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Nationstar Mortgage LLC v. Ceasar Morales

April 12, 2013

NATIONSTAR MORTGAGE LLC
v.
CEASAR MORALES, ET AL.



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

JS-6; SEND

CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL

Present: The Honorable MARGARET M. MORROW

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. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Nationstar Mortgage LLC ("Nationstar") filed this unlawful detainer action in Los Angeles Superior Court against defendants Caesar Morales, Hugo Morales, Maria Rodriguez, Juan Morales and certain fictitious defendants on March 5, 2012.*fn1 In 2006, as trustor, Juan Morales executed a deed of trust on real property located in Pacoima, California.*fn2 Nationstar Mortgage alleges that, under the power of sale contained in the deed of trust, the trustee sold the property at foreclosure sale to Southstar III, LLC, on August 12, 2009.*fn3 Nationstar allegedly obtained title to the property and the right to possession thereof through a quitclaim deed executed in its favor by Southstar; this deed was recorded on May 6, 2011.*fn4

Nationstar asserts that defendants were not in possession of the property at the time of sale, but unlawfully took possession thereafter.*fn5 It contends that none of the occupants of the property is a "tenant" as defined and protected by the Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance.*fn6 On February 23, 2012, Nationstar served a written notice to quit and vacate the property on defendants.*fn7 Although the period within which they were required to vacate expired on February 28, 2012, Nationstar alleges that they failed to surrender possession of the property and remain on the premises without its permission. Nationstar asserts it is entitled to immediate possession of the property and has been at all times since February 29, 2013.*fn8 Nationstar seeks possession of the property.*fn9

Defendants filed a notice of removal on January 11, 2013.*fn10 They allege that the court has federal question jurisdiction under the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009.*fn11 On February 15, 2013, Nationstar filed a motion to remand.*fn12 Although the motion is set for hearing on April 29, 2013, and any opposition to the motion was due no later than April 8, 2013, no opposition has been filed. See CA CD L.R. 7-9.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard Governing Removal Jurisdiction

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 involves a federal question or is between citizens of different states and has an amount in controversy that exceeds $75,000. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441(a), (b). Only state court actions that could originally have been filed in federal court can be removed. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) ("Except as otherwise expressly provided by Act of Congress, any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending"); see Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987); Ethridge v. Harbor House, 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 'strong presumption' against removal jurisdiction means that the defendant always has the burden of establishing that removal is proper." Id. (citing ...


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