United States District Court, E.D. California
ASHLEY M. WALRATH, Plaintiff,
WILLIAM DOAN, Defendant.
DEBORAH BARNES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
William Doan is proceeding in this action pro se. This matter
was referred to the undersigned in accordance with Local Rule
302(c)(21) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). On May 8, 2019,
defendant filed a notice of removal of this action from the
Sacramento Superior Court along with a motion to proceed in
forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. (ECF Nos. 1
plaintiff filed an amended motion to remand, and defendant
filed a motion to strike and a motion to disqualify
plaintiff's counsel. (ECF Nos. 6 & 10.) However, the
court is required to screen complaints brought by parties
proceeding in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2); see also Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122,
1129 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). And jurisdiction is a
threshold inquiry that must precede the adjudication of any
case before the district court. Morongo Band of Mission
Indians v. Cal. State Bd. of Equalization, 858 F.2d
1376, 1380 (9th Cir. 1988). Lack of subject matter
jurisdiction may be raised by the court at any time during
the proceedings. Attorneys Trust v. Videotape Computer
Prods., Inc., 93 F.3d 593, 594-95 (9th Cir. 1996). A
federal court “ha[s] an independent obligation to
address sua sponte whether [it] has subject-matter
jurisdiction.” Dittman v. California, 191 F.3d
1020, 1025 (9th Cir. 1999). It is the obligation of the
district court “to be alert to jurisdictional
requirements.” Grupo Dataflux v. Atlas Global
Group, L.P., 541 U.S. 567, 593 (2004). Without
jurisdiction, the district court cannot decide the merits of
a case or order any relief. See Morongo, 858 F.2d at
it is apparent that the court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction over this action. Accordingly, the undersigned
will recommend that defendant's motion to proceed in
forma pauperis be denied and that this matter be summarily
remanded to the Sacramento County Superior Court. In light of
these recommendations, plaintiff's amended motion to
remand, defendant's motion to strike, and defendant's
motion to disqualify are denied without prejudice to renewal
and the hearings associated with those motions are vacated.
regard, federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and
may adjudicate only those cases authorized by federal law.
Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375,
377 (1994); Willy v. Coastal Corp., 503 U.S. 131,
136-37 (1992). “Federal courts are presumed to lack
jurisdiction, ‘unless the contrary appears
affirmatively from the record.'” Casey v.
Lewis, 4 F.3d 1516, 1519 (9th Cir. 1993) (quoting
Bender v. Williamsport Area Sch. Dist., 475 U.S.
534, 546 (1986)).
is well established that the statutes governing removal
jurisdiction must be “strictly construed against
removal.” Libhart v. Santa Monica Dairy Co.,
592 F.2d 1062, 1064 (9th Cir. 1979) (citing Shamrock Oil
& Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 108 (1941));
see also Syngenta Crop Prot., Inc. v. Henson, 537
U.S. 28, 32 (2002); Provincial Gov't of Martinduque
v. Placer Dome, Inc., 582 F.3d 1083, 1087 (9th Cir.
2009). “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). “‘The burden of establishing
federal jurisdiction falls on the party invoking
removal.'” Harris v. Provident Life &
Accident Ins. Co., 26 F.3d 930, 932 (9th Cir. 1994)
(quoting Gould v. Mut. Life Ins. Co., 790 F.2d 769,
771 (9th Cir. 1986)); see also Provincial Gov't of
Martinduque, 582 F.3d at 1087. Where the district court
lacks subject matter jurisdiction over a removed case,
“the case shall be remanded.” 28 U.S.C. §
basic federal jurisdiction statutes are 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1331 and 1332, which confer “federal
question” and “diversity” jurisdiction,
respectively. Federal jurisdiction may also be conferred by
federal statutes regulating specific subject matter.
“[T]he existence of federal jurisdiction depends solely
on the plaintiff's claims for relief and not on
anticipated defenses to those claims.” ARCO Envtl.
Remediation, LLC v. Dep't of Health & Envtl.
