United States District Court, S.D. California
ORDER: (1) SUA SPONTE REMANDING FOR LACK OF SUBJECT
MATTER JURISDICTION; AND (2) DENYING AS MOOT MOTION TO
PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS, (DOC. NO. 3)
Anthony J. Battaglia United States District Judge
22, 2017, Defendant Angel Nuno Torres
(“Defendant”), acting pro se, filed a
notice of removal, (Doc. No. 1), and application to proceed
in forma pauperis, (Doc. No. 3). The notice of
removal seeks to remove an unlawful detainer proceeding
initiated in San Diego Superior Court by Plaintiff Adam
Weiler (“Plaintiff”) in this action. (Doc. No. 1
at 2.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court sua
sponte REMANDS the action to San Diego Superior Court
for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and DENIES AS MOOT
Defendant's application to proceed in forma
pauperis. (Doc. No. 3.)
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, having subject
matter jurisdiction only over matters authorized by the
Constitution and Congress. See Kokkonen v. Guardian Life
Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). A defendant may
remove a civil action to federal court only if the district
court would have original jurisdiction over the matter. 28
U.S.C. § 1441(a). “[R]emoval statutes are strictly
construed against removal.” Luther v. Countywide
Home Loans Servicing LP, 533 F.3d 1031, 1034 (9th Cir.
2008). There is a “strong presumption” against
removal jurisdiction, and the party seeking removal always
bears the burden of establishing that removal is proper.
Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir.
1992). If there is any doubt as to the propriety of removal,
federal jurisdiction must be rejected. Id.
courts are under an independent obligation to examine their
own jurisdiction[.]” FW/PBS, Inc. v. City of
Dallas, 493 U.S. 215, 231 (1990). Accordingly,
“[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).
forth in the notice of removal, Defendant alleges the Court
has both diversity and federal question jurisdiction over the
present action. (Doc. No. 1 ¶¶ 5, 9.) Diversity
jurisdiction exists where there is complete diversity among
opposing parties and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,
000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Federal question jurisdiction
exists over “all civil actions arising under the
Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.”
28 U.S.C. § 1331; see also U.S. Const. art.
III, § 2, cl. 1. Jurisdiction in a federal question case
is “governed by the ‘well-pleaded complaint rule,
' which provides that federal [question] jurisdiction
exists only when a federal question is presented on the face
of the plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint.”
California ex rel. Sacramento Metro. Air Quality Mgmt.
Dist. v. United States, 215 F.3d 1005, 1014 (9th Cir.
2000) (quoting Audette v. Int'l Longshoremen's
& Warehousemen's Union, 195 F.3d 1107, 1111 (9th
Cir. 1999)); see Smith v. Kansas City Title & Trust
Co., 255 U.S. 180, 199 (1921). Accordingly, the federal
question may not be aided by the notice of removal, Gully
v. First Nat'l Bank, 299 U.S. 109, 113 (1936), nor
may a case be removed on the basis of a federal defense,
Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392-93
(1987), or counterclaim, Holmes Grp., Inc. v. Vornado Air
Circulation Sys., Inc., 535 U.S. 826, 832 (2002).
first claims that diversity jurisdiction exists. (Doc. No. 1
¶ 5.) The complaint attached as Exhibit A to the notice
of removal, however, affirmatively shows that the amount in
controversy does not meet the jurisdictional minimum. The
complaint is an unlawful detainer action in which Plaintiff
requests $3100.00 in past due rent, as well as reasonable
attorney fees and forfeiture of the rental agreement. (Doc.
No. 1 at 9.) Plaintiff also seeks damages at the rate of
$51.66 per day for each day from April 1, 2017, through entry
of judgment. (Id.) At this juncture, the request for
damages amounts to approximately $2737.98. It is therefore
not more likely than not that the amount in controversy
exceeds $75, 000.
contention that federal question jurisdiction exists based on
his answer also fails. (Doc. No. 1 ¶¶ 7, 9.) The
face of Plaintiff's complaint alleges only a single claim
for unlawful detainer, which is a California state law cause
of action. (Doc. No. 1 at 7-9.) Wells Fargo Bank v.
Lapeen, No. C 11-01932 LB, 2011 WL 2194117, at *3 (N.D.
Cal. June 6, 2011) (“An unlawful detainer action, on
its face, does not arise under federal law but is purely a
creature of California law.” (citing Wescom Credit
Union v. Dudley, No. CV 10-8203 GAF (SSx), 2010 WL
4916578, at *2 (C.D. Cal. Nov. 22, 2010))).
nonetheless argues that federal question jurisdiction exists
based upon his demurrer and answer to the state court
complaint, asserting the notice was defective for failing to
comply with the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act, a
federal statute. (Doc. No. 1 ¶ 7.) Defendant's
position carries no clout. Federal question jurisdiction
cannot be predicated upon a defendant's response to the
complaint; rather, the complaint itself must raise the
federal question. Gully, 299 U.S. at 113 (“the
controversy must be disclosed upon the face of the complaint,
unaided by the answer or by the petition for removal”);
Provincial Gov't of Marinduque v. Placer Dome,
Inc., 582 F.3d 1083, 1086 (9th Cir. 2009) (“the
federal question on which jurisdiction is premised cannot be
supplied via a defense”); Franks v. Franks,
No. 3:17-CV-893-CAB-AGS, 2017 WL 1735169, at *2 (S.D. Cal.
May 4, 2017) (remanding unlawful detainer action for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction where defendant asserted that
plaintiff “allegedly violated the notice provisions of
the [PTFA], and that the PTFA preempts Plaintiffs unlawful
such, the Court finds that Plaintiffs complaint does not
“necessarily raise a stated federal issue, actually
disputed and substantial, ” which this Court “may
entertain without disturbing any congressionally approved
balance of federal and state judicial
responsibilities.” Grable & Sons Metal Prods.,
Inc. v. Darue Eng'g & Mfg., 545 U.S. 308, 314
(2005); see also Aurora Loan Servs., LLC v. Montoya,
No. 2:11-cv-2485-MCE-KJN-PS, 2011 WL 5508926, at *3 (E.D.
Cal. Nov. 9, 2011) (“[P]laintiff filed its Complaint in
Superior Court asserting a single claim for unlawful detainer
premised solely on California law. Because a claim for
unlawful detainer does not by itself present a federal
question or necessarily turn on the construction of federal
law, no basis for federal question jurisdiction appears on
the face of the Complaint.”).
on the foregoing, the Court sua sponte REMANDS this
action in its entirety to San Diego Superior Court. Because
the Court remands this action pursuant to its
“independent obligation to examine [its] own
jurisdiction, ” FW/PBS, Inc., 493 U.S. at 231,
the Court ...