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Martinez v. Solton

United States District Court, C.D. California

May 19, 2017

STEPHEN MARTINEZ, ANA MARTINEZ, Plaintiffs,
v.
CAROLYN MARIE SOLTON, Defendant.

          ORDER REMANDING CASE TO STATE COURT

          ANDREW J. GUILFORD UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I.

         BACKGROUND

         On April 5, 2017, Plaintiffs filed an unlawful detainer action against Defendant in the Orange County Superior Court, Case No. 30-2017-00912924-CL-UD-HNB. (Dkt. 1 at 6-8 [state court complaint].) On May 5, 2017, Defendant Carolyn Marie Solton filed a Notice of Removal of that action in this Court, accompanied by a request to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”). See Stephen Martinez, et al. v. Carolyn Marie Solton, 8:17-cv-00805-DOC-JDE. Defendant's request for IFP was denied at the matter remanded to state court on May 9, 2017. (Id. at Dkts. 6, 7.)

         On May 16, 2017, Plaintiff filed the Notice of Removal and IFP request now before this Court, seeking again to remove Case No. 30-2017-00912924-CL-UD-HNB. (Dkts. 1, 3.) The Court again sua sponte REMANDS this action to the California Superior Court for the County of Orange for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, as set forth below.

         II.

         DISCUSSION

         “The right of removal is entirely a creature of statute and ‘a suit commenced in a state court must remain there until cause is shown for its transfer under some act of Congress.'” Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc. v. Henson, 537 U.S. 28, 32 (2002) (quoting Great Northern R. Co. v. Alexander, 246 U.S. 276, 280 (1918)). Where Congress has acted to create a right of removal, those statutes are strictly construed against removal jurisdiction. Id.; Nevada v. Bank of Am. Corp., 672 F.3d 661, 667 (9th Cir. 2012); Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992).

         Unless otherwise expressly provided by Congress, a defendant may remove “any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a); Dennis v. Hart, 724 F.3d 1249, 1252 (9th Cir. 2013). The removing defendant bears the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction. Abrego v. Dow Chemical Co., 443 F.3d 676, 682 (9th Cir. 2006); Gaus, 980 F.2d at 566-67. “Under the plain terms of § 1441(a), in order properly to remove [an] action pursuant to that provision, [the removing defendant] must demonstrate that original subject-matter jurisdiction lies in the federal courts.” Syngenta Crop Protection, 537 U.S. at 33. Failure to do so requires that the case be remanded, as “[s]ubject matter jurisdiction may not be waived, and . . . the district court must remand if it lacks jurisdiction.” Kelton Arms Condo. Owners Ass'n v. Homestead Ins. Co., 346 F.3d 1190, 1192 (9th Cir. 2003). “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). It is “elementary that the subject matter jurisdiction of the district court is not a waivable matter and may be raised at anytime by one of the parties, by motion or in the responsive pleadings, or sua sponte by the trial or reviewing court.” Emrich v. Touche Ross & Co., 846 F.2d 1190, 1194 n.2 (9th Cir. 1988).

         A. Federal Question Jurisdiction.

         The underlying action is an unlawful detainer proceeding, arising under and governed by the laws of the State of California. The state-court Complaint does not include any claim “arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Federal defenses or federal counterclaims do not provide a basis to remove an action which does not otherwise establish federal jurisdiction. “[T]he 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. Dept. of Health and Envtl. Quality, 213 F.3d 1108, 1113 (9th Cir. 2000). An “affirmative defense based on federal law” does not “render[] an action brought in state court removable.” Berg v. Leason, 32 F.3d 422, 426 (9th Cir. 1994). 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 admit that the defense is the only question truly at issue in the case.” Franchise Tax Bd. v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 14 (1983). There is no basis for federal question jurisdiction.

         B. Diversity Jurisdiction.

         There is also no basis for diversity jurisdiction. Every defendant is not alleged to be diverse from every plaintiff. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Indeed, although Defendant claims that diversity is a basis for federal jurisdiction, she alleges that both the Plaintiffs and Defendant reside in Orange County. (Dkt. 1-1 at 2.)

         Defendant also alleges that the amount in controversy “includes up to, but is not limited to, an actuary exceeding $75, 000[.]” (Dkt. 1 at 2-3.) Here, the complaint does not allege damages in excess of $75, 000; to the contrary, it is a limited civil action in which the amount in controversy does not exceed $10, 000. (Id. at 6.) The amount in controversy in an unlawful detainer action is determined by the amount of damages sought in the complaint. HSBC Bank USA v. ...


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