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Federal National Mortgage Association v. Armando Escobar and Does 1--10

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


September 17, 2012

FEDERAL NATIONAL MORTGAGE ASSOCIATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ARMANDO ESCOBAR AND DOES 1--10, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Otis D. Wright, II United States District Judge

JS-6

ORDER REMANDING CASE TO LOS ANGELES SUPERIOR COURT

The Court has received Defendant Armando Escobar's Notice of Removal and motion for temporary restraining order. Having carefully considered the papers filed in conjunction with Escobar's Notice, the Court determines that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over this case. Accordingly, the case is hereby REMANDED to Los Angeles Superior Court.

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. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (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 party seeking removal bears the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction. Durham v. Lockheed Martin Corp.,445 F.3d 1247, 1252 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing Gaus v. Miles, Inc.,980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992)). "The presence or absence of federal-question jurisdiction is governed by the 'well-pleaded complaint rule,' which provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented on the face of the plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint." Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). While a plaintiff may therefore avoid federal jurisdiction by relying exclusively on federal law, "federal jurisdiction cannot be predicated on an actual or anticipated defense." Vaden v. Discover Bank, 556 U.S. 49, 60 (2009); see also Hunter v. Phillip Morris USA, 582 F.3d 1039, 1042--43 (9th Cir. 2009) ("It is settled law that a case may not be removed to federal court on the basis of a federal defense." (internal quotation marks omitted)).

A case removed from state court should be remanded if it appears that it was removed improvidently. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). Because the "removal statutes are strictly construed against removal," doubts about removal must be resolved in favor of remand. Libhart v. Santa Monica Dairy Co., 592 F.2d 1062, 1064 (9th Cir. 1979); see also Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992) ("Federal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance.").

Escobar appears to premise his notice of removal on diversity of citizenship under § 1332. Diversity jurisdiction does not exist in this matter. For a federal court to exercise diversity jurisdiction, there must be "complete" diversity between the parties, and the amount in controversy must exceed $75,000.00, exclusive of interest and costs. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Under the "legal certainty" standard, a federal court lacks subject matter jurisdiction under § 1332 where "upon the face of the complaint, it is obvious that the suit cannot involve the necessary amount." Geographic Expeditions, Inc. v. Estate of Lhotka ex rel. Lhotka, 599 F.3d 1102, 1106 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting St. Paul Mercury Indemnity Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 292 (1938)). "In actions seeking declaratory or injunctive relief, it is well established that the amount in controversy is measured by the value of the object of the litigation." Cohn v. Petsmart, Inc., 281 F.3d 837, 840 (9th Cir. 2002) (quoting Hunt v. Wash. State Apple Adver. Comm'n, 432 U.S. 333, 347 (1977)).

Here, Escobar's removal papers do not allege the amount in controversy. However, the object of this unlawful detainer action is the fair rental value of the premises Escobar now owes Fannie Mae-$50.00 per day-for remaining in a home that no longer belongs to him from July 29, 2012, through entry of judgment, plus monetary damages and costs of suit. (See Compl. ¶¶ 5, 7.) Indeed, the face of Fannie Mae's Complaint indicates that it does not demand an amount in excess of $10,000.00. Therefore, the amount in controversy in this case does not exceed $75,000.00, exclusive of interest and costs.

For the reasons discussed above, the Court REMANDS this case to the Los Angeles County Superior Court.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

20120917

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