United States District Court, E.D. California
April 26, 2017, defendant Sabrina Moura, proceeding pro se,
removed this unlawful detainer action from Sacramento County
Superior Court. ECF No. 1. Moura also filed a motion to proceed in
forma pauperis. ECF No. 2. As explained below, the court
REMANDS the case to the Sacramento County Superior Court and
DENIES as moot defendant's motion to proceed in forma
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
[sic] 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, a matter of state law. See
ECF No. 1 at 5.
explained above, the court cannot base federal question
jurisdiction on Moura's answer or counterclaim.
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 plaintiff's complaint is not 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 is labeled as a
“limited” civil case, meaning plaintiff predicts
the total damages will not exceed $10, 000. ECF No. 1 at 6.
Plaintiff seeks possession of the premises, past due rent of
$986, costs and reasonable attorney's fees, forfeiture of
the agreement, and damages of $37.03 per day for each day
from April 1, 2017 until the date of judgment. ECF No. 1 at
8. These damages are not likely to total more than $75, 000,
and Moura has provided no other evidence or allegations as to
the amount in controversy. As such, 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 does not have subject matter jurisdiction, and thus
remands the case to the Sacramento County Superior Court.
Cf. Matheson, 319 F.3d at 1090 (“Where doubt
regarding the right to removal exists, a case should be
remanded to ...