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Neal v. Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

March 6, 2017

RALPH B. NEAL, Plaintiff,




         Plaintiff Ralph Neal (“Plaintiff”) is the trustor of a 2007 Deed of Trust executed in favor of Washington Mutual in connection with the refinance of a home loan. He initiated this action in Santa Clara County Superior Court in July, 2016, against Defendants U.S. Bank NA, who is “successor trustee to Bank of America, NA, successor in interest to La Salle Bank NA, as trustee on behalf of the holders of the Wamu Mortgage Pass-Through Certificates, Series 2007-OA6, ” and Select Portfolio Servicing Inc. (collectively, “Defendants”), and asserts several causes of action based in California law. Select Portfolio Servicing removed the action to this court on August 26, 2016, citing federal jurisdiction on the basis of diversity of citizenship. Dkt. No. 1.

         Presently before the court is Plaintiff's motion to remand and a “motion to prove authority, ” both of which Defendants oppose. Dkt. Nos. 14, 15. Having carefully reviewed the parties' pleadings, the court finds these matters suitable for decision without oral argument. Civ. L.R. 7-1(b). Thus, the hearing scheduled for March 9, 2017, will be vacated. Because Defendants have successfully satisfied their burden to demonstrate federal jurisdiction, and because there is no basis to require proof of “authority, ” the motions will be denied for the reasons explained below.


         Removal jurisdiction is a creation of statute. See Libhart v. Santa Monica Dairy Co., 592 F.2d 1062, 1064 (9th Cir.1979) (“The removal jurisdiction of the federal courts is derived entirely from the statutory authorization of Congress.”). In general, only those state court actions that could have been originally filed in federal court may be removed. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) (“Except as otherwise expressly provided by Act of Congress, any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant.”); see also Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987) (“Only state-court actions that originally could have been filed in federal court may be removed to federal court by defendant.”). Accordingly, the removal statute provides two basic ways in which a state court action may be removed to federal court: (1) the case presents a federal question, or (2) the case is between citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441(a), (b).

         On a motion to remand, it is the removing defendant's burden to establish federal jurisdiction, and the court must strictly construe removal statutes against removal jurisdiction. Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992) (“The ‘strong presumption' against removal jurisdiction means that the defendant always has the burden of establishing that removal is proper.”); Geographic Expeditions, Inc. v. Estate of Lhotka, 599 F.3d 1102, 1107 (9th Cir. 2010). “Where doubt regarding the right to removal exists, a case should be remanded to state court.” Matheson v. Progressive Specialty Ins. Co., 319 F.3d 1089, 1090 (9th Cir. 2003); 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.”).


         Plaintiff presents several arguments in favor of remand, none of which support the relief sought.

         A. Federal Question Jurisdiction is Irrelevant

         First, Plaintiff argues the action must be returned to state court because his causes of action are neither created by federal law nor raise a substantial federal question. Although the observation is an accurate one insofar as it correctly describes the nature of the claims asserted in the Complaint, it is nonetheless irrelevant. Since Defendants' Notice of Removal does not rely on the existence of a federal question as the basis for this court's jurisdiction, the rule requiring the court to scrutinize “the face of a well-pleaded complaint to determine whether a cause of action is created by federal law or whether the plaintiff's right to relief necessarily depends on the resolution of a substantial question of federal law” is inapplicable. Christianson v. Colt Indus. Operating Corp., 486 U.S. 800, 808 (1988) (citing Franchise Tax Bd. of Cal. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 27-28 (1983)).

         B. There is Complete Diversity of the Parties

         Second, Plaintiff challenges the existence of diversity jurisdiction by stating that one defendant, U.S. Bank, is “mainly doing business in California, and thus a citizen of California for diversity purposes.” Similarly, Plaintiff concludes in his reply brief that California became “a nerve center” for U.S. Bank because it does “substantial business in California.”

         Plaintiff relies on an incorrect legal standard when it comes to U.S. Bank. Unlike a corporation, which is subject to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c) and considered a citizen of the state under whose laws it is organized or incorporated and the state of its principal place of business (Davis v. HSBC Bank Nev., N.A., 557 F.3d 1026, 1028 (9th Cir. 2008)), a national bank is subject to another statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1348. The Ninth Circuit has interpreted the pertinent language of § 1348 - providing that “[a]ll national banking associations shall, for the purposes of all other actions by or against them, be deemed citizens of the States in which they are respectively located” - to mean that “a ...

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