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Sage Home Mortgage, LLC v. Roohan

United States District Court, S.D. California

July 27, 2017

JAMES R. ROOHAN; and Does 1-10, inclusive, Defendants.


          Hon. Anthony J. Battaglia, United States District Judge

         On July 12, 2017, Defendant James R. Roohan (“Removing Defendant”), acting pro se, filed a notice of removal of an unlawful detainer action filed in San Diego Superior Court, (Doc. No. 1), and a motion to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”), (Doc. No. 2). Subsequently, Plaintiff Sage Home Mortgage, LLC (“Plaintiff”) filed a motion to remand. (Doc. No. 3.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court sua sponte REMANDS the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, (Doc. No. 1), DENIES AS MOOT Removing Defendant's application to proceed IFP, (Doc. No. 2), and DENIES AS MOOT Plaintiff's motion to remand, (Doc. No. 3).


         The instant matter finds itself in federal court for the second time, having been removed and remanded once before. The underlying facts remain the same: on December 19, 2016, Plaintiff filed an unlawful detainer suit in the Superior Court of California, County of San Diego against Defendants James R. Roohan and Does 1-10 (collectively referred to as “Defendants”). (Doc. No. 1 at 3-6.) Plaintiff alleges that on November 28, 2016, it purchased the premises located at 485 La Costa Avenue, Encinitas, CA 92024 in a non-judicial foreclosure sale under California law. (Id. at 4.) In spite of this purchase, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants have continued to possess the property and thus it seeks damages including restitution, unpaid rent, and attorney's fees and costs. (Id. at 4-6.)

         On February 10, 2017, Removing Defendant filed his first notice of removal based on federal question jurisdiction in this Court-17-cv-00272. (Doc. No. 3-1 at 3.) However, finding that the complaint relied entirely on state law, and that the removal notice offered no facts regarding a substantial federal question nor a subject matter jurisdiction issue on the basis of citizenship, Judge John A. Houston sua sponte remanded the case back to state court. (Id.; Doc. No. 3-8.) On July 12, 2017, Removing Defendant filed his second notice of removal that sought to remove the same unlawful detainer action.[1] (Doc. No. 1.)


         Federal courts are of limited jurisdiction, having subject matter jurisdiction only over matters authorized by the Constitution and Congress. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). A defendant may remove a civil action from state court to federal court only if the district court could have original jurisdiction over the matter. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). “Removal statutes are strictly construed against removal.” Luther v. Countrywide Home Loans Serv., L.P., 533 F.3d 1031, 1034 (9th Cir. 2008). There is a “strong presumption” against removal jurisdiction, and the party seeking removal always has 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. at 567. At any time during court proceedings, a district court may remand a case to state court if the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the case. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).


         Removing Defendant's notice of removal alleges that the Court has jurisdiction over the action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) and/or (b). (Doc. No. 1 at 2.) 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 federal question cases 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.” Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). 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).

         Despite the clear and straightforward order by Judge Houston that was filed in February of this year, Removing Defendant is seeking to remove the same action to the district court again. However, Removing Defendant's second attempt to bring his case to federal court is not only frivolous, but wholly flawed. Here, Removing Defendant attaches to his notice a short statement of his allegations regarding the lending history behind the property, complaints against different people involved in the sale of the property, and the instant action for unlawful detainer. (Doc. No. 1 at 9.) However, the Court again highlights that the complaint affirmatively shows that the only allegation is for a single claim for unlawful detainer, which is a California state law cause of action. (Doc. No. 1 at 3 (see 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))).

         The Court also notes that Removing Defendant makes no claims that removal is appropriate based on diversity jurisdiction. Looking at the complaint, the Court finds that Plaintiff and Removing Defendant are both citizens of California. (Doc. No. 1 at 3.) Thus, the complete diversity between the parties that is needed for a finding of diversity jurisdiction is lacking.

         Based upon the foregoing, the Court finds that the 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.”). Consequently, as the complaint in the instant action does not present a federal question and diversity jurisdiction is not present, the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.

         On a final note, Plaintiff has asked the Court to sanction Removing Defendant for allegedly abusing the court system by removing his case a second time for the purpose of increasing costs on Plaintiff and delaying trial. (Doc. No. 3-1 at 9.) After reviewing the pleadings, the Court has reason to believe that Removing Defendant has indeed been using notices of removal and stays of action to unduly delay court proceedings and frustrate judicial economy. (See generally Doc. Nos. 1, 3.) However, the Court does not deem sanctions to be appropriate at this time. Nevertheless, the Court warns Removing Defendant that if he chooses to make any further filings in the district court regarding the ...

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