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E3 Land LLC v. Eriksen

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

June 7, 2017

E3 LAND, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
PETER ERIKSEN, a single man; and MARY E. ERIKSEN, a single woman, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR ADDITIONAL TIME TO RESPOND AND GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND

          ROSANNA MALOUF PETERSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         BEFORE THE COURT is Defendants' Second Motion for Additional Time to Respond to the Motion to Remand, ECF No. 16, and Plaintiff's Motion to Remand, ECF No. 9. The Court has reviewed Defendants' motion for additional time, ECF No. 16; Plaintiff's response, ECF No. 17; Plaintiff's motion to remand, ECF No. 9; the remaining record; the relevant law; and is fully informed.

         Background

         This matter originally was filed in Grant County, Washington, Superior Court as an action to quiet title to real property that Plaintiff purchased at a public tax sale on November 18, 2016. See ECF No. 9 at 1-2. Plaintiff E3 Land, LLC purchased four parcels of real property situated in Grant County for $2, 802, 200 and received a Treasurer's Tax Deed after the sale. ECF No. 9 at 2. Defendants Peter Eriksen and his mother Mary Eriksen continue to reside on the property at issue and, in Plaintiff's words, are “refusing to leave.” ECF No. 9 at 2. Plaintiff moved for partial summary judgment, and the Superior Court set a hearing for May 4, 2017. ECF Nos. 6-1; 9 at 3. On April 7, 2017, Defendants filed a Notice of Removal to this Court, stating as a basis for removal to federal court that there was diversity of citizenship among the parties. ECF Nos. 6 and 2. In lieu of providing a copy of Plaintiff's complaint from state court, Defendants provided Plaintiff's summary judgment motion and the attachments supporting the motion. After the matter was removed to federal court, the state court action was stayed and the hearing on Plaintiff's summary judgment motion was stricken. ECF No. 9 at 3.

         At the time that Plaintiff filed its motion to remand this matter to state court, Plaintiff concurrently filed a motion to expedite hearing of the motion, and the Court granted a moderately expedited hearing schedule upon a finding that Plaintiff had presented good cause. ECF No. 11. However, subsequently, the Court granted Defendants' first motion for additional time to respond, over Plaintiff's opposition to an extension, and set a deadline of May 26, 2017, for Defendants to file any response, and a deadline of June 2, 2017, for Plaintiff to file any reply. ECF No. 15. The Court directed the Clerk's Office to telephone Defendants at the phone number they had provided to inform them of the Court's ruling and the deadline for their response, in addition to mailing the order to Defendants. Id.

         In Defendants' second motion for additional time to respond to the motion to remand, Mr. Eriksen and Ms. Eriksen assert that they removed the matter to federal court “because of the national concerns regarding the congressional land grant/presidential land patent update, and not for some other improper purpose.” ECF No. 16 at 1. Defendants assert “conflict preemption by national law over state law.” ECF No. 16 at 2. Plaintiff again opposes Defendants' request for enlargement of time to file a response. ECF No. 17.

         Plaintiff argues that there was not jurisdiction to support removal to federal court. ECF No. 9 at 5. Plaintiff contends that there is neither diversity of citizenship between the parties nor any federal question. Id.

         Request for Additional Time

         As a preliminary matter, the Court does not find good cause to extend any further time to Defendants to respond to Plaintiff's motion. Defendants waited until the end of their extended response period to request 21 more days to respond. The Court agrees with Plaintiff that Defendants may be engaging in a delay tactic. As a result, Defendants' period for responding to Plaintiff's motion expired without any response filed. Nevertheless, the Court considers the relevant arguments Defendants made in their other filings as the Court determines Plaintiff's motion to remand.

         Legal Standard

         An action filed in state court may be removed to the federal district court embracing the place where the action is pending when the federal court would have original jurisdiction over the action. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). A plaintiff may challenge removal by moving for remand. Moore-Thomas v. Alaska Airlines, Inc., 553 F.3d 1241, 1244 (9th Cir. 2009). When remand from federal to state court is sought based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the party opposing remand bears the burden of demonstrating that the matter is properly before the federal court. Sullivan v. First Affiliated Securities, Inc., 813 F.2d 1368, 1371 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 850 (1987). Removal statutes are strictly construed; any doubt as to the propriety of removal should be resolved in favor of remand. Duncan v. Stuetzle, 76 F.3d 1480, 1485 (9th Cir. 1996).

         Defendants generally may remove to federal court “any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction.” City of Chicago v. International College of Surgeons, 522 U.S. 156, 163 (1997) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a)). Therefore, the issue of whether removal was proper depends upon whether the case originally could have been filed in federal court. See Id. Removal can be based on diversity jurisdiction or on federal question jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b). The federal question statute provides that “district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the . . . laws . . . of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (emphasis added).

         A district court determining whether a case originally could have been filed in federal court, thus rendering removal proper, applies the “well-pleaded complaint rule.” See Louisville & Nashville R. Co. v. Mottley, 211 U.S. 149 (1908). Under that rule, federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented on the face of a plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint. Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392-93 (1987); Calif. ex rel. Lockyer v. Dynegy, Inc., 375 F.3d 831, 838 (9th Cir. 2004). The rule rests on the premise that a plaintiff is the master of his or her case and may choose whether to rely on state or federal law. Redwood Theatres, Inc. v. Festival Enterprises, Inc., 908 F.2d 477, 479 (9th Cir. 1990). If a plaintiff “can maintain his claim on both state and federal grounds, he may ignore the federal question and assert only a state law claim and defeat removal.” Sullivan, 813 F.2d at 1371-72.

         Moreover, “‘whether a case is one arising under . . . a law . . . of the United States, in the sense of the jurisdictional statute, . . . must be determined from what necessarily appears in the plaintiff's . . . [complaint], unaided by anything alleged in anticipation of avoidance of defenses which it is thought the defendant may interpose.' . . . For better or worse, . . . a defendant may not remove a case to federal court unless the plaintiff's complaint establishes that the case ‘arises under' federal law.” Franchise Tax Bd. v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 10 n. 9 (1983) (emphasis in original) (quoting Taylor v. Anderson, 234 U.S. 74, 75-76 (1914)). Well-settled law bars the removal of a case based on a ...


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