United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER SUA SPONTE REMANDING MATTER TO THE KERN COUNTY
SUPERIOR COURT AND DENYING AS MOOT MOTION TO PROCEED IN FORMA
PAUPERIS (DOC. NOS. 1-2).
an unlawful detainer action brought under California state
law by plaintiff Duke Partners II, LLC against defendants
Kelley V. Knowles, Ganeeva Williams, and Joe Williams. On May
19, 2017 defendant Ganeeva Williams removed this case to
federal court from the Kern County Superior Court. (Doc. No.
1.) Defendants asserts that the basis for removal is the
presence of a potential federal question presented by a
possible defense because plaintiff committed violations under
Section 702 of the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of
2009 (“PTFA”), Pub. L. No. 111-22, 123 Stat.
1660-62 (2009). (Id. at 2-3.) On the same day,
defendant Ganeeva Williams filed a motion to proceed in forma
pauperis in this court. (Doc. No. 2.)
district court has “a duty to establish subject matter
jurisdiction over the removed action sua sponte,
whether the parties raised the issue or not.”
United Investors Life Ins. Co. v. Waddell &
Reed, Inc., 360 F.3d 960, 967 (9th Cir. 2004). The
removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1441, is strictly construed
against removal jurisdiction. Geographic Expeditions,
Inc. v. Estate of Lhotka, 559 F.3d 1102, 1107 (9th Cir.
2010); Provincial Gov't of Marinduque v. Placer Dome,
Inc., 582 F.3d 1083, 1087 (9th Cir. 2009). It is
presumed that a case lies outside the limited jurisdiction of
the federal courts, and the burden of establishing the
contrary rests upon the party asserting jurisdiction.
Geographic Expeditions, 559 F.3d at 1106-07;
Hunter v. Philip Morris USA, 582 F.3d 1039, 1042
(9th Cir. 2009). In addition, “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, LLC v. Dep't
of Health & Envtl. Quality, 213 F.3d 1108, 1113 (9th
Cir. 2000). “The strong presumption against removal
jurisdiction” means that “the court resolves all
ambiguity in favor of remand to state court.”
Hunter, 582 F.3d at 1042; Gaus v. Miles,
Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). That is,
federal jurisdiction over a removed case “must be
rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in
the first instance.” Geographic Expeditions,
559 F.3d at 1107; Duncan v. Stuetzle, 76 F.3d 1480,
1485 (9th Cir. 1996); Gaus, 980 F.2d at 566.
“If at any time prior to judgment it appears that the
district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case
shall be remanded.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c);
Gibson v. Chrysler Corp., 261 F.3d 927, 932 (9th
Cir. 2001). Remand under 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) “is
mandatory, not discretionary.” Bruns v. NCUA,
122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997); see also California
ex. rel. Lockyer v. Dynegy, Inc., 375 F.3d 831, 838 (9th
Cir. 2004). Where it appears, as it does here, that the
district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over a
removed case, “the case shall be remanded.” 28
U.S.C. § 1447(c).
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.”
California v. United States, 215 F.3d 1005, 1014
(9th Cir. 2000); see also Dynegy, 375 F.3d at 838;
Duncan, 76 F.3d at 1485. Under the well-pleaded
complaint rule, courts look to what “necessarily
appears in the plaintiff's statement of his own claim in
the bill or declaration, unaided by anything in anticipation
of avoidance of defenses which it is thought the defendant
may interpose.” California, 215 F.3d at 1014.
Accordingly, “a case may not be removed on the basis of
a federal defense . . . even if the defense is anticipated in
the plaintiff's complaint and both parties concede that
the federal defense is the only question truly at
issue.” Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482
U.S. 386, 392 (1987); Wayne v. DHL Worldwide
Express, 294 F.3d 1179, 1183 (9th Cir. 2002); see
also Vaden v. Discover Bank, 556 U.S. 49, 70 (2009)
(“It does not suffice to show that a federal question
lurks somewhere inside the parties' controversy, or that
a defense or counterclaim, or that a defense or counterclaim
would arise under federal law.”).
defendant Ganeeva Williams has not shown that removal of this
action to this federal court is appropriate. Plaintiff's
complaint is a straight-forward unlawful detainer action that
is based entirely on state law. As stated above, defendant
relies solely on a contemplated defense under the PTFA in
attempting to establish federal jurisdiction. Moreover, the
PTFA expired on December 31, 2014. See Pub. L. No.
111-22 § 704, 123 Stat. 1662 (2009); see also CIC v.
Villa, No. 216CV08243ODWAS, 2016 WL 6808119, at *2 (C.D.
Cal. Nov. 17, 2016) (finding, in an unlawful detainer action,
that the PTFA offers no defense after its expiration date);
Fairview Tasman LLC v. Young, No. 15-CV-05493-LHK,
2016 WL 199060, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 18, 2016) (same).
Nevertheless, even if defendant could assert such a defense,
she cannot use such a defense as the basis for removal
because the defensive invocation of federal law cannot form
the basis of this court's jurisdiction. See
Vaden, 556 U.S. at 70; Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at
392; Wayne, 294 F.3d at 1183; California,
215 F.3d at 1014.
there is no federal question appearing in plaintiff's
complaint, defendant has failed to properly invoke this
court's jurisdiction. Remand to the Kern County Superior
Court is therefore appropriate and mandatory. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1447(c); Geographic Expeditions, 559 F.3d at
1107; Bruns, 122 F.3d at 1257.
1. This action is remanded forthwith to the Kern County
Superior Court, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c), for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction;
Defendant's motion to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. No.
2) is denied as having been rendered moot by this order; and
Clerk of the Court is directed ...