United States District Court, E.D. California
MORRISON C. ENGLAND, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
November 1, 2017, Defendant LICHELLE WALTON, proceeding pro
se, filed a Notice of Removal of this unlawful detainer
action from the Sacramento County Superior
Court. ECF No. 1. This Court has an independent
duty to ascertain its jurisdiction and may remand sua sponte
for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See 28
U.S.C. § 1447(c). “The burden of establishing
federal jurisdiction is on the party seeking removal, and the
removal statute is strictly construed against removal
jurisdiction.” Emrich v. Touche Ross &
Co., 846 F.2d 1190, 1195 (9th Cir. 1988) (internal
citation omitted). “Federal jurisdiction must be
rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in
the first instance.” Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980
F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). As explained below, Defendant
has failed to meet that burden.
Notice of Removal is premised on the argument that this Court
has federal jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331,
federal question, and § 1332, diversity of citizenship.
ECF No. 1 at 1. However, a review of the Complaint reveals
that Plaintiff does not allege any federal claims; instead,
Plaintiff alleges only unlawful detainer under state law. ECF
No. 1 at Ex. A.
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 fact of plaintiff's
properly pleaded complaint.” Caterpillar, Inc. v.
Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). This is the case
where the complaint “establishes either that 
federal law creates the cause of action or that  the
plaintiff's right to relief necessarily depends on
resolution of a substantial question of federal law.”
Williston Basin Interstate Pipeline Co. v. An Exclusive
Gas Storage Leasehold & Easement, 524 F.3d 1090,
1100 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting Franchise Tax Bd. v.
Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 27-28
Plaintiff's one cause of action is for unlawful detainer
under state law. At most, Defendant argues that they have a
defense and/or a counterclaim under federal law. “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, and even if both parties admit
that the defense is the only question truly at issue in the
case.” ARCO Envtl. Remediation, LLC v. Dep't.
of Health & Envtl. Quality of the State of Montana,
213 F.3d 1108, 1113 (9th Cir. 2000) (citation and quotation
marks omitted); see also Wells Fargo Bank, NA v.
Hunt, No. C-10-04965 JCS, 2011 WL 445801 (N.D. Cal. Feb.
3, 2011) (“Defendants' assertion of affirmative
defenses and/or counterclaims based on alleged violations of
federal law do not provide a basis for federal jurisdiction.
. . . the well-pleaded complaint rule does not allow courts
to consider affirmative defenses or counterclaims in
determining whether federal question jurisdiction exists.).
Therefore, this Court lacks jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.
even assuming-without deciding-that the parties to this
action are diverse, Plaintiffs Complaint reveals no basis for
Defendant's claim that the amount in controversy
requirement is met here, where Plaintiff is requesting at
most the sum of: past-due rent in the amount of $1, 425; plus
$46.84 per day from August 1, 2017, through entry of
judgment; plus attorney's fees. See Fed. Home Loan
Mortg. Corp. v. Cantillano, No. CV 12-01641 GAF (CMx),
2012 WL 1193613, at *2 (C.D. Cal. Apr. 9, 2012) (“The
appropriate dollar amount in determining the amount of
controversy in unlawful detainer actions is the rental value
of the property, not the value of the property as a
whole.”). Therefore, this Court also lacks jurisdiction
under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
action is REMANDED to the Sacramento County Superior Court.
Clerk of Court is directed to serve a certified copy of the
order on the Clerk of the Sacramento County Superior Court,
and reference the state case number (No. 17UD04204) in the
proof of service.
Defendant's Motion to Proceed in Forma Pauperis (ECF No.
2) is DENIED as moot.
Clerk of Court is directed to close this case and vacate all
Clerk of the Court is ordered not to open another case
removing the following unlawful detainer action: No.