United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER REASSIGNING CASE TO A DISTRICT JUDGE; REPORT
AND RECOMMENDATION TO REMAND TO STATE COURT; ORDER GRANTING
IN FORMA PAUPERIS APPLICATION Re: Dkt. Nos. 1, 2
A. WESTMORE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
August 28, 2017, Defendant Walter Harrell removed this
unlawful detainer action from San Mateo County Superior
Court, and applied to proceed in forma pauperis.
(Not. of Removal, Dkt. No. 1; IFP Appl., Dkt. No. 2.)
removal is clearly improper, and the parties have not
consented to the undersigned, for the reasons set forth
below, the Court reassigns this case to a district judge and
recommends that the case be remanded to state court.
Additionally, the Court grants Defendant's application to
proceed in forma pauperis.
Deutsche Bank National Trust Company commenced this unlawful
detainer action against Defendant in San Mateo County
Superior Court on or around June 5, 2017. (Not. of Removal at
The complaint contains a single cause of action for unlawful
detainer. Id. The case is a “limited civil
case, ” in which Plaintiff seeks immediate possession
of a certain property located in Montara, California, which
alleges that Defendants Walter Harrell and Bonnie Harrell
defaulted on the payment of a promissory note, resulting in
the property being sold to Plaintiff at public auction on
January 17, 2017 to satisfy the obligations secured by the
deed of trust. Id. at 9. On April 17, 2017, after
Plaintiff's title was perfected, Plaintiff allegedly
served a written notice on Defendants to quit within three
days. Id. at 10. On June 5, 2017, Plaintiff filed
the instant unlawful detainer suit in state court, and
summons was issued. (Not. of Removal at 8.) On August 28,
2017, Defendant Walter Harrell removed the action to federal
court on the grounds that it presents a federal question.
(Id. at 2.)
courts exercise limited jurisdiction. A “federal court
is presumed to lack jurisdiction in a particular case unless
the contrary affirmatively appears.” Stock W., Inc.
v. Confederated Tribes, 873 F.2d 1221, 1225 (9th Cir.
1989) (citation omitted). A defendant may remove a civil
action from state court to federal court if original
jurisdiction would have existed at the time the complaint was
filed. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a).
“[R]emoval statutes are strictly construed against
removal.” Luther v. Countrywide Homes Loans
Servicing, LP, 533 F.3d 1031, 1034 (9th Cir. 2008).
“Federal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any
doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance,
” such that courts must resolve all doubts as to
removability in favor of remand. Gaus v. Miles,
Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). The burden of
establishing that federal jurisdiction exists is on the party
seeking removal. See Id. at 566-67.
district courts have original jurisdiction over actions that
present a federal question or those based on diversity
jurisdiction. See Wayne v. DHL Worldwide Express,
294 F.3d 1179, 1183 & n.2 (9th Cir. 2002). Federal
district courts have federal question jurisdiction over
"all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws
or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. §
1331. Federal question jurisdiction is governed by the
well-pleaded complaint rule, which provides that the basis
for federal jurisdiction must appear on the face of the
properly pleaded complaint, either because the complaint
directly raises an issue of federal law or because the
plaintiff's "right to relief under state law
requires resolution of a substantial question of federal law
in dispute between the parties." Franchise Tax Bd.
of Cal. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust for S. Cal.,
463 U.S. 1, 13 (1983). "[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 . . . ." Caterpillar Inc. v.
Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 393 (1987) (citation omitted).
removed this unlawful detainer action from state court on the
grounds that the district court has jurisdiction because the
case presents a federal question.
Federal Question Jurisdiction
claims that a federal question exists because Plaintiff
violated the federal Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act
("RESPA"). (Not. of Removal at 2.) Defendant
purports to bring a lawsuit against Plaintiff based on this
violation. Id. Defendant's counterclaims in an
unlawful detainer action, however, are irrelevant for
purposes of determining federal question jurisdiction. The
well-pleaded complaint rule prevents the Court from
considering any additional claims, such that a defendant
cannot create federal question jurisdiction by adding claims
or defenses to a notice of removal. See Provincal
Gov't of Marinduque v. Placer Dome, Inc., 582 F.3d
1083, 1086 (9th Cir. 2009); see also McAtee v. Capital
One, F.S.B., 479 F.3d 1143, 1145 (9th Cir.
2007) (even previously asserted counterclaims raising federal
issue will not permit removal). Accordingly, Defendant's
claim that Plaintiff violated RESPA does not establish
federal question jurisdiction in this matter. Thus,
Defendant's contention that there are federal questions
at issue in this litigation is misplaced.
the limited scope of unlawful detainer proceedings precludes
cross-complaints or counterclaims. See Knowles v.
Robinson, 60 Cal. 2d 620, 626-27 (1963). Thus, to the
extent that Defendants' assertions could be contained in
any such filing, they ...