Quality, 213 F.3d 1108, 1113 (9th Cir. 2000).
courts have diversity jurisdiction only over “all civil
actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or
value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, ”
and the action is between: “(1) citizens of different
States; (2) citizens of a State and citizens or subjects of a
foreign state; (3) citizens of different States and in which
citizens or subjects of a foreign state are additional
parties; and (4) a foreign state . . . as plaintiff and
citizens of a State or of different States.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332. “To demonstrate citizenship for diversity
purposes a party must (a) be a citizen of the United States,
and (b) be domiciled in a state of the United States.”
Lew v. Moss, 797 F.2d 747, 749 (9th Cir. 1986).
“Diversity jurisdiction requires complete diversity
between the parties-each defendant must be a citizen of a
different state from each plaintiff.” In re
Digimarc Corp. Derivative Litigation, 549 F.3d 1223,
1234 (9th Cir. 2008).
defendant asserts that the court has federal question
jurisdiction over this action because “the main issue,
pleaded in the cross-complaint, involves a federal issue
under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(2).” (ECF No. 1 at 3.)
However, “removal jurisdiction must be disclosed on the
face of the plaintiff's complaint[.]” Metro
Ford Truck Sales, Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 145 F.3d 320,
327 (5th Cir. 1998). “To hold otherwise would unduly
grant a defendant the power to manipulate removal
jurisdiction once in federal court, despite overwhelming
authority proscribing same.” Id. Thus,
“[r]emoval . . . cannot be based on a counterclaim or
cross-claim raising a federal question.”
Redevelopment Agency of City of San Bernardino v.
Alvarez, 288 F.Supp.2d 1112, 1115 (C.D. Cal. 2003). The
complaint in this action asserts only a state law claim for
breach of contract. (ECF No. 1 at 18.)
also asserts that the court has diversity jurisdiction over
this action. (Id. at 2.) The notice of removal,
however, fails to allege the citizenship of either plaintiff
or defendant. See Kanter v. Warner-Lambert Co., 265
F.3d 853, 857 (9th Cir. 2001) (“Absent unusual
circumstances, a party seeking to invoke diversity
jurisdiction should be able to allege affirmatively the
actual citizenship of the relevant parties.”). Instead,
the notice of removal asserts simply that plaintiff “is
the citizen of another state outside of California, unbeknown
to Defendant/Cross-Complainant” and is silent with
respect to defendant's citizenship. (ECF No. 1 at 3.) The
failure to specifically allege the parties' state
citizenship is “fatal to Defendant['s] assertion of
diversity jurisdiction.” Kanter, 265 F.3d at 858.
respect to the amount in controversy, the complaint in this
action was filed in small claims court and seeks only $12,
200 in damages. (ECF No. 1 at 18.) “Generally, the
amount in controversy is determined from the face of the
pleadings.” Crum v. Circus Circus Enters., 231
F.3d 1129, 1131 (9th Cir. 2000). Defendant contends that
“[i]n the cross-complaint, the matter in controversy is
one million Dollars[.]” (ECF No. 18 at 3.) However,
“the near unanimous rule” is that counterclaims
are not considered in determining the amount in controversy
requirement for removal jurisdiction. Thrash v. New
England Mut. Life Ins. Co., 534 F.Supp.2d 691, 696-97
(S.D.Miss. 2008); see also ING Bank, FSB v. Mikels,
No. CIV S-11-2400 KJM CMK, 2012 WL 1028242, at *1 (E.D. Cal.
Mar. 26, 2012) (“In determining the amount in
controversy for purposes of removal jurisdiction, the court
looks to the amount stated in the complaint, not at the value
of possible counterclaims.”).
reasons stated above, the undersigned finds that the
defendant has failed to satisfy the burden of establishing
that the court has jurisdiction over this action.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:
1. Plaintiff's June 7, 2019 amended motion to remand (ECF
No. 5) is denied without prejudice to renewal and the July
12, 2019 ...