United States District Court, S.D. California
U.S. BANK, N.A., Plaintiff,
MARCIA A. CUONO, et al., Defendants.
ORDER: (1) REMANDING ACTION FOR LACK OF SUBJECT
MATTER JURISDICTION; AND (2) TERMINATING MOTION TO PROCEED IN
FORMA PAUPERIS (ECF NO. 2)
CYNTHIA BASH ANT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
17, 2019, Defendant Kate Sabatino removed this matter to
federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441 and
1446 based on federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1331. (ECF No. 1.) On the same day, she filed a motion
seeking leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF No.
addresses the issue of subject matter jurisdiction first, as
“[t]he requirement that jurisdiction be established as
a threshold matter ‘spring[s] from the nature and
limits of the judicial power of the United States and is
‘inflexible and without exception.'”
Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523
U.S. 83, 94-95 (1998) (quoting Mansfield, C. & L.M.
Ry. Co. v. Swan, 111 U.S. 379, 382 (1884)).
“Federal courts are courts of limited
jurisdiction.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co.
of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). “They possess
only that power authorized by Constitution and statute, which
is not to be expanded by judicial decree.” Id.
(internal citations omitted). “It is to be presumed
that a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction, and the
burden of establishing the contrary rests upon the party
asserting jurisdiction.” Id. (internal
citations omitted); see also Abrego Abrego v. Dow Chem.
Co., 443 F.3d 676, 684 (9th Cir. 2006).
with the limited jurisdiction of federal courts, the removal
statute is strictly construed against removal jurisdiction.
Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir.
1992); see also Sygenta Crop Prot. v. Henson, 537
U.S. 28, 32 (2002); O'Halloran v. Univ. of
Wash., 856 F.2d 1375, 1380 (9th Cir. 1988). “The
‘strong presumption' against removal jurisdiction
means that the defendant always has the burden of
establishing that removal is proper.” Gaus,
980 F.2d at 566; see also Nishimoto v. Federman-Bachrach
& Assoc., 903 F.2d 709, 712 n.3 (9th Cir. 1990);
O'Halloran, 856 F.2d at 1380. “Federal
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.
well-established that “a district court's duty to
establish subject matter jurisdiction is not contingent upon
the parties' arguments.” See United Inv'rs
Life Ins. Co. v. Waddell & Reed Inc., 360 F.3d 960,
966 (9th Cir. 2004). Courts may consider the issue sua
sponte. Demery v. Kupperman, 735 F.2d 1139,
1149 n.8 (9th Cir. 1984). Indeed, the Supreme Court has
emphasized that “district courts have an
‘independent obligation to address subject-matter
jurisdiction sua sponte.'” Grupo
Dataflux v. Atlas Glob. Grp., L.P., 541 U.S. 567, 593
(2004) (quoting United States v. S. Cal. Edison Co.,
300 F.Supp.2d 964, 972 (E.D. Cal. 2004)).
Defendant seeks to remove this action from state court based
upon federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §
1331. Section 1331 provides that “district courts shall
have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under
the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United
States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331. “[T]he 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 face of the plaintiff's properly
pleaded complaint.” Rivet v. Regions Bank of
La., 522 U.S. 470, 475 (1998) (quoting Caterpillar
Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987)). A federal
“defense is not part of a plaintiff's properly
pleaded statement of his or her claim.” Id.
(citing Metro. Life Ins. Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58,
(1987)). A case, therefore, may not be removed to federal
court based on 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.” Franchise Tax Bd. of
Cal. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Tr. for S. Cal., 463
U.S. 1, 14 (1983); see also Rivet, 522 U.S. at 475.
case removed here is a residential unlawful detainer action.
(Complaint, Notice of Removal Ex. A, ECF No. 1-2.) The
Complaint contains one cause of action for unlawful detainer
brought pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure
section 1161. (Id.) Therefore, the action arises
exclusively under California state law.
argues in her Notice of Removal that a federal question
exists because she believes federal law prevents her
eviction. (Notice of Removal ¶¶ 5- 13.) The Court
is not convinced that federal question jurisdiction exists.
Plaintiff's Complaint does not raise a federal issue. At
best, Defendant raises a federal defense to Plaintiff's
action based on the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act
(“PTFA”). But, even if true, this Court lacks
federal question jurisdiction under the well-pleaded
complaint rule. See, e.g., Kang v. Marathon
Funding Servs., Inc., No. C19-0829-JCC, 2019 WL 2952958,
at *1 (W.D. Wash. July 9, 2019) (rejecting attempt to remove
unlawful detainer action based on an alleged violation of the
PTFA); Timm & Meister LLC v. Martinez, No.
8:19-01169-DOC (ADSx), 2019 WL 2539404, at *2 (C.D. Cal. June
20, 2019) (same); 9810 Zelzah, LLC v. Parker, No.
2:19-cv-04891-SVW-AFMX, 2019 WL 2568396, at *1 (C.D. Cal.
June 20, 2019) (same). Defendant can raise her defense in
state court, but she cannot rely on it to remove this action
to this Court. See, e.g., Aurora Loan Servs., LLC. v.
Martinez, No. C10-01260 HRL, 2010 WL 1266887, at *1
(N.D. Cal. Mar. 29, 2010).
Defendant has failed to meet her burden of establishing this
Court's jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. She
does not allege any other basis for jurisdiction in her
Notice of Removal. Thus, the Court REMANDS
this action to the San Diego Superior Court for lack of
subject matter 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.”). Further,
because the Court lacks jurisdiction over this case, the
Court TERMINATES Defendant's motion to
proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 2).
addition, the Court warns Defendant that any further attempt
to remove this action without an “objectively
reasonable basis for removal” may result in an award of
attorneys' fees for Plaintiff. See
Martin v. Franklin Capital Corp., 546 U.S. 132, 136
(2005); 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c); see also Wells Fargo
Bank Nat 'l Ass 'n v. Vann, No. 13-cv-01148-YGR,
2013 WL 1856711, at *2 (N.D. Cal. May 2, 2013) (awarding $5,
000.00 in attorneys' fees pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1447(c) following defendant's third attempt to remove
unlawful detainer action despite the court's two prior
orders remanding the action).