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Megwa v. Jenkins

United States District Court, C.D. California

July 9, 2019

Susan Megwa
v.
Darryl Jenkins

          CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL

          Present: The Honorable PERCY ANDERSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Proceedings: IN CHAMBERS - COURT ORDER

         The Court is in receipt of a Notice of Removal filed by defendant Darryl Jenkins (“Defendant”) on July 5, 2019. In her Complaint, plaintiff Susan Megwa (“Plaintiff”) alleges a single state law claim for unlawful detainer. Defendant, who is appearing pro se, asserts that this Court has subject matter jurisdiction on the basis of diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332 and federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, having subject matter jurisdiction only over matters authorized by the Constitution and Congress. See, e.g., Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377, 114 S.Ct. 1673, 1675, 128 L.Ed.2d 391 (1994). A “strong presumption” against removal jurisdiction exists. Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 567 (9th Cir. 1992). In seeking removal, the defendant bears the burden of proving that jurisdiction exists. Scott v. Breeland, 792 F.2d 925, 927 (9th Cir. 1986).

         Subject matter jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship requires all plaintiffs to have different citizenship from all defendants and that the amount in controversy exceed $75, 000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332; Owen Equip. & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 373, 98 S.Ct. 2396, 2402, 57 L.Ed.2d 274 (1978). To establish citizenship for diversity purposes, a natural person must be a citizen of the United States and be domiciled in a particular state. Kantor v. Wellesley Galleries, Ltd., 704 F.2d 1088, 1090 (9th Cir. 1983). Persons are domiciled in the places they reside with the intent to remain or to which they intend to return. See Kanter v. Warner-Lambert Co., 265 F.3d 853, 857 (9th Cir. 2001).

         Here, Defendant has failed to establish that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. Although Defendant asserts in his Notice of Removal that the amount in controversy requirement is met because “Plaintiff seeks possession of Defendant's property in which the value exceeds $546, 000.00. The value of the object of the instant litigation - the real property at issue and the value thereon - is well over $75, 000.00.” Contrary to Defendant's contentions, in unlawful detainer actions, the title to the property is not involved; only the right to possession is implicated. Evans v. Superior Court, 67 Cal.App.3d 162, 170 (1977). As such, the amount in controversy is determined by the amount of damages sought in the Complaint, rather than by the value of the subject real property. Id. Here, Plaintiff's Complaint specifically alleges that damages do not exceed $10, 000. Given that the value of the subject real property is not in controversy, Defendant has failed to show that this action meets the amount in controversy requirement for diversity jurisdiction.

         Defendant's Notice of Removal also alleges that there “is an issue of title and a violation of federal laws under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act . . . which confer[s] original jurisdiction on federal courts in suits to address the deprivation of rights secured by federal law.” Under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, this Court has original jurisdiction over civil actions “arising under” federal law. Removal based on § 1331 is governed by the “well-pleaded complaint” rule. Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392, 107 S.Ct. 2425, 2429, 96 L.Ed.2d 318 (1987). Under the rule, “federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented on the face of plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint.” Id. at 392, 107 S.Ct. at 2429, 96 L.Ed.2d 318. If the complaint does not specify whether a claim is based on federal or state law, it is a claim “arising under” federal law only if it is “clear” that it raises a federal question. Duncan v. Stuetzle, 76 F.3d 1480, 1485 (9th Cir. 1996). Thus, a plaintiff is generally the “master of the claim.” Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 392, 107 S.Ct. at 2429, 96 L.Ed.2d 318. “A case may not be removed to federal court on the basis of a federal defense, including the defense of preemption.” Id. at 393, 107 S.Ct. at 2430, 96 L.Ed.2d 318 (emphasis in original). The only exception to this rule is where plaintiff's federal claim has been disguised by “artful pleading, ” such as where the only claim is a federal one or is a state claim preempted by federal law. Sullivan v. First Affiliated Sec., Inc., 813 F.2d 1368, 1372 (9th Cir. 1987).

         Here, the underlying Complaint contains only a single cause of action for unlawful detainer. Accordingly, this action does not “arise under” federal law. Moreover, Defendant's references to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and other federal law do not constitute a proper basis for removal because neither a federal defense nor an actual or anticipated federal counterclaim forms a basis for removal. See, e.g., Vaden v. Discover Bank, 556 U.S. 49, 61-62, 129 S.Ct. 1262, 1272, 173 L.Ed.2d 206 (2009).

         For the foregoing reasons, Defendant has failed to meet his burden of showing that this Court possesses subject matter jurisdiction over this action. Because the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, this action is hereby remanded to the Los Angeles ...


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