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Eguia v. Arc Imperial Valley

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

August 22, 2013

OFELIA EGUIA, et al., Plaintiffs,
ARC IMPERIAL VALLEY, et al., Defendants.


M. JAMES LORENZ, District Judge.

On March 4, 2013, Defendants ARC Imperial Valley, Arturo Santos, Martha Carillo, Hector Gutierrez, and Carmen Agundez removed this action from the Imperial County Superior Court. The Notice of Removal is based on federal-question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1441(a). (Removal Notice ¶ 8.) Plaintiffs Ofelia Eguia and Rosalinda Magallanes now move to remand. Defendants oppose.

The Court found this motion suitable for determination on the papers submitted and without oral argument. See Civ. L.R. 7.1(d.1). (Doc. 16.) For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion. (Doc. 10.)


On January 31, 2012, Plaintiffs filed their First Amended Complaint ("FAC") in the Imperial County Superior Court, asserting only state-law causes of action including wrongful termination, harassment, discrimination, and infliction of emotional distress. (Removal Notice ¶ 1.) Plaintiffs based these causes of action on public-policy grounds, violations of the California Government Code §§ 12940(h) and 12653, and violations of California Labor Code § 1102(f). (Removal Notice Ex. 1 at 37-65.) On March 1, 2012, Defendants filed an answer to the FAC, and on March 9, 2012, filed an amended answer asserting an affirmative defense under the federal-enclave doctrine. (Removal Notice Ex. 1 at 88, para. 15.)

On May 9, 2012, Defendants filed their first Notice of Removal, premised on the applicability of the federal-enclave doctrine. This Court denied the motion without prejudice because Defendants' documents did not qualify under 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b) as "other papers" because the documents originated from their own records. See Eguia v. ARC Imperial Valley, 12-CV-1132-L(PCL), 2012 WL 6061323, at *3-4 (S.D. Cal. Dec. 6, 2012).

The subsequent Notice of Removal, filed on March 4, 2013, is once again premised on the applicability of the federal-enclave doctrine. (Doc. 1.) Defendants offer documents that they contend establish that the actions Plaintiffs allege occurred at the West Port of Entry, a federal enclave. Defendants also allege that certain 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. (Removal Notice ¶ 11.)

On April 5, 2013, Plaintiffs filed a motion to remand this action to the Imperial County Superior Court. (Doc. 10.) Plaintiffs also request attorney's fees and costs. Defendants oppose.


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. Swan, 111 U.S. 379, 382 (1884)).

"Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction." Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 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." Gaus, 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. Pursuant to the statute, federal courts have ...

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