United States District Court, N.D. California
LORENA H. TAN, Plaintiff,
INFINQUE JAMISON, Defendant.
Docket Nos. 1, 2
REFERRAL FOR REASSIGNMENT AND REPORT AND
RECOMMENDATION FOR REMAND
KIM, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
26, 2019, Defendant Infinque Jamison, proceeding pro
se, removed this action from Contra Costa County
Superior Court and filed an application to proceed in
forma pauperis (“IFP”). The parties have not
consented to the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge under 28
U.S.C. § 636(c), and therefore the Court does not have
authority to make a dispositive ruling in this case.
Accordingly, the Court orders that this case be REASSIGNED to
a district judge. Moreover, for the reasons set forth below,
the Court RECOMMENDS that the District Court REMAND this
action to state court.
Court may authorize a plaintiff to file an action in federal
court without prepayment of fees or security if the plaintiff
submits an affidavit showing that he or she is unable to pay
such fees or give security therefor. 28 U.S.C. §
1915(a). The Court finds that Defendant has demonstrated an
inability to pay the filing fee and, thus, GRANTS the
application to proceed in forma pauperis. However,
the in forma pauperis statute provides that the
Court shall dismiss the case if, inter alia, the
Complaint is frivolous or malicious, or fails to state a
claim on which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2). Moreover, the Court has an independent duty to
ascertain its jurisdiction and may remand a case sua
sponte for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c); Gaus v. Miles,
Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). Federal courts
are courts of limited jurisdiction. See, e.g., Kokkonen
v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377
(1994). Accordingly, the burden of establishing federal
jurisdiction for purposes of removal is on the party seeking
removal, and the removal statute is strictly construed
against removal jurisdiction. Valdez v. Allstate Ins.
Co., 372 F.3d 1115, 1117 (9th Cir. 2004); see also
Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992).
“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.
Plaintiff Lorena H. Tan filed an unlawful detainer action
against Defendant in state court for eviction. Defendant
argued in the notice of removal that the Complaint for
unlawful detainer presents federal questions. (Dkt. 1.)
However, the Court does not have federal question or
diversity jurisdiction over this matter.
presence or absence of federal-question jurisdiction is
governed by the ‘well-pleaded complaint
rule.'” Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482
U.S. 382, 392 (1987). The well-pleaded complaint rule
recognizes that the plaintiff is the master of his or her
claim. “[H]e or she may avoid federal jurisdiction by
exclusive reliance on state law.” Id. Thus,
under the well-pleaded complaint rule, federal-question
jurisdiction arises 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.”
Franchise Tax Bd., 463 U.S. 1, 27-28 (1983).
an unlawful detainer action, which is purely a creature of
California law. Thus, federal law does not create the cause
of action. Wells Fargo Bank v. Lapeen, 2011 WL
2194117, at *3 (N.D. Cal. June 6, 2011); Wescom Credit
Union v. Dudley, 2010 WL 4916578, at *2 (C.D. Cal. Nov.
22, 2010). Moreover, the Court concludes that the claim will
not necessarily depend upon the resolution of a substantial
question of federal law. Furthermore, a court cannot exercise
removal jurisdiction on the ground that the complaint gives
rise to a potential or an anticipated defense that
might raise a federal question, even if the defense is the
only question truly at issue in the case. Franchise Tax
Board, 463 U.S. at 10, 14; see also
Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 393 (“[I]t is now settled
law that a case may not be removed to federal court
on the basis of a federal defense, including the defense of
pre-emption, even if the defense is anticipated in the
plaintiff's complaint, and even if both parties concede
that the federal defense is the only question truly at
issue.”) (emphasis in original). Therefore, there is no
federal question jurisdiction.
Court also determines that it does not have diversity
jurisdiction over this matter. According to the plain
language of the Complaint, the amount in controversy does not
exceed the jurisdictional amount of $75, 000. “In
unlawful detainer actions, the right to possession is
contested, not title to the property, and plaintiffs may
collect only damages that are incident to that unlawful
possession.” Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. v.
Pulido, 2012 WL 540554 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 17, 2012). Here,
Plaintiff seeks past due rent of $2, 350.00 and daily damages
of $78.33 from July 11, 2019 until judgment and filed this
action as a “Limited Civil Case” in which the
amount demanded does not exceed $10, 000. (See Dkt.
No. 1.) Where, as here, a plaintiff specifically alleges that
the amount in controversy is less than the jurisdictional
threshold, a defendant has the burden of showing with legal
certainty that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.
See Lowdermilk v. U.S. Bank National Ass'n, 479
F.3d 994, 1000 (9th Cir. 2007)). Defendant has not done so
jurisdiction is lacking for another independent reason. 28
U.S.C. § 1441(b) prohibits removal where a defendant in
the case is a citizen of the state in which the plaintiff
originally brought the action. See Spencer v. U.S. Dist.
Ct. for Northern Dist. (Altec Indus., Inc.), 393 F.3d
86, 870 (9th Cir. 2004). Once any “local defendant (a
citizen of the forum state) has been served, the action
cannot be removed by that defendant, or by any other
defendant.” Republic W. Ins. Co. v. Int'l Ins.
Co., 765 F.Supp. 628, 629 (N.D. Cal. 1991). Here, the
complaint alleges that Defendant resides at the subject
property, located in Contra Costa County, California, and
therefore is a citizen of California. (Dkt. No. 1.) Because
Defendant is a citizen of California, Defendant is precluded
from removing this action on the grounds of diversity.
Therefore, the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to
hear this matter. The Court thus recommends that this action
be REMANDED to the Contra Costa County Superior Court. Any
party may object to this recommendation within fourteen days
of the filing date of this order. See Fed. R. Civ.