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Hollyvale Rental Holdings, LLC v. Klepeis

United States District Court, S.D. California

September 7, 2017

HOLLYVALE RENTAL HOLDINGS, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
TIMOTHY G. KLEPEIS, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER (1) DENYING MOTION TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS AND (2) REMANDING CASE (ECF NOS. 1, 2)

          Hon. Janis L. Sammartino United States District Judge

         Presently before the Court is Plaintiff Timothy G. Klepeis's Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (“IFP”). (“IFP Mot., ” ECF No. 2.) Also before the Court is Plaintiff's Notice of Removal. (“Notice, ” ECF No. 1.)

         IFP MOTION

         All parties instituting any civil action, suit, or proceeding in a district court of the United States, except an application for writ of habeas corpus, must pay a filing fee of $400. See 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). An action may proceed despite a plaintiff's failure to prepay the entire fee only if he is granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). See Rodriguez v. Cook, 169 F.3d 1176, 1177 (9th Cir. 1999). A federal court may authorize the commencement of an action without the prepayment of fees if the party submits an affidavit, including a statement of assets, showing that he is unable to pay the required filing fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a).

         In the present case, Defendant has submitted an affidavit indicating that he has received no income over the past twelve months. (IFP Mot. 1-2.[1]) Nor does he expect that to change going forward. (Id.) Specifically, Defendant notes that he is unemployed, seeking medical care for health issues, and unable to work. (Id. at 5.) However, Defendant also notes that he spends roughly $500 a month on rent, food, and other expenses. (Id. at 4-5.) This at the very least suggests that Defendant either has some other source of income or has not fully explained his financial situation to the Court. Given the discrepancy between Defendant's claimed monthly income and his claimed monthly expenses, the Court is unable to determine whether Defendant's affidavit is credible and thus cannot accurately assess his ability to pay the $400 civil filing fee. Accordingly, the Court DENIES Defendant's Motion to Proceed IFP.

         NOTICE OF REMOVAL

         I. Legal Standard

         In cases “brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, ” defendants may remove the action to federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Section 1441 provides two bases for removal: diversity jurisdiction and federal question jurisdiction. Federal courts have diversity jurisdiction “where the amount in controversy” exceeds $75, 000, and the parties are of “diverse” state citizenship. 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Federal 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.

         The party invoking the removal statute bears the burden of establishing that federal subject-matter jurisdiction exists. Emrich v. Touche Ross & Co., 846 F.2d 1190, 1195 (9th Cir. 1988). Moreover, courts “strictly construe the removal statute against removal jurisdiction.” Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992) (citing Boggs v. Lewis, 863 F.2d 662, 663 (9th Cir. 1988)); Takeda v. Nw. Nat'l Life Ins. Co., 765 F.2d 815, 818 (9th Cir. 1985)). Therefore, “[f]ederal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance.” Gaus, 980 F.2d at 566 (citing Libhart v. Santa Monica Dairy Co., 592 F.2d 1062, 1064 (9th Cir. 1979)).

         “[F]ederal courts are under an independent obligation to examine their own jurisdiction.” FW/PBS, Inc. v. City of Dallas, 493 U.S. 215, 231 (1990).

         II. Analysis

         Because the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, removal was improper. Defendant removes on the basis of federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, (Notice 2), but the operative state court complaint does not present a federal question.

         Federal question jurisdiction exists for “all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Similarly, Article III of the U.S. Constitution grants federal courts the power to hear “all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, [and] the laws of the United States . . . .” Id. Although the “arising under” language of § 1331 mirrors the language used in Article III, courts have construed § 1331 more narrowly. See Louisville & Nashville R.R. Co. v. Mottley, 211 U.S. 149, 152 (1908).

         The Supreme Court has interpreted “arising under” in Article III to grant federal courts jurisdiction when federal law “forms an ingredient of the original cause.” Osborn v. Bank of the U.S., 22 U.S. 738, 822-25 (1824). For purposes of § 1331, however, federal courts must apply the “well-pleaded complaint rule.” Vaden v. Discover Bank, 556 U.S. 49, 60 (2009). A cause of action arises under federal law for purposes of § 1331, and is therefore a basis for removal, “only when the ...


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