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Moore v. Willis

United States District Court, S.D. California

September 8, 2014

MICHAEL E. MOORE, JAMES RODENBO, Plaintiffs,
v.
VICTOR WILLIS, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO REMAND

BARRY TED MOSKOWITZ, Chief District Judge.

Judgment Creditor Van Wyck, Inc., has filed a motion to remand this action to state court. For the reasons discussed below, Van Wyck's motion is GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

In October, 2010, this suit was commenced by Plaintiffs Michael E. Moore and Jason Rodenbo in the Superior Court of California. Plaintiffs sued Defendant Victor Willis for breach of a legal services contract.

On May 23, 2011, default judgment was entered against Willis and in favor of Plaintiffs.

On May 22, 2014, the judgment was assigned to Van Wyck. On June 10, 2014, Van Wyck filed a motion to appoint a receiver to aid in collection of the judgment by taking possession of and conducting a sale of copyright interests claimed by Willis in certain musical compositions. Those copyrights are the subject of a separate action pending before this Court, Scorpio, et al. v. Willis, 11cv1557 BTM.

On July 3, 2014, Willis removed the action to this Court.

On August 8, 2014, Van Wyck filed its motion to remand.

On August 22, 2014, Willis filed a motion to consolidate this case with the Scorpio case.

II. DISCUSSION

Van Wyck moves to remand this action on the ground that the Court has no subject matter jurisdiction. As discussed below, the Court agrees with Van Wyck.

The removing defendant always has the burden of establishing that removal is proper, and the court resolves all ambiguity in favor of remand to state court. Gaus v. Miles, Inc. , 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). In his Notice of Removal, Willis contends that the Court has original jurisdiction over the matter because Van Wyck's claim "arises under copyright law."

Under the "well-pleaded complaint" rule, federal-question jurisdiction extends over "only those cases in which a well-pleaded complaint establishes either that federal law creates the cause of action or that the plaintiff's right to relief necessarily depends on resolution of a substantial question of federal law." Franchise Tax Bd. of California v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust , 463 U.S. 1, 14 (1983). This rule makes a plaintiff the "master of his complaint" and allows him to "avoid federal jurisdiction by relying exclusively on state law." Balcorta v. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. , 208 F.3d 1102, 1106 (9th Cir. 2000). In determining whether a state claim depends on the resolution of a federal question to such an extent that subject matter jurisdiction is triggered, courts ask whether the federal question is "basic" and "necessary" as opposed to "collateral" and "merely possible, " "pivotal" as opposed to "incidental, " or "direct and essential" as opposed to "attenuated." Lippitt v. Raymond James Financial Serv., Inc. , 340 F.3d 1033, 1045 (9th Cir. 2003).

Here, the state claim is for breach of contract. (Amended Complaint attached to Notice of Removal). The complaint does not seek remedies under the Copyright Act or involve copyrights at all. Furthermore, the state claim does not necessarily depend on a resolution of copyright issues. To the extent copyright issues are involved in post-judgment enforcement proceedings, the federal issues are collateral and do not bear upon the merits of Plaintiffs' claim. See, e.g., Tulsa Industr. Auth. v. Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust, 2013 WL 5964012, at *4 (N.D. Okla. Nov. 7, 2013) (holding that state law claim did not necessarily raise a federal issue where the ...


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