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The Bank of New York Mellon, et al. v. David Valk

March 4, 2013

THE BANK OF NEW YORK MELLON, ET AL.
v.
DAVID VALK, ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: The Honorable Percy Anderson, United States District Judge

JS-6

CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL

Present: The Honorable PERCY ANDERSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Paul Songco Not Reported N/A

Deputy Clerk Court Reporter Tape No.

Attorneys Present for Plaintiff: Attorneys Present for Defendants:

None None

Proceedings: IN CHAMBERS - COURT ORDER

The Court is in receipt of a Notice of Removal filed on February 26, 2013 by David Valk and Lori L. Valk ("Defendants"). Plaintiff The Bank of New York Mellon FKA The Bank of New York ("Plaintiff") filed its Complaint in Riverside County Superior Court asserting a single cause of action for unlawful detainer. Defendants, who are appearing pro se, assert that this Court has subject matter jurisdiction on the basis of federal question jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Defendants further assert jurisdiction on the basis of 28 U.S.C. § 1343, which provides that district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action authorized by law to redress civil rights violations.

Federal courts are 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., 511 U.S. 375, 377, 114 S. Ct. 1673, 1675, 128 L. Ed. 2d 391 (1994). A "strong presumption" against removal jurisdiction exists. Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 567 (9th Cir. 1992). In seeking removal, the defendant bears the burden of proving that jurisdiction exists. Scott v. Breeland, 792 F.2d 925, 927 (9th Cir. 1986).

I. Federal Question Jurisdiction

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, this Court has original jurisdiction over civil actions "arising under" federal law. Removal based on § 1331 is governed by the "well-pleaded complaint" rule. Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392, 107 S. Ct. 2425, 2429, 96 L. Ed. 2d 318 (1987). Under the rule, "federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented on the face of plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint." Id. at 392, 107 S. Ct. at 2429, 96 L. Ed. 2d 318. If the complaint does not specify whether a claim is based on federal or state law, it is a claim "arising under" federal law only if it is "clear" that it raises a federal question. Duncan v. Stuetzle, 76 F.3d 1480, 1485 (9th Cir. 1996). Thus, plaintiff is generally the "master of the claim." Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 392, 107 S. Ct. at 2429, 96 L. Ed. 2d 318. "A case may not be removed to federal court on the basis of a federal defense, including the defense of pre-emption." Id. at 393, 107 S. Ct. at 2430, 96 L. Ed. 2d 318 (emphasis in original). The only exception to this rule is where plaintiff's federal claim has been disguised by "artful pleading," such as where the only claim is a federal one or is a state claim preempted by federal law. Sullivan v. First Affiliated Sec., Inc., 813 F.2d 1368, 1372 (9th Cir. 1987).

Here, the underlying Complaint contains only a single cause of action for unlawful detainer. In the Notice of Removal, Defendants claim a number of federal civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1986, 1985, 1983 and 1981 in relation to Defendants' mortgage loan and the foreclosure of their property. (See Notice of Removal at 4.)

Unlawful detainer proceedings do not purport to adjudicate title to the property at issue -- only the right to possession is implicated. Any defenses that Defendant might raise to this unlawful detainer action, or claims she might assert in a separate claim of unlawful foreclosure, then, are insufficient to confer removal jurisdiction over this action. See, e.g., U.S. Bank, N.A. v. Barcenas, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 173586, at *1 (C.D. Cal. Dec. 5, 2012) ("Because this is an unlawful detainer action, a federal question does not present itself."); Aurora Loan Servs. v. Orozco, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 172200, at *3-4 (C.D. Cal. Dec. 3, 2012) (explaining that unlawful detainer actions are purely matters of state law and that "any federal defense Defendant raises is irrelevant with regard to jurisdiction"). Thus, the Court lacks federal question jurisdiction over this action. Defendants' allegations concerning Plaintiff's potential violations of civil rights do not ...


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