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Bartlett v. Patera

United States District Court, N.D. California, Oakland Division

July 15, 2016

ROY BARTLETT, Plaintiff,
v.
MARCI PATERA, Defendants.

          ORDER REMANDING ACTION

          SAUNDRA BROWN ARMSTRONG Senior United States District Judge

         In 2010, Plaintiff Roy Bartlett (“Plaintiff”) initiated a partition action against Defendant Marci Patera (“Defendant”) in the Superior Court of California, Contra Costa County. On July 12, 2016, Defendant, acting pro se, filed a Notice of Removal (“Notice”) based on federal question jurisdiction. Dkt. 1. The Court hereby REMANDS the action, sua sponte, for the reasons stated below.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. The State Court Action

         On January 7, 2010, Plaintiff initiated the instant action against Defendant in the Superior Court of California, Contra Costa County (the “Superior Court”). Compl., Dkt. 1, Ex. A. Pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure section 872.210, the Complaint alleged a single state law claim for partition of real and personal property. Id.

         The parties executed a Settlement Agreement, Stipulation for Judgment and Order Incorporating the Settlement Agreement in April 2012, and an Addendum to the Settlement Agreement in November 2012. See Order Enforcing Settlement Agreement (“Enforcement Order”), Dkt. 1, Ex. B. The Superior Court adopted the Settlement Agreement and Addendum, thereby entering judgment. See id. at 1 (citing Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 664.6 (a superior court may enter judgment pursuant to the terms of the parties’ settlement agreement, and may retain jurisdiction over the parties to enforce the settlement)).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a motion to enforce the Settlement Agreement, which the Superior Court granted on or about January 25, 2016. See Enforcement Order. Among other things, the Superior Court ordered the clerk of the court to execute documents necessary to effectuate the settlement, including a “Payoff Demand by Patera’s Judgment Creditor Joallyn Bohn” (the “default judgment”), on Defendant’s behalf. Id. at 2-3.

         On or about May 9, 2016, Defendant appealed the Superior Court’s order to the California Court of Appeal, First District (the “Appellate Court”). Notice ¶ 1. As indicated by the Appellate Court’s register of actions, Defendant’s appeal is pending.

         B. The Notice of Removal

         On July 12, 2016, Defendant removed the instant action to this Court based on federal question jurisdiction. According to Defendant, jurisdiction arises out of “multiple violations of federal law” that occurred during the course of the partition proceedings. Notice ¶ 9. Specifically, Defendant alleges that the Enforcement Order required her to pay a “default judgment that failed to follow due process requirements.” Id. ¶ 13. Defendant claims that she suffered a denial of due process because she never received notice of the underlying action in which the default judgment occurred. Id. ¶¶ 3-4. Defendant further alleges that the Superior Court later voided the default judgment “for lack of due process, ” which “confirmed due process violations” in the partition action. Id. ¶¶ 2, 7, 13.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A defendant may remove from state court any civil action over which the federal district court would have original jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). The basic statutory grants of original jurisdiction are contained in 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1332, which confer upon district courts federal question and diversity jurisdiction, respectively. See Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 513 (2006). “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 Inc., 167 F.3d 1261, 1265 (9th Cir.1999). A district court has “a duty to establish subject matter jurisdiction over the removed action sua sponte, ” regardless of whether any party raises the issue. United Inv’rs Life Ins. Co. v. Waddell & Reed Inc., 360 F.3d 960, 967 (9th Cir. 2004) (lack of subject matter jurisdiction cannot be waived or overcome by the parties’ agreement); see also Arbaugh, 546 U.S. at 514 (same). “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).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Defendant removed the instant action, in which the Superior Court has already issued a final judgment and enforcement orders, based on federal question jurisdiction. The Court finds ...


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