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Ofelia Eguia, et al v. Arc Imperial Valley

December 6, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: M. James Lorenz United States District Court Judge


Defendants ARC Imperial Valley and Arturo Santos ("Defendants") removed this action from the Imperial County Superior Court. The notice of removal was based on federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1441(a). (Notice of Removal ["NOR"] ¶ 8.) Defendants move to dismiss the first amended complaint; Plaintiffs Ofelia Eguia and Rosalinda Magallanes ("Plaintiffs") move to remand. Both motions have been fully briefed and are decided on the papers submitted.

Procedural History

The FAC, filed on January 31, 2012 AC") in the Imperial County Superior Court, asserts state law causes of action only including wrongful termination, harassment, discrimination, and infliction of emotional distress. (NOR ¶ 2.) Plaintiffs based these causes of action on public policy grounds, California Government Code §§ 12940(h) and 12653, and California Labor Code § 1102(f). (NOR, Ex. 1, pp. 37-65.) On March 1, 2012, Defendants filed an answer to the FAC, and on March 9, 2012, filed an amended answer asserting the affirmative defense of the federal enclave doctrine. (NOR, Ex. 1, pp. 88, ¶ 15.)

The notice of removal, filed on May 9, 2012, was premised on the applicability of the federal enclave doctrine. [Doc. # 1.] Defendants base their removal on their recent receipt of a quitclaim deed from the City of Calexico granting land to the United States government, which encompasses the West Port of Entry in Calexico. (NOR ¶ 11.) Defendants' counsel attests that he received this document on May 5, 2012, from the Chicago Title Company. (Post Decl. ¶ 2.) Further, Defendants cite the Declaration of Defendant Arturo Santos, which states that Plaintiffs worked at the West Port of Entry, as further evidence of federal enclave jurisdiction. (NOR, Ex. 2, pp. 102-03.) Defendants claim that this evidence -- the declaration of Arturo Santos and the deed for the West Port of Entry -- establishes the basis for removal and the exclusively federal nature of the claims arising on the West Port of Entry. (Defs' Opp'n 2:15-18.) Defendants allege that these documents constitute "a copy of an amended pleading, motion, order or other paper" from which it can be first determined that the case is removable. (NOR ¶ 11.)

On May 10, 2012, Defendants moved to dismiss the case. [Doc. # 4.] On June 8, 2012, Plaintiffs filed a motion to remand the FAC to the Imperial County Superior Court. [Doc. # 8.] Plaintiffs also requested attorney's fees and costs.

Legal Standard for Removal

The Court addresses the issue of subject matter jurisdiction first as "[t]he requirement that jurisdiction be established as a threshold matter 'spring[s] from the nature and limits of the judicial power of the United States' and is 'inflexible and without exception.'" Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 94-94 (1998) (quoting Mansfield, C & L. M. Ry. Co. v. , 111 U.S. 379, 382 (1884)).

"Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction." Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of , 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). "They possess only that power authorized by Constitution or statute, which is not to be expanded by judicial decree." Id. (internal citations omitted). "It is to be presumed that a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction and the burden of establishing the contrary rests upon the party asserting jurisdiction." Id. (internal citations omitted); see also Abrego Abrego v. The Dow Chem. Co., 443 F.3d 676, 684 (9th Cir. 2006).

Consistent with the limited jurisdiction of federal courts, the removal statute is strictly construed against removal jurisdiction. Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992); see also Syngenta Crop Prot., Inc. v. Henson, 537 U.S. 28, 32 (2002); O'Halloran v. University of Wash., 856 F.2d 1375, 1380 (9th Cir. 1988). "The strong presumption against removal jurisdiction means that the defendant always has the burden of establishing that removal is proper." Gaus, 980 F.2d at 566; see also Nishimoto v. Federman-Bachrach & Assoc., 903 F.2d 709, 712 n.3 (9th Cir. 1990); O'Halloran, 856 F.2d at 1380.

"The propriety of removal . . . depends on whether the case originally could have been filed in federal court." Chicago v. Int'l Coll. of Surgeons, 522 U.S. 156, 163 (1997). "Federal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance."

, 980 F.2d at 566. The Court's removal jurisdiction must be analyzed on the basis of the pleadings at the time of removal. See Sparta Surgical Corp. v. Nat'l Ass'n of Sec. Dealers, Inc., 159 F.3d 1209, 1213 (9th Cir. 1998).

Defendants may remove any action filed in state court over which federal district courts have original jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Generally speaking, a party may bring a case within the jurisdiction of the federal courts by demonstrating the existence of either: (1) diversity of citizenship, under 28 U.S.C. § 1332; or (2) a federal question, under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Defendants removed this action based on federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. (NOR ¶ 3.) Pursuant to the statute, federal courts have subject matter jurisdiction of "all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treatises of the Untied States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

Under 28 U.S.C. ยง 1446(b), a defendant must file a notice of removal either (1) "within thirty days after the receipt by the defendant . . . of a copy of the initial pleading," or (2) "if the case stated by the initial pleading is not removable, a notice of removal may be filed within thirty days after receipt by the defendant, through service or otherwise, of a copy of an amended pleading, motion, order or other paper from ...

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