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Michael E. Fleming v. Jeffrey Catlin; and

April 17, 2012



By Notice of Removal filed April 10, 2012, this unlawful detainer action was removed from the Yuba County Superior Court to this court by defendant Revelyn Catlin, who is proceeding pro se. On April 13, 2012, plaintiff's counsel filed a motion for remand and set the matter for hearing before the undersigned on May 11, 2012. That same day, plaintiff filed a motion to shorten time, requesting that his motion to remand be heard on April 20, 2012. This matter has been referred to the undersigned for all purposes encompassed by Local Rule 302(c)(21).

As noted above, only defendant Revelyn Catlin has filed a Notice of Removal, and defendant Revelyn Catlin is the only defendant who has filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis. Defendants are advised that one party proceeding pro se may not represent any other party proceeding pro se. See Local Rule 183. Thus, each document submitted for filing by defendants must bear the signatures of all defendants. In the absence of the signature of defendant Jeffrey Catlin, the attempted removal is tantamount to a notice of removal filed solely by defendant Revelyn Catlin.*fn1 See United Computer Systems, Inc. v. AT & T Corp., 298 F.3d 756, 762 (9th Cir. 2002) ("[T]he usual rule is that all defendants in an action in a state court must join in a petition for removal . . .").

Moreover, 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)). See also Syngenta Crop Prot., Inc. v. Henson, 537 U.S. 28, 32 (2002); Provincial Gov't of Martinduque v. Placer Dome, Inc., 582 F.3d 1083, 1087 (9th Cir. 2009). "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)). See also Provincial Gov't of Martinduque, 582 F.3d at 1087. 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, as it does here, that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over a removed case, "the case shall be remanded." 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).

Here, defendant contends that this is a civil action over which the federal court has original jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. (Doc. No. 1 at 2.) In this regard, defendant argues that she has asserted in her answer to the complaint that "they are protected from an eviction . . . under the terms of Title VII of the Emergency Economic Stabilization 'Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009 . . . .'" (Id.)

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, federal courts have original jurisdiction over civil actions "arising under" federal law. Removal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 is governed by the "well-pleaded complaint rule," which limits the reach of district courts to those cases where "a federal question is presented on the face of plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint." Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). The party seeking removal bears the burden of showing that "a well-pleaded complaint establishes either that federal law creates the cause of action or that the plaintiff's right to relief necessarily depends on resolution of a substantial question of federal law." Proctor v. Vishay Intertechnology Inc., 584 F.3d 1208, 1219 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Empire Healthchoice Assurance, Inc. v. McVeigh, 547 U.S. 677, 689-90 (2006)). The well pleaded complaint rule "makes the plaintiff the master of the claim; he or she may avoid federal jurisdiction by exclusive reliance on state law." Caterpillar, Inc., 482 U.S. at 392.

Here, it is evident from a reading of plaintiff's complaint that this is nothing more than a garden-variety unlawful detainer action filed against the former owner of real property located in California and is based wholly on California law. While defendant Revelyn Catlin assert that her defense to the complaint is rooted in federal law, even if that assertion were true, that may not serve as the basis for removal jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. See Holmes Group, Inc. v. Vornado Air Circulation Sys., Inc., 535 U.S. 826, 831 (2002) ("A counterclaim-which appears as part of the defendant's answer, not as part of the plaintiff's complaint-cannot serve as the basis for 'arising under' jurisdiction."); Caterpillar, Inc., 482 U.S. at 393 ("Thus, it is now settled law that a case may not be removed to federal court on the basis of a federal defense . . . even if the defense is anticipated in the plaintiff's complaint, and even if both parties concede that the federal defense is the only question truly at issue.").

Therefore, the court finds that defendant has failed to meet her burden of establishing any basis for federal jurisdiction over this action.

Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that:

1. The hearing of plaintiff's motion to remand (Doc. No. 3) is vacated, and that motion is dropped from the court's May 11, 2012 law and motion calendar. The motion may be re-noticed if this case is not remanded by the assigned District Judge;

2. Plaintiff's April 13, 2012 motion to shorten time (Doc. No. 4) is denied as moot.


1. Defendant Revelyn Catlin's April 10, 2012 application to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. No. 2) be denied;

2. This action be summarily remanded to the Superior Court of California, County of Yuba;

3. The Clerk be directed to serve a certified copy of this order on the Clerk of the Yuba County Superior Court, and reference the case number ...

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