United States District Court, E.D. California
12, 2016, defendant Markenza Harris, proceeding pro se,
removed this unlawful detainer action from San Joaquin County
Superior Court. ECF No. 1. Harris also filed a motion to
proceed in forma pauperis. ECF No. 2. As explained below, the
court REMANDS the case to the San Joaquin County Superior
Court and DENIES as moot defendant’s motion to proceed
in forma pauperis.
SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION
case “of which the district courts of the United States
have original jurisdiction” is initially brought in
state court, a defendant may remove it to federal court. 28
U.S.C. § 1441(a). There are two primary bases for
federal subject matter jurisdiction: (1) federal question
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and (2) diversity
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
§ 1331, district courts have federal question
jurisdiction over “all civil actions arising under the
Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.”
28 U.S.C. § 1331. Under the longstanding well-pleaded
complaint rule, a suit “arises under” federal law
“only when the plaintiff’s statement of his own
cause of action shows that it is based upon [federal
law].” Louisville & Nashville R. Co. v.
Mottley, 211 U.S. 149, 152 (1908). Federal question
jurisdiction cannot rest upon an actual or anticipated
defense or counterclaim. Vaden v. Discover Bank, 556
U.S. 49, 60 (2009).
§ 1332, district courts have diversity-of-citizenship
jurisdiction where the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000
and the parties are in complete diversity. 28 U.S.C. §
1332. “Where it is not facially evident from the
complaint that more than $75, 000 is in controversy, the
removing party must prove, by a preponderance of the
evidence, that the amount in controversy meets the
jurisdictional threshold.” Matheson v. Progressive
Specialty Ins. Co., 319 F.3d 1089, 1090 (9th Cir. 2003)
federal district court may remand a case sua sponte where a
defendant has not established federal jurisdiction.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) (“If at any time
before final judgment it appears that the district court
lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded
. . . .”); Enrich v. Touche Ross & Co.,
846 F.2d 1190, 1195 (9th Cir. 1988) (citing Wilson v.
Republic Iron & Steel Co., 257 U.S. 92, 97 (1921)).
Notice of Removal asserts the court has federal question
jurisdiction under § 1331 because
“Defendant’s Answer, a pleading depend [sic] on
the determination of Defendant’s rights and
Plaintiff’s duties under federal law.” ECF No. 1
at 2. The complaint plaintiff filed in state court asserts
only a claim for unlawful detainer, which is a matter of
state law. See ECF No. 1 at 6.
explained above, Harris’s answer or counterclaim cannot
serve as the basis for federal question jurisdiction.
Vaden, 556 U.S. at 60. Plaintiff is the master of
the complaint and may, as here, “avoid federal
jurisdiction by pleading solely state-law claims.”
Valles v. Ivy Hill Corp., 410 F.3d 1071, 1075 (9th
Cir. 2005). Because plaintiffs complaint does not show that
it is based upon federal law, the court does not have federal
question jurisdiction over the action.
does the court appear to have diversity jurisdiction.
Plaintiff s complaint seeks possession of the premises, costs
and reasonable attorney’s fees, past-due rent of $2,
169.26, forfeiture of the agreement, and damages of $28.33
per day for each day from June 1, 2016 until the date of
judgment. ECF No. 1 at 8. Because these damages are not
likely to total more than $75, 000, and Harris has provided
no other evidence or allegations as to the amount in
controversy, the court cannot exercise diversity jurisdiction
over the action.
REQUEST TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS
foregoing reasons, the court has determined sua sponte that
it appears to lack subject matter jurisdiction, and thus
remands the case to the San Joaquin County Superior Court.
Cf. Matheson, 319 F.3d at 1090 (“Where doubt
regarding the right to removal exists, a case should be
remanded to state ...