United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER REMANDING CASE
L. Nunley, United States District Judge
matter is before the Court pursuant to Defendant Vicki
Gram's (“Defendant”) Notice of Removal and
motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF Nos. 1-2.) For the
reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion to proceed in
forma pauperis is GRANTED. The Court hereby REMANDS the
action to the Superior Court of California, County of
Sacramento, due to lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Factual Background and Procedural History
April 25, 2017, Plaintiffs Laurelhurst Drive Fee Owner LLC
and Laurelhurst Drive Fee Owner II LLC
(“Plaintiffs”) filed an unlawful detainer action
in the Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento.
(Not. of Removal, ECF No. 1 at 1.) On May 25, 2017, Defendant
filed a Notice of Removal in the United States District Court
for the Eastern District of California. (ECF No. 1.)
Defendant asserts that removal is proper because (i)
“[t]he complaint presents federal questions” and
(ii) “[f]ederal question exists because Defendant's
Answer, a pleading that depends on the determination of
Defendant's rights and Plaintiff's [sic] duties under
federal law.” (ECF No. 1 at 2-3, ¶¶ 5, 8.)
For the reasons stated below, this Court finds that subject
matter jurisdiction does not exist and thus this case must be
Standard of Law
U.S.C. § 1441 permits the removal to federal court of
any civil action over which “the district courts of the
United States have original jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 1441(a). Removal is proper only if the court could
have exercised jurisdiction over the action had it originally
been filed in federal court. Caterpillar, Inc. v.
Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987).
“strictly construe the removal statute against removal
jurisdiction, ” and “the defendant always has the
burden of establishing that removal is proper.”
Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir.
1992) (per curiam). Furthermore, “[i]f the district
court at any time determines that it lacks jurisdiction over
the removed action, it must remedy the improvident grant of
removal by remanding the action to state court.”
California ex rel. Lockyer v. Dynegy, Inc., 375 F.3d
831, 838, as amended, 387 F.3d 966 (9th Cir. 2004),
cert. denied 544 U.S. 974 (2005).
“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, 482 U.S. at 392. Removal cannot be
based on a defense, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third party
claim raising a federal question, whether filed in state
court or federal court. See Vaden v. Discover Bank,
556 U.S. 49, 60-61 (2009); Hunter v. Philip Morris
USA, 582 F.3d 1039, 1042-43 (9th Cir. 2009).
removed the instant action to this Court on the basis of
federal question jurisdiction. (ECF No. 1 at 2-3.) Defendant
argues that jurisdiction is proper under 28 U.S.C. §
1441(a) or (b). (ECF No. 1 at 2.) For jurisdiction to
exist under § 1441(a), a federal question must be
presented on the face of the plaintiff's properly pleaded
complaint. Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 392. Here,
Defendant states without explanation that the
“complaint presents federal questions.” (ECF No.
1 at 2, ¶ 5.) However, Plaintiffs' complaint for
unlawful detainer does not present a federal question on its
face. See, e.g., DVP, LP v. Champ, No.
1:15-cv-00074-LJO-SKO, 2015 WL 12681672, at *2 (E.D. Cal.
Jan. 29, 2015) (“[A]n unlawful detainer action, on its
face, fails to raise a federal question.”). Defendant
further claims that her Answer implicates federal questions
because it requires a “determination of Defendant's
rights and Plaintiff's [sic] duties under federal
law.” (ECF No. 1 at 2, ¶ 8.) An answer cannot
confer federal question jurisdiction on this Court. See
Vaden, 556 U.S. at 60 (explaining federal jurisdiction
can neither be “predicated on an actual or anticipated
defense” nor “rest upon an actual or anticipated
extent Defendant's notice of removal seeks removal on the
basis of Section 1441(b), this too fails. Section 1441(b)
allows for a case to be removed to federal court on the basis
of diversity jurisdiction if the requirements of 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332(a) are met. Section 1332(a) confers diversity
jurisdiction “where the matter in controversy exceeds
the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and
costs, and is between - (1) citizens of different
States.” In an unlawful detainer action, only the right
to possession of the property is at issue, not the title.
See Deutsche Bank Nat'l Trust Co. v. Yanez,
ED-15-CV-02462-VAP-DTBx, 2016 WL 591752, at *2 (C.D. Cal.
February 11, 2016) (citing Evans v. Superior Court,
67 Cal.App.3d 162, 170 (1977)). Consequently, the amount in
controversy is determined by the amount sought in the
complaint. See id. Here, Defendant fails to meet the
$75, 000 threshold as Plaintiffs seek less than $10, 000 in
their complaint. (See ECF No. 1-1 at 3.)
Defendant has failed to establish the burden of showing that
jurisdiction before this Court is proper, and it is
appropriate to remand this case, sua sponte, for
lack of federal jurisdiction. See United Investors Life
Ins. Co. v. Waddell & Reed Inc., 360 F.3d 960, 967
(9th Cir. 2004) (“[T]he district court ha[s] a duty to
establish subject matter jurisdiction over the removed action
sua sponte, whether the parties raised the issue or
foregoing reasons, the Court hereby REMANDS this action to
the Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento. In
removing this case, Defendant filed a motion to proceed in
forma pauperis. (See ECF No. 2.) The Court has
reviewed this motion and finds that Defendant meets the