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Community Housing Partnership v. Byrd

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

November 19, 2013

CHARLES BYRD, Defendant.



Defendant Charles Byrd removed this unlawful detainer action from the Superior Court for the County of San Francisco asserting federal enclave jurisdiction because the property at issue is located on Treasure Island, a former naval base. Now pending before the Court is Plaintiff's motion to remand this unlawful detainer action to state court.[1] (Dkt. No. 11.) Having had the benefit of the parties' briefs, including their supplemental submissions regarding federal enclave jurisdiction, and having had the benefit of oral argument on September 19, 2013, the Court concludes that it at least has discretion to remand. In light of the lack of any federal interest in the case, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion to remand and DENIES the parties' accompanying requests for fees and sanctions.


Community Housing Partnership ("Plaintiff") employed Charles Byrd ("Defendant") as a Resident Property Manager from May 10, 2002 through March 6, 2013. As part of his employment, Defendant was required to occupy the subject premises located on Treasure Island. On March 6, 2013, Defendant's employment with Plaintiff was terminated. On April 19, 2013, Plaintiff served Defendant with a 3-Day Notice of Termination of Occupancy, which stipulated that failure to vacate the premises would result in its filing an unlawful detainer action. Defendant failed to comply and remains in possession of the property. On May 2, 2013, Plaintiff filed an unlawful detainer action for less than $10, 000 in the Superior Court for the County of San Francisco. Plaintiff states that Defendant was served with the Summons and Complaint on May 20, 2013 by posting and mailing pursuant to CAL. CIV. PROC. CODE § 415.45. (Dkt. No. 11 at 4:13-14.)

On July 1, 2013, Defendant removed the unlawful detainer action to federal court, asserting that original jurisdiction existed because the incident occurred on Treasure Island which is a federal enclave. Plaintiff subsequently moved to remand contending the Court is without jurisdiction to hear an unlawful detainer action, but not addressing the federal enclave issues raised in Defendant's removal. Defendant thereafter filed an opposition setting forth the basis for federal enclave jurisdiction, which Plaintiff responded to in its reply brief.

On September 19, 2013, the Court heard oral argument regarding the motion to remand. At oral argument, the Court ordered the parties to submit supplemental briefing. The parties have since done so and the issue is ripe for decision.


A civil action filed in state court may be removed to federal court so long as the federal court has original jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1441. Federal courts have original jurisdiction over "all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treatises of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331. An action "arises under" federal law only "if either: (1) federal law creates the cause of action, or (2) the plaintiff's right to relief necessarily depends on the resolution of a substantial question of federal law." Swords to Plowshares v. Kemp, 423 F.Supp.2d 1031, 1033 (N.D. Cal. 2005). A state-law claim may be treated as one "arising under" federal law "only where the vindication of the state-law right necessarily turns on some construction of federal law." Id. In federal enclave cases, federal court jurisdiction applies when the locus in which the claim arose is within the federal enclave itself. In re High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litig., 856 F.Supp.2d 1103, 1125 (N.D. Cal. 2012).

The removal statutes are construed restrictively and the district court must remand the case if it appears at any time before final judgment that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c); Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 108-09 (1941). A plaintiff may seek to have a case remanded to the state court from which it was removed if the district court lacks jurisdiction or if there is a defect in the removal procedure. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). There is a "strong presumption" against removal jurisdiction, Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992), and doubts as to removability are resolved in favor of remanding the case to state court. Matheson v. Progressive Specialty Ins. Co., 319 F.3d 1089, 1090 (9th Cir. 2003).

The burden of establishing federal jurisdiction for purposes of removal is on the party seeking removal. Valdez v. Allstate Ins. Co., 372 F.3d 1115, 1117 (9th Cir. 2004). Thus, here, Defendant bears the burden of establishing that this Court has jurisdiction over Plaintiff's unlawful detainer claim.


Plaintiff challenges Defendant's removal on two grounds: (1) Defendant's notice of removal was untimely because it was filed outside of the mandatory removal period set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b); and (2) removal is improper because Treasure Island, while concededly still owned by the United States, is not a federal enclave and therefore is not subject to federal jurisdiction.

I. Timeliness of Removal Under 28 U.S.C. § 1446

28 U.S.C. § 1446 sets forth the procedure for removal of civil actions to federal court. It requires that the removing party file a notice of removal "within 30 days after the receipt by the defendant, through service or otherwise, of a copy of the initial pleading setting forth the claim for ...

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