United States District Court, C.D. California
Present: Honorable George H. WU, United States District Judge
ORDER REMANDING ACTION TO STATE COURT
Honorable GEORGE H. WU, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Vaughan Family Trust ("Plaintiff") sues Michelle
and Michael Thomas ("Defendants") for a claim of
unlawful detainer. See Complaint ¶¶ 1, 6.
Michael Thomas, in pro per, removed this action from
Riverside County Superior Court to this Court on May 12,
2016, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441. See Notice
of Removal ¶¶ 1, 8. Defendants claim that federal
question jurisdiction exists because the Plaintiff's
lawsuit violates federal anti-discrimination laws,
"including but not limited to the Section 1983 of the
federal Civil Rights Acts of 1964." See Notice
of Removal ¶ 4. The Court remands this matter because
Defendants have not demonstrated that the Court has subject
matter jurisdiction over this case.
courts possess limited jurisdiction, having subject matter
jurisdiction only over matters authorized by the Constitution
and Congressional statute. See, e.g., Kokkonen
v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994).
Federal courts operate under the presumption that they do not
have jurisdiction, and the party claiming federal
jurisdiction bears the responsibility of proving otherwise.
See id. (citing Tuner v. Bank of
North-America, 4 U.S. 8, 4 (1799); McNutt v. General
Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 182-83 (1936)).
Additionally, "[t]he defendant bears the burden of
establishing that removal is proper" and "[t]he
removal statute is strictly construed against removal
jurisdiction, " making this responsibility a substantial
one. Provincial Gov't of Marinduque v. Placer Dome,
Inc., 582 F.3d 1083, 1087 (9th Cir. 2009) (citing
Syngenta Crop Prot., Inc. v. Henson, 537 U.S. 28, 32
(2002); California ex rel. Lockyer v. Dynegy, Inc.,
375 F.3d 831, 838 (9th Cir. 2004)); see also Gaus v.
Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992)
("[J]urisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt
as to the right of removal in the first instance.")
(omitting internal citations).
federal courts have an independent duty to analyze whether
subject matter jurisdiction exists, regardless of whether a
party raises the issue. See Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp.,
546 U.S. 500, 514 (2006) (citing Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon
Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 583 (1999), United Investors
Life Ins. Co. v. Waddell & Reed, Inc., 360 F.3d 960, 967
(9th Cir. 2004) (citing Feidt v. Owens Corning Fiberglas
Corp., 153 F.3d 124, 128 (3d Cir. 1998)). Moreover, a
court may remand a case summarily on jurisdictional grounds,
without giving the parties an opportunity to address the
issue. See Scholastic Entm't, Inc. v. Fox Entm't
Grp., Inc., 336 F.3d 982, 985 (9th Cir. 2003)
("While a party is entitled to notice and an opportunity
to respond when a court contemplates dismissing a claim on
the merits, it is not so when the dismissal is for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction.") (omitting internal
matter jurisdiction exists over claims "arising
under" federal law. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
A claim arises under federal law if it satisfies the
"well-pleaded complaint rule . . . [where] a federal
question is presented on the face of plaintiff's properly
pleaded complaint." Caterpillar, Inc. v.
Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). As such, "a
case may not be removed to federal court on the basis of a
federal defense." Id. at 393; see also
Vaden v. Discover Bank, 556 U.S. 49, 60 (2009) (holding
that federal jurisdiction also cannot "rest upon an
actual or anticipated counterclaim").
Plaintiff filed the Complaint in Riverside County Superior
Court, asserting a single claim of unlawful detainer that
falls exclusively under California law and therefore presents
no federal question on its face. Defendants' argument
that Plaintiff is in violation of federal anti-discrimination
statutes constitutes a defense (or perhaps a counterclaim),
which does not arise from the Complaint and therefore cannot
provide a convincing basis for federal question jurisdiction.
As such, this case cannot meet the standard for federal
diversity jurisdiction present (and Thomas has not claimed
that it is), considering that Defendants' Notice of
Removal identifies both Plaintiff and Defendants as citizens
of the State of California. See Notice of Removal
¶¶ 2-3. Moreover, the amount in controversy falls
far short of the required $75, 000 required to permit
diversity jurisdiction; requested damages amount to $2150 in
unpaid rent, in addition to attorneys' fees and damages
in the amount of the fair rental value of $71.67/day, from