United States District Court, E.D. California
September 26, 2019, defendant Evan Chidester, proceeding pro
se, removed this unlawful detainer action from Sacramento
County Superior Court. ECF No. 1. Chidester also filed a
motion to proceed in forma pauperis. ECF No. 2. Plaintiff
moves to remand. ECF No. 4. As explained below, the court
GRANTS plaintiff's motion to remand, REMANDS the case to
the Sacramento County Superior Court and DENIES as moot
defendant's motion 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 “Defendant's
Demurrer, a pleading depend [sic] on the determination of
Defendant's rights and Plaintiff's duties under
federal law.” ECF No. 1 at 2. 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 58.
explained above, Chidester's demurrer, answer, or motion
to dismiss 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 upon federal law, the court does
not have federal question jurisdiction over the action.
does the court appear to have diversity jurisdiction.
Chidester has provided no evidence or allegations as to the
amount in controversy, nor the citizenship of either party.
Accordingly, 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