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Bank of America, N.A. v. Carole R. Pinkney-Hart

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


November 14, 2011

BANK OF AMERICA, N.A.
v.
CAROLE R. PINKNEY-HART, ET AL.

Proceedings: IN CHAMBERS-ORDER REMANDING ACTION TO LOS ANGELES COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Dolly M. Gee, United States District Judge

JS-6

CIVIL MINUTES-GENERAL

Title

Present: The Honorable DOLLY M. GEE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

VALENCIA VALLERY NOT REPORTED

Deputy Clerk Court Reporter

Attorneys Present for Plaintiff(s) Attorneys Present for Defendant(s)

None Present None Present

On or about October 3, 2011, Plaintiff Bank of America, N.A. filed a complaint in Los Angeles County Superior Court for unlawful detainer against Defendant Carole R. Pinkney-Hart and Does "I" through "X." Plaintiff seeks possession of real property and restitution for Defendant's use and occupancy of the property in the amount of $150 per day starting on September 20, 2011. (Compl. at 3.) Defendant removed the case to this Court on November 8, 2011, asserting subject matter jurisdiction on the basis of a federal question, 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

"The burden of establishing federal subject matter jurisdiction falls on the party invoking removal." Marin Gen. Hosp. v. Modesto & Empire Traction Co., 581 F.3d 941, 944 (9th Cir. 2009) (citing Toumajian v. Frailey, 135 F.3d 648, 652 (9th Cir. 1998)). There is a "strong presumption against removal jurisdiction," and courts must reject it "if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance." Geographic Expeditions, Inc. v. Estate of Lhotka ex rel. Lhotka, 599 F.3d 1102, 1107 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992) (per curiam)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

The complaint raises no federal question. Defendant asserts that this action "may ostensibly appear on its face to be a simple summary possession lawsuit for unlawful detainer," but "actually places the issue of 'perfected' title at issue." (Notice of Removal at 3.) To the contrary, "[u]nlawful detainer actions are . . . of limited scope, generally dealing only with the issue of right to possession and not other claims between the parties, even if related to the property." Larson v. City and County of S.F., 192 Cal. App. 4th 1263, 1297, 123 Cal. Rptr. 3d 40 (2011) (citing Birkenfeld v. City of Berkeley, 17 Cal. 3d 129, 151, 130 Cal. Rptr. 465 (1976)). Even if Defendant could place Plaintiff's title at issue in a defense or counterclaim, federal jurisdiction cannot rest upon such a basis. Vaden v. Discover Bank, __ U.S. __, 129 S.Ct. 1262, 1272, 173 L.Ed.2d 206 (2009).

Nor does the complaint reveal any possibility of diversity jurisdiction. The amount in controversy is well below the $75,000 jurisdictional threshold for diversity jurisdiction. The caption of the underlying state court complaint clearly states that the amount of damages sought by Plaintiff does not exceed $10,000.

Defendant argues that this case should be consolidated with another case currently pending in this district, Hart v. Countrywide Home Loans ("Hart I"), No. CV 11-08811 JHN (PLAx) (C.D. Cal. filed Oct. 24, 2011). Consolidation, however, presupposes jurisdiction. Even if this case is sufficiently related to Hart I to warrant consolidating these two cases for administrative convenience, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 42, there must still be a basis for the Court to exercise jurisdiction over this action in the first place. See Or. Egg Producers v. Andrew, 458 F.2d 382, 383 (9th Cir. 1972) (per curiam) (holding that case improperly removed to federal district court cannot be consolidated with related case already pending there).

As Defendant has not established a basis for subject matter jurisdiction, this action is hereby REMANDED to Los Angeles County Superior Court.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

20111114

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