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Baker-Olson v. Olson

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

November 7, 2013

DONNA BAKER-OLSON, Plaintiff,
v.
SHARON OLSON, Defendant.

ORDER DISMISSING ACTION FOR LACK OF SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION

M. JAMES LORENZ, District Judge.

This action has a long history of missed deadlines and procedurally improper filings by both parties. Plaintiff filed the above-captioned complaint on October 29, 2012. On December 13, 2012, defendant attempted to file a motion to dismiss but the filing was rejected by the court for failure to comply with various procedural rules. [doc. #5] Defendant filed a complying motion to dismiss on December 17, 2012. [doc. #6] The following day, plaintiff filed a motion for entry of default contending that she had provided two extensions of time to defendant. By Order filed December 20, 2012, the Court directed counsel's attention to Civil Local Rule 7.2(a): "Except as otherwise provided, stipulations must be recognized as binding on the court only when approved by the judge." No stipulations were presented to the Court. In that same Order, plaintiff's motion for entry of default was denied. [doc. #9]

Rather than respond to defendant's motion to dismiss, plaintiff filed a first amended complaint ("FAC") - the operative complaint - in this action on December 26, 2012. [doc. #10]. In the FAC, plaintiff asserts both federal question jurisdiction and diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiff again sought entry of default, which was entered on January 28, 2013. Defendant then attempted to file an answer and a motion to set aside default. Both documents were stricken for procedural irregularities. On February 5, 2013, defendant filed a motion to set aside the entry of default, to which plaintiff failed to respond. [doc. #19] The Court granted the motion and set aside the default on February 28, 2013. [doc. #23] Defendant was ordered to answer or otherwise respond to the FAC on or before March 8, 2013. On March 14, 2013, when defendant had failed to timely file a response to the FAC, plaintiff again filed a request for entry of default. [doc. #26]

Defendant attempted once again to file a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction but the motion was stricken for procedural errors. On March 20, 2013, defendant filed a corrected motion to dismiss but it was denied as moot because the Clerk of the Court had entered default on March 21, 2013. [doc. #34] Even though her motion to dismiss had been denied as moot because default had been entered, defendant then filed an Answer to the FAC on March 28, 2013. [doc. #36] The Court struck defendant's Answer on April 22, 2013. [doc. #38]

On April 21, 2013, plaintiff filed his motion for default judgment. [doc. #37] On May 9, 2013, defendant filed a motion to set aside the entry of default. [doc. #44]

DISCUSSION

In reviewing the currently pending motions, the Court has examined the basis of plaintiff's assertion of subject matter jurisdiction and finds that jurisdiction is lacking.

A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

The federal court is one of limited jurisdiction. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375 (1994). It possesses only that power authorized by the Constitution or a statute. See Bender v. Williamsport Area Sch. Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 541 (1986). It is constitutionally required to raise issues related to federal subject matter jurisdiction and may do so sua sponte. Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 93-94 (1998); see Indus. Tectonics, Inc. v. Aero Alloy, 912 F.2d 1090, 1092 (9th Cir. 1990). "Subject matter jurisdiction can never be forfeited or waived and federal courts have a continuing independent obligation to determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists." Leeson v. Transamerica Disability Income Plan, 671 F.3d 969, 976 (9th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

There are two bases for federal subject matter jurisdiction: (1) federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331; and (2) diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. A district court has federal question jurisdiction in "all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331. A district court has diversity jurisdiction "where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, .... and is between citizens of different states, or citizens of a State and citizens or subjects of a foreign state...." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1)-(2).

B. Federal Question

"Federal question jurisdiction exists only when a federal question exists on the face of a well-pleaded complaint." ING Bank, FSB v. Pineda, 2012 WL 2077311, at *1 (N.D. Cal. June 8, 2012). Plaintiff purports to assert a claim against defendant, a private party, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983:

Acting under the authority of the Rhode Island Attachment and under color of Rhode Island State law, defendant caused the Attachment to be recorded against the Property, as set forth above. As such defendant subjected plaintiff to the deprivation of her rights, privileges and immunities ...

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