The opinion of the court was delivered by: Present: The Honorable Gary Allen Feess
Renee Fisher None N/A Deputy Clerk Court Reporter / Recorder Tape No.
Attorneys Present for Plaintiffs: Attorneys Present for Defendants:
Proceedings: (In Chambers)
I. INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND
Plaintiff Roy Mason brings this action against Defendants El Torito, El Torito Restaurants, Inc., and Hastings Village Investment Company L.P., ("Defendants"), for violations of multiple state statutes relating to handicap access at Defendants' restaurant. (Docket No. 1 [Not. of Removal], Ex. A [Compl.].) Specifically, Plaintiff asserts three causes of action, alleging Defendants violated Title 24 of the California Building Code, Sections 51(b), 54 and 54.1 of the California Civil Code, and Section 19955 of the California Health and Safety Code. (Compl. ¶¶ 14, 18.) Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief, as well as costs and fees. (Id. ¶ 27.)
Plaintiff filed this suit in California Superior Court on August 15, 2012. (Compl.) Defendants were served on August 21, 2012. (Not. of Removal ¶ 2.) Defendants removed this action to this Court on September 13, 2012. (Id.)
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(h)(3), "[i]f the court determines at any time Roy Mason v. El Torito et al that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3). "[A] court may raise the question of subject matter jurisdiction, sua sponte, at any time during the pendency of the action . . . ." Snell v. Cleveland, Inc., 316 F.3d 822, 826 (9th Cir. 2002); see also United Investors Life Ins. Co. v. Waddell & Reed, Inc., 360 F.3d 960, 966 (9th Cir. 2004) ("Here the district court had a duty to establish subject matter jurisdiction over the removed action sua sponte, whether the parties raised the issue or not."). The Ninth Circuit has held that courts must "strictly construe the removal statute against removal jurisdiction" and reject federal jurisdiction "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) (citation omitted). "The strong presumption against removal jurisdiction means that the defendant always has the burden of establishing that removal is proper." Id. (quotations and citations omitted).
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1441, a defendant may remove to federal court any state court action arising under the Constitution, treaties, or laws of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b); see 28 U.S.C. § 1331. "Federal district courts have original federal question jurisdiction of actions 'arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.'" Sullivan v. First Affiliated Sec., Inc., 813 F.2d 1368, 1371 (9th Cir. 1987). "Generally, a claim 'arises under' federal law only if a federal question appears on the face of plaintiff's complaint." Hyung v. , 2011 WL 1543821, at *1 (C.D. Cal. Apr. 25, 2011) (citing Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987)). Thus, the plaintiff is considered to be the "master of the complaint" and "may defeat removal by choosing not to plead independent federal claims." ARCO Envt'l. Remediation, L.L.C. v. Dep't. of Health and Envt'l Quality of the State of Mont., 213 F.3d 1108, 1114 (9th Cir. 2000) (citation omitted). "However, under the artful pleading rule a plaintiff may not defeat removal by omitting to plead necessary federal questions in a complaint." Id. (internal quotation omitted). "Since its first articulation . . . courts have used the artful pleading doctrine in (1) complete preemption cases, and (2) substantial federal question cases." Lippitt v. Raymond James Fin. Servs., Inc., 340 F.3d 1033, 1041 (9th Cir. 2003) (internal citations ...