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Nationstar Mortgage LLC v. Stolte

United States District Court, N.D. California

February 14, 2014



JOSEPH C. SPERO, Magistrate Judge.


On November 29, 2013, Defendant Jeffrey M. Stolte, Sr. removed the underlying case, an unlawful detainer action, from the Superior Court of California, County of Contra Costa ("Contra Costa County Superior Court") to federal court. See Dkt. No. 1 ("Notice of Removal"). On January 17, 2014, Plaintiff Nationstar Mortgage, LLC ("Nationstar") filed a Motion to Remand ("Motion").[1] A hearing on the Motion was held on February 14, 2014 at 9:30 a.m. Nationstar appeared at the hearing but Defendant did not. For the reasons stated below, the Motion is GRANTED.[2]


Nationstar alleges that it is the owner of the real property located at 1741 Geary Road, Walnut Creek, CA 94597 ("Property"). Dkt. No. 1-1 ("Compl.") ¶ 1. According to the Complaint, Stolte defaulted under the terms of the Deed of Trust that secured the Property. Id. ¶ 9. After Stolte failed to cure the default, a Trustee's Sale of the Property was conducted and the Property was sold to Nationstar. Id. ¶¶ 8, 9. The Trustee's Deed Upon Sale attached to the Complaint reflects that the amount of unpaid debt together with costs is $704, 324.73. See Dkt. No. 1-1 at 13. Nationstar alleges that on August 19, 2013, it served Stolte a written notice to quit and deliver possession of the Property to Nationstar within three days. See Dkt. No. 1-1 at 17, 20. On August 21, 2013, Nationstar filed a lawsuit for unlawful detainer against Stolte pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure § 1161 in the Contra Costa County Superior Court. See Compl. Nationstar alleges that Stolte has failed and refused to deliver up possession of the Property, and that as of the date of the Complaint, Stolte continues in possession of the Property without Nationstar's permission or consent. Compl. ¶¶ 13, 14. The face of the Complaint states that this is a "limited civil case" and the amount is not to exceed $10, 000. See Compl.

On November 29, 2013, Stolte removed the action to this Court asserting that there is federal jurisdiction based on diversity. See Dkt. No. 1. In particular, Stolte states in the Notice of Removal that: (1) there is complete diversity of citizenship; and (2) the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. Notice of Removal ¶¶ 5-7. Stolte further asserts that both Nationstar and Stolte are citizens of California. Id. ¶¶ 5, 6. Stolte does not invoke federal question jurisdiction in the Notice of Removal. See Dkt. No. 1.

In the Motion, Nationstar asks the Court to remand the action to state court on the basis that there is no federal subject matter jurisdiction, both because the Complaint does not raise a federal question and because the amount in controversy requirement is not met.[3] See Dkt. No. 7. Nationstar does not argue that diversity of citizenship is lacking, even though the Notice of Removal states that both parties are citizens of California.

At the hearing, Plaintiff's counsel stated that he was uncertain as to the citizenship of Nationstar Mortgage, LLC.


A. Legal Standard

"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." 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). The Ninth Circuit "strictly construe[s] the removal statute against removal jurisdiction." Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992) (citations omitted). Thus, "[f]ederal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance." Id. (citations omitted). "The strong presumption' against removal jurisdiction means that the defendant always has the burden of establishing that removal is proper." Id. (citations omitted).

Removal jurisdiction may be based on diversity of citizenship or on the existence of a federal question. 28 U.S.C. § 1441. Whether removal jurisdiction exists must be determined by reference to the well-pleaded complaint. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc. v. Thompson, 478 U.S. 804, 808 (1986). "A defense that raises a federal question is inadequate to confer federal jurisdiction." Id . See also Valles v. Ivy Hill Corp., 410 F.3d 1071, 1075 (9th Cir. 2005) (plaintiff is the "master of the complaint" who may "avoid federal jurisdiction by pleading solely state-law claims").

Federal subject matter jurisdiction based on diversity requires complete diversity of citizenship and an amount in controversy in excess of $75, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). When an action is removed based on diversity, complete diversity must exist at the time of removal. Gould v. Mut. Life Ins. Co. of N.Y., 790 F.2d 769, 773 (9th Cir. 1986) (citing Miller v. Grgurich, 763 F.2d 372, 373 (9th Cir. 1985)). "If at any time before final judgment, it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded." 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). A civil action removable solely on the basis of the jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) may not ...

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