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Stone v. Atherton

United States District Court, C.D. California

June 25, 2015

Carol J. Stone
Steve Atherton, et al.


PERCY ANDERSON, District Judge.


Before the Court is a Notice of Removal filed by defendant Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. ("Wells Fargo"). Wells Fargo asserts that this Court has jurisdiction over the action brought against it by plaintiff Carol J. Stone ("Plaintiff") based on the Court's diversity jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, having subject matter jurisdiction only over matters authorized by the Constitution and Congress. See, e.g., Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377, 114 S.Ct. 1673, 1675, 128 L.Ed.2d 391 (1994). A suit filed in state court may be removed to federal court if the federal court would have had original jurisdiction over the suit. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). A removed action must be remanded to state court if the federal court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). "The burden of establishing federal jurisdiction is on the party seeking removal, and the removal statute is strictly construed against removal jurisdiction." Prize Frize, Inc. v. Matrix (U.S.) Inc., 167 F.3d 1261, 1265 (9th Cir. 1999). "Federal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance." Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992).

In attempting to invoke this Court's diversity jurisdiction, Defendant must prove that there is complete diversity of citizenship between the parties and that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332. To establish citizenship for diversity purposes, a natural person must be a citizen of the United States and be domiciled in a particular state. Kantor v. Wellesley Galleries, Ltd., 704 F.2d 1088, 1090 (9th Cir. 1983). Persons are domiciled in the places they reside with the intent to remain or to which they intend to return. See Kanter v. Warner-Lambert Co., 265 F.3d 853, 857 (9th Cir. 2001). "A person residing in a given state is not necessarily domiciled there, and thus is not necessarily a citizen of that state." Id.

The Notice of Removal alleges that Plaintiff is a citizen of the state of California because (1) "she pleads ownership and residency of a home" in Camarillo, California and (2) she filed a Voluntary Petition for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Protection in the Northern District of California in which she indicated that she "has been domiciled or has had a residence, principal place of business, or principal assets in this District for 180 days immediately preceding the date" of the petition. Although the location of Plaintiff's real property is one factor to consider in determining domicile, and therefore citizenship, [1] Wells Fargo elsewhere takes the position that "title to the subject party was fully and finally litigated" against Plaintiff. Second, the bankruptcy petition, in which Plaintiff provides a different address, includes a disjunctive list that may be satisfied by mere residence (as opposed to domicile). Because an individual is not necessarily domiciled where he or she resides, Wells Fargo's allegations of Plaintiff's citizenship, based on allegations of residence, are insufficient to establish Plaintiff's citizenship. See Kanter, 265 F.3d at 857. "Absent unusual circumstances, a party seeking to invoke diversity jurisdiction should be able to allege affirmatively the actual citizenship of the relevant parties." Id .; Bradford v. Mitchell Bros. Truck Lines, 217 F.Supp. 525, 527 (N.D. Cal. 1963). As a result, Defendant's allegations are insufficient to invoke this Court's diversity jurisdiction.[2] For the foregoing reason, Defendant has failed to meet its burden to demonstrate the Court's diversity jurisdiction. Accordingly, the Court remands this action to the Ventura County Superior Court, Case No. 56-2015-00464960-CU-FR-VTA. See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).

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