenship under 28 U.S.C. § 1332; and (2) federal question under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. William W. Schwarzer, et al., California Practice Guide: Federal Civil Procedure Before Trial § 2:2, at 2A-1 (2006). Neither basis for jurisdiction is present in this
Milan contends that this action presents a federal question, and thus that federal question jurisdiction exists under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. (Not. ¶ 11.) In particular, Milan contends that U.S. Bank violated several federal laws, including the Truth in Lending Act and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. (Id. ¶ 7.) According to Milan, "[d]ue to [U.S. Bank's] failure to comply with [those] statutes, the subject property was improperly and illegally sold which has ultimately resulted in the unlawful detainer case . . . wherein [Milan] contends should be removed to the U.S. District Court so the underlying title claims made pursuant to Federal and State laws may be adjudicated." (Id. ¶ 8.) Milan also indicates that he would like to bring a cross-complaint against U.S. Bank to assert claims under federal law. (Id. ¶ 10.)
The "presence or absence of federal-question jurisdiction is governed by the 'well-pleaded complaint rule,' which provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented on the face of the plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint." Id. (emphasis added). A federal defense does not give rise to federal-question jurisdiction. Franchise Tax Bd. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust for S. Cal., 463 U.S. 1, 14 (1983). "It is also immaterial that a counterclaim, cross-claim, or third party claim may raise a federal question." HSBC Bank, NA v. Letrado, No. 10-9422, 2011 WL 781624, at *1 (C.D. Cal. Feb. 25, 2011).
U.S. Bank's complaint states a single claim for unlawful detainer under California law. An unlawful detainer action does not arise under federal law. See Indymac Federal Bank, F.S.B. v. Ocampo, No. 09-2337, 2010 WL 234828, *2 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 13, 2010) (finding no subject matter jurisdiction where complaint stated only an unlawful detainer claim). The fact that Milan seeks to assert federal defenses and/or ...