United States District Court, D. Arizona
December 18, 2014
Rion S. Price, Plaintiff,
Mesa Police Department, et al., Defendants.
STEVEN P. LOGAN, District Judge.
I. Procedural History
On October 22, 2014, Plaintiff Rion S. Price, who is confined in the Maricopa County Fourth Avenue Jail, filed a pro se Complaint in the Superior Court of Maricopa County, Arizona, against Defendants Mesa Police Department, Cory McDowell, Brandon M. Lavin, Ashley L. Elliff, Joshua N. Gardner, Brandon Grissom, Kevin J. Jacobson, and Lidia P. Gonzalez. On November 24, 2014, Defendants Mesa Police Department, Jacobson, and Elliff (the Removing Defendants), filed a Notice of Removal (Doc. 1). The Court will remand this case to the Superior Court of Maricopa County.
"Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction" and "possess only that power authorized by Constitution and statute." Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of America, 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). "It is to be presumed that a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction" and the burden of establishing jurisdiction is on the party asserting jurisdiction. Id. Limitations on the court's jurisdiction must neither be disregarded nor evaded. Owen Equip. & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 374 (1978). The Court is obligated to determine whether it has subject matter jurisdiction. See Valdez v. Allstate Ins. Co., 372 F.3d 1115, 1116 (9th Cir. 2004); see also 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."); Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3) ("If the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.").
"The removal statute is strictly construed against removal jurisdiction." California ex rel. Lockyer v. Dynegy, Inc., 375 F.3d 831, 838 (9th Cir. 2004). The party invoking the statute bears the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction. Id. "The 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." Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987); see California ex rel. Lockyer, 375 F.3d at 838. The plaintiff is the master of the claim and "may avoid federal jurisdiction by exclusive reliance on state law." Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 392. A plaintiff, therefore, may choose to have a case heard in state court "by eschewing claims based on federal law." Id. at 399. See also California ex rel. Lockyer, 375 F.3d at 838-39.
In their Notice of Removal, the Removing Defendants assert that removal is "based on a claim arising under federal law" because Plaintiff alleges in the Complaint that Defendants used excessive force when arresting him. Although Plaintiff does allege that Defendants used "excessive force, " he does not allege that his case arises under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, that Defendants violated his federal rights, or that his claim arises under federal law.
"Arizona courts have long recognized that a defendant has a duty to act reasonably in response to criminal conduct and that unreasonable, excessive use of force may result in liability." Sonoran Desert Investigations, Inc. v. Miller, 141 P.3d 754, 760 (Ariz.Ct.App. 2006). "An injured party may bring an action for damages arising out of allegedly unwarranted or excessive force." Id. at 761. The use of the phrase "excessive force, " without more, does not create federal jurisdiction. The Removing Defendants, therefore, have failed to meet their burden of establishing federal jurisdiction over this case. Thus, the Court will remand this case to the Superior Court of Maricopa County.
IT IS ORDERED:
(1) This matter is remanded to the Superior Court of Maricopa County, Arizona.
(2) The Clerk of Court must mail a certified copy of this Order to:
(3) The Clerk of Court must close this federal case.