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Robert J. Coffey, et al. v. Merrill Lynch

January 11, 2012

ROBERT J. COFFEY, ET AL.
v.
MERRILL LYNCH, PIERCE, FENNER & SMITH, INC.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Percy Anderson, United States District Judge

JS-6

CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL

Present: The Honorable PERCY ANDERSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Paul Songco Not Reported N/A

Deputy Clerk Court Reporter Tape No.

Attorneys Present for Plaintiffs: Attorneys Present for Defendants:

None None

Proceedings: IN CHAMBERS - COURT ORDER

Before the Court is a Notice of Removal filed by defendant Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc. ("Defendant") on January 6, 2012. In its Notice of Removal, Defendant asserts that this Court has jurisdiction over the action brought against it by plaintiffs Robert J. Coffey, individually and as trustee for the Robert & Lulu Coffey Living Trust, Lulu Coffey, individually and as trustee for the Robert & Lulu Coffey Living Trust, and Robert J. Coffey, as trustee of the Scott P. Keil Trust U/w, Fbo Douglas Keil, Kaura L. Keil, and Valerie L. Keil (collectively, "Plaintiffs") based on the Court's diversity jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

Legal Standard: Removal Based on Diversity of Citizenship

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, having subject matter jurisdiction only over matters authorized by the Constitution and Congress. See, e.g., Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377, 114 S. Ct. 1673, 1675, 128 L. Ed. 2d 391 (1994). 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). A removed action must be remanded to state court if the federal court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). "The burden of establishing federal jurisdiction is on the party seeking removal, and the removal statute is strictly construed against removal jurisdiction." Prize Frize, Inc. v. Matrix (U.S.) Inc., 167 F.3d 1261, 1265 (9th Cir. 1999). "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).

In attempting to invoke this Court's diversity jurisdiction, Defendant must prove that there is complete diversity of citizenship between the parties and that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332. To establish citizenship for diversity purposes, a natural person must be a citizen of the United States and be domiciled in a particular state. Kantor v. Wellesley Galleries, Ltd., 704 F.2d 1088, 1090 (9th Cir. 1983). Persons are domiciled in the places they reside with the intent to remain or to which they intend to return. See Kanter v. Warner-Lambert Co., 265 F.3d 853, 857 (9th Cir. 2001). "A person residing in a given state is not necessarily domiciled there, and thus is not necessarily a citizen of that state." Id. For the purposes of diversity jurisdiction, a corporation is a citizen of any state where it is incorporated and of the state where it has its principal place of business.

28 U.S.C. § 1332(c); see also Indus. Tectonics, Inc. v. Aero Alloy, 912 F.2d 1090, 1092 (9th Cir. 1990).

Although Plaintiffs have not yet moved to remand, it is well-established that "a district court's duty to establish subject matter jurisdiction is not contingent upon the parties' arguments." See United Investors Life Ins. Co. v. Waddell & Reed Inc., 360 F.3d 960, 966 (9th Cir. 2004). Parties cannot agree to nor can they "waive" a lack of such jurisdiction. Id. at 966-67. Courts may consider the issue sua . Demery v. Kupperman, 735 F.2d 1139, 1149 n.8 (9th Cir. 1984). Indeed, the Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized that "district courts have an 'independent obligation to address subject-matter jurisdiction sua sponte.'" Grupo Dataflux v. Atlas Global Group, L.P., 541 U.S. 567, 593, 124 S. Ct. 1920, 1937, 158 L. Ed. 2d 866 (2004) (quoting United States v. So. Cal. Edison Co., ...


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