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Wilmington Trust Co. v. Gregory E. Vanderpas

April 30, 2012

WILMINGTON TRUST CO.
v.
GREGORY E. VANDERPAS, ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Present: The Honorable Margaret M. Morrow

CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL

ANEL HUERTA N/A

Deputy Clerk Court Reporter

Attorneys Present for Plaintiffs: Attorneys Present for Defendants:

None None

Proceedings: Order Remanding Action to Los Angeles Superior Court for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

I. BACKGROUND

Oh January 10, 2011, plaintiff Wilmington Trust Co. ("Wilmington") filed this unlawful detainer action against defendants Gregory E. and Pamela J. Vanderpas, and certain fictitious defendants in Los Angeles Superior Court.*fn1 Gregory Vanderpas filed a notice of removal on March 6, 2012, invoking the court's federal question jurisdiction.*fn2

Plaintiff alleges that it is the current owner of real property located at 3822 E. Wilton St., Long Beach, California 90804, which it acquired through a non-judicial foreclosure sale.*fn3 It asserts that its title to the property was perfected by the recording of a trustee's deed upon sale on December 9, 2010.*fn4 Defendants are purportedly the current occupants of the property and were the original trustors under the foreclosed deed of trust or successors-in-interest to the original trustors.*fn5 On December 15, 2010, plaintiff allegedly served a notice to quit on defendants, which required that they vacate the property within three days.*fn6 Plaintiff asserts that, although more than three days have elapsed, defendants continue in possession of the property without its permission or consent.*fn7 It seeks possession of the property as well as damages of $50.00 per day (the allegedly reasonable daily rental value of the property) for each day that defendants remain in possession of the property.*fn8

II. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standards Governing Removal Jurisdiction

Federal courts have a duty to examine their subject matter jurisdiction whether or not the parties raise the issue. See United Investors Life Ins. Co. v. Waddell & Reed, Inc., 360 F.3d 960, 966 (9th Cir. 2004) ("[A] district court's duty to establish subject matter jurisdiction is not contingent upon the parties' arguments," citing Mitchell v. Maurer, 293 U.S. 237, 244 (1934)); see also Attorneys Trust v. Videotape Computer Products, Inc., 93 F.3d 593, 594-95 (9th Cir. 1996) (lack of subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time by either party or by the court sua sponte); Thiara v. Kiernan, No. C06-03503 MJJ, 2006 WL 3065568, *2 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 25, 2006) ("A district court has an independent obligation to examine whether removal jurisdiction exists before deciding any issue on the merits").

The right to remove a case to federal court is entirely a creature of statute. See Libhart v. Santa Monica Dairy Co., 592 F.2d 1062, 1064 (9th Cir. 1979). The removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1441, allows defendants to remove when a case originally filed in state court presents a federal question or is between citizens of different states and involves an amount in controversy that exceeds $75,000. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441(a), (b); see also 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332(a). Only state court actions that could originally have been filed in federal court may be removed. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a); Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987); Ethridge v. Harbor House Rest., 861 F.2d 1389, 1393 (9th Cir. 1988). The Ninth Circuit "strictly construe[s] the removal statute against removal jurisdiction," and "[f]ederal 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) (citing Boggs v. Lewis, 863 F.2d 662, 663 (9th Cir. 1988), Takeda v. Northwestern Nat'l Life Ins. Co., 765 F.2d 815, 818 (9th Cir. 1985), and Libhart, 592 F.2d at 1064). "The ...


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