United States District Court, S.D. California
SUA SPONTE ORDER OF REMAND TO STATE COURT
Cathy Ann, Bencivengo, United States District Judge
December 8, 2016, Plaintiff Daniel Franks filed a complaint
for unlawful detainer against Defendants Jeffrey Franks,
Guardian Angel Productions, Inc., and Kellie McKenzie in San
Diego County Superior Court. [Doc. No. 1 at 12.] On May 3,
2017, Defendant Jeffrey Franks, proceeding pro se,
removed the action to this court. [Doc. No. 1.] After
reviewing the notice of removal and the underlying complaint,
the Court finds that the Court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction over this case. Accordingly, the Court REMANDS
this action to state court.
filed in state court may be removed to federal court by the
defendant or defendants if the federal court would have had
original subject matter jurisdiction over that suit. 28
U.S.C. § 1441(a); Moore-Thomas v. Alaska Airlines,
Inc., 553 F.3d 1241, 1243 (9th Cir. 2009). On the other
hand, “[i]f 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); see also Kelton Arms Condo. Owners
Ass'n, Inc. v. Homestead Ins. Co., 346 F.3d 1190,
1192 (9th Cir. 2003) (“Subject matter jurisdiction may
not be waived, and, indeed, we have held that the district
court must remand if it lacks jurisdiction.”). The
Court may remand sua sponte or on motion of a party.
Snell v. Cleveland, Inc., 316 F.3d 822, 826 (9th
Cir. 2002) (“Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(h)(3)
provides that a court may raise the question of subject
matter jurisdiction, sua sponte, at any time during
the pendency of the action . . . .”). “The
defendant bears the burden of establishing that removal was
proper.” Provincial Gov't of Marinduque v.
Placer Dome, Inc., 582 F.3d 1083, 1087 (9th Cir. 2009).
“The removal statute is strictly construed, and any
doubt about the right of removal requires resolution in favor
of remand.” Moore-Thomas, 553 F.3d at 1244.
subject matter jurisdiction is based on the presence of a
federal question, see 28 U.S.C. § 1331, or on
complete diversity between the parties, see 28
U.S.C. § 1332. In the notice of removal, Jeffrey Franks
argues only that this Court has federal-question
jurisdiction. “The presence or absence of
federal-question jurisdiction is governed by the
‘well-pleaded complaint rule, ' which provides that
federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is
presented on the face of the plaintiff's properly pleaded
complaint.” Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482
U.S. 386, 392 (1987). The complaint must establish
“either that federal law creates the cause of action or
that the plaintiff's right to relief necessarily depends
on resolution of a substantial question of federal
law.” Franchise Tax Bd. v. Constr. Laborers
Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 27-28 (1983).
federal question jurisdiction is absent because no
“federal question is presented on the face of
plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint.”
Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 392. Plaintiff's
complaint asserts a single claim for unlawful detainer, a
cause of action that is purely a matter of state law. See
Muhammad v. N. Richmond Senior Hous., Inc., No.
15-CV-00629-WHO, 2015 WL 1154209, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 13,
2015) (“California federal courts have repeatedly held
that unlawful detainer cases brought under California's
unlawful detainer statute do not raise federal
questions.”); Fed. Nat'l. Mortg. Ass'n v.
Enshiwat, No. 12-631 CAS (CWx), 2012 WL 683106, at *1
(C.D. Cal. Mar. 2, 2012) (“Unlawful detainer actions
are strictly within the province of state court.”)
(quotations omitted). Accordingly, the face of the complaint
does not present a federal question justifying removal.
Franks argues that federal question exists because Plaintiff
allegedly violated the notice provisions of the Protecting
Tenants at Foreclosure Act (“PTFA”), and that the
PTFA preempts Plaintiff's unlawful detainer action. He is
incorrect. “First, the PTFA expired on December 31,
2014.” Fairview Tasman LLC v. Young, No.
15-CV-05493-LHK, 2016 WL 199060, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 18,
2016) (citing Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer
Protection Act, Pub. L. No. 111-203, 124 Stat. 1376, 2204
(2010) (setting date of expiration)).
even if it had not expired, “[t]he PTFA creates no
cause of action allowing for evictions, either explicitly or
implicitly.” Wescom Credit Union v. Dudley,
No. CV 10-8203 GAF SSX, 2010 WL 4916578, at *3 (C.D. Cal.
Nov. 22, 2010). While Jeffrey Franks may be able to assert a
violation of the PTFA as a defense to the unlawful detainer
claim, “a case may not be removed to federal court on
the basis of a federal defense . . . even if the defense is
anticipated in the plaintiff's complaint, and even if
both parties concede that the federal defense is the only
question truly at issue.” Caterpillar, 482
U.S. at 393. “Indeed, federal courts have consistently
rejected attempts to premise federal subject matter
jurisdiction on the 90-day notice provision of the
PTFA.” U.S. Bank Trust, N.A. v. Bracken, No.
2:14-CV-1738-TLN-KJN, 2014 WL 3729563, at *3 (E.D. Cal. July
25, 2014) report and recommendation adopted, No.
2:14-CV-1738-TLN-KJN, 2014 WL 4197566 (E.D. Cal. Aug. 22,
2014). “Put simply, the existence of federal
jurisdiction depends solely on the plaintiff's claims for
relief and not on anticipated defenses to those
claims.” ARCO Envtl. Remediation, L.L.C. v.
Dep't of Health & Envtl. Quality of Montana, 213
F.3d 1108, 1113 (9th Cir. 2000). Accordingly, the possible
existence of issues under the PTFA does not establish federal
question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
Franks does not argue that removal is proper on the basis of
diversity jurisdiction, and the complaint makes clear that no
such jurisdiction exists. For a federal court to exercise
diversity jurisdiction, the amount in controversy must exceed
$75, 000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Plaintiffs
complaint explicitly states that he seeks limited civil
damages totaling less than $10, 000. Thus, diversity
jurisdiction is lacking as well.
on the foregoing, the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction
over this matter and therefore REMANDS the case ...