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Federal National Mortgage v. William B. Mauch


October 19, 2011



On October 18, 2011, William Mauch and Terry Mauch, proceeding pro se, paid the fee for filing a civil action and filed a notice of removal of an unlawful detainer action from San Joaquin County Superior Court. Although defendants assert in their unsigned notice of removal that "[t]he Complaint is attached hereto as Exhibit A," no copy of the complaint was attached to the notice filed with this court. According to defendants, plaintiff seeks damages, attorney's fees and costs, and restitution, possession and removal of defendants from a residential property in Lodi, California.

It is well established that the statutes governing removal jurisdiction must be "strictly construed against removal." Libhart v. Santa Monica Dairy Co., 592 F.2d 1062, 1064 (9th Cir. 1979) (citing Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 108 (1941)). "Federal 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). "'The burden of establishing federal jurisdiction falls on the party invoking removal.'" Harris v. Provident Life & Accident Ins. Co., 26 F.3d 930, 932 (9th Cir. 1994) (quoting Gould v. Mut. Life Ins. Co., 790 F.2d 769, 771 (9th Cir.1986)). Moreover, "the existence of federal jurisdiction depends solely on the plaintiff's claims for relief and not on anticipated defenses to those claims." ARCO Envtl. Remediation, LLC v. Dep't of Health & Envtl. Quality, 213 F.3d 1108, 1113 (9th Cir. 2000). Where it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over a removed case, "the case shall be remanded." 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).

Here, defendants allege in a conclusory manner that "the plaintiff seeks damages and/or other recoveries counting toward the jurisdictional minimum, in excess of $300,000.00." (Doc. No. 1 at 2.) Defendants contend that this is a civil action over which the federal court has original jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (Id. at 3.) Defendants' assertion of jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship is without merit because removal on such a ground is not permitted if any defendant in the action is a citizen of the state in which the action is brought. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b) (providing that civil actions not removed on the basis of federal question "shall be removable only if none of the parties in interest properly joined and served as defendants is a citizen of the State in which such action is brought"). It is evident that both of the defendants in this action are citizens of the State of California, which is the state in which this action was brought. Accordingly, the defendants have improperly removed plaintiff's unlawful detainer action on the basis of diversity jurisdiction.

The court has noted that the civil cover sheet attached to defendants' notice of removal reflects that the defendants marked "Federal Question" as the basis of jurisdiction. (Doc. No. 1, Attach.) Defendants also indicate that this action is a foreclosure case. To the extent that defendants intended to assert federal question jurisdiction, the assertion is unsupported by any allegation or argument that plaintiff's complaint filed in state court presents a federal question. The court finds that the defendants have failed to demonstrate that plaintiff's action is anything other than a garden-variety unlawful detainer action brought pursuant to state statutes. (Id. at11-14.) Defendants have not shown that this action, filed against residents of real property located in California, based wholly on California law, presents a "claim or right arising under the Constitution, treaties or laws of the United States" that would have permitted plaintiff to file the action originally in federal court. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b). The fact that a plaintiff seeks to recover possession of property after a foreclosure does not by itself raise any federal question.

The court finds that defendants have failed to meet their burden of establishing any basis for federal jurisdiction over this action.

Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY RECOMMENDED that this action be summarily remanded to the Superior Court of California, County of San Joaquin and this case be closed.

These findings and recommendations are submitted to the United States District Judge assigned to the case, pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(l). Within fourteen days after being served with these findings and recommendations, defendants may file any written objections with the court. A document presenting objections should be titled "Objections to Magistrate Judge's Findings and Recommendations."


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