United States District Court, E.D. California
March 22, 2018, defendants Thomas Pinon and Debra Freeman,
proceeding pro se, removed this unlawful detainer action from
Sacramento County Superior Court. ECF No. 1. Defendants also
filed motions to proceed in forma pauperis. ECF Nos. 2-3. As
explained below, the court REMANDS the case to the Sacramento
County Superior Court and DENIES as moot defendants'
motions to proceed in forma pauperis.
SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION
case “of which the district courts of the United States
have original jurisdiction” is initially brought in
state court, a defendant may remove it to federal court. 28
U.S.C. § 1441(a). There are two primary bases for
federal subject matter jurisdiction: (1) federal question
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and (2) diversity
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
§ 1331, 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. Under the longstanding well-pleaded
complaint rule, a suit “arises under” federal law
“only when the plaintiff's statement of his own
cause of action shows that it is based upon [federal
law].” Louisville & Nashville R. Co. v.
Mottley, 211 U.S. 149, 152 (1908). Federal question
jurisdiction cannot rest upon an actual or anticipated
defense or counterclaim. Vaden v. Discover Bank, 556
U.S. 49, 60 (2009).
§ 1332, district courts have diversity-of-citizenship
jurisdiction where the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000
and the parties are in complete diversity. 28 U.S.C. §
1332. “Where it is not facially evident from the
complaint that more than $75, 000 is in controversy, the
removing party must prove, by a preponderance of the
evidence, that the amount in controversy meets the
jurisdictional threshold.” Matheson v. Progressive
Specialty Ins. Co., 319 F.3d 1089, 1090 (9th Cir. 2003)
federal district court may remand a case sua sponte where a
defendant has not established federal jurisdiction.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) (“If at any time
before final judgment it appears that the district court
lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded
. . . .”); Enrich v. Touche Ross & Co.,
846 F.2d 1190, 1195 (9th Cir. 1988) (citing Wilson v.
Republic Iron & Steel Co., 257 U.S. 92, 97 (1921)).
Notice of Removal asserts the court has federal question
jurisdiction under § 1331 because “[t]he complaint
presents federal questions.” ECF No. 1 at 2. More
specifically, defendants contend a “[f]ederal question
exists because [d]efendant's [a]nswer, a pleading depend
[sic] on the determination of [d]efendant's rights and
[p]laintiff's duties under federal law.”
Id. Yet the complaint plaintiff filed in state court
asserts only a claim for unlawful detainer, which is a matter
of state law. See ECF No. 1 at 6.
explained above, defendants' answer cannot serve as the
basis for federal question jurisdiction. Vaden, 556
U.S. at 60. Plaintiff is the master of the complaint and may,
as here, “avoid federal jurisdiction by pleading solely
state-law claims.” Valles v. Ivy Hill Corp.,
410 F.3d 1071, 1075 (9th Cir. 2005). Because plaintiffs
complaint does not show that it is based on federal law, the
court does not have federal question jurisdiction over the
does the court appear to have diversity jurisdiction.
Plaintiff s complaint seeks possession of the premises, costs
and reasonable attorney fees, past-due rent of $2, 413.00,
forfeiture of the agreement and damages of $40.23 per day for
each day from March 1, 2018 until the date of judgment. ECF
No. 1 at 8. Moreover, the complaint indicates that the amount
demanded “does not exceed $10, 000.” Id.
at 6. Because these damages are not likely to total more than
$75, 000, and defendants have provided no other evidence or
allegations as to the amount in controversy, the court cannot
exercise diversity jurisdiction over the action.
REQUEST TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS
foregoing reasons, the court has determined sua sponte that
it lacks subject matter jurisdiction, and thus remands the
case to the Sacramento County Superior Court. Cf.
Matheson, 319 F.3d at 1090 (“Where doubt regarding
the right to removal exists, a case should be remanded to