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HERIAN v. UNITED STATES

July 10, 1973

Herbert and Jannie HERIAN et al., Petitioners,
v.
UNITED STATES of America, Respondent. Charles THOMPSON et al., Petitioners, v. UNITED STATES of America, Respondent


William B. Jones, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: JONES

William B. Jones, District Judge.

 These two civil actions are verified petitions for removal of certain actions from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Landlord and Tenant Branch, to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441 (1970) and D.C. Code § 11-503 (Supp. V, 1972). The petitioners are defendants in suits for possession of premises instituted against them by the respondent, the United States, in the Superior Court. The petitioners are tenants of properties titled in the name of the United States. The properties are operated by the National Capital Housing Authority, an agency of the United States, under the provisions of D.C. Code § 5-103 et seq. The respondent has moved to remand these cases back to the Superior Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) (1970). The respondent's motions will be granted.

 The theory of the petitioners is simple. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1345 (1970):

 
Except as otherwise provided by Act of Congress, the district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions, suits or proceedings commenced by the United States, or by any agency or officer thereof expressly authorized to sue by Act of Congress.

 It is uncontested that the petitioners have been sued by the United States. The petitioners, then, seek removal under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) (1970), which provides:

 D.C. Code § 11-503 (Supp. V, 1972) specifically makes section 1441(a) applicable to actions brought in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Thus the plaintiffs claim that this action may be removed to this Court because it had original, although not exclusive, jurisdiction under section 1345.

 The amendment to the District of Columbia ejectment statute, D.C. Code § 45-910 (Supp. V, 1972), by the 1970 Court Reform Act makes it clear, however, that this Court does not have original jurisdiction over these actions under section 1345. Prior to the Court Reform Act, jurisdiction over ejectment proceedings was provided in D.C. Code § 45-910 (1967):

 
Whenever a lease for any definite term shall expire, or any tenancy shall be terminated by notice as aforesaid, and the tenant shall fail or refuse to surrender possession of the leased premises, the landlord may bring an action of ejectment to recover possession in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia; or the landlord may bring an action to recover possession before the District of Columbia Court of General Sessions, as provided in sections 11-701 to 11-749.

 The Court Reform Act amended section 45-910 to read:

 
Whenever a lease for any definite term shall expire, or any tenancy shall be terminated by notice as aforesaid, and the tenant shall fail or refuse to surrender possession of the leased premises, the landlord may bring an action of ejectment to recover possession in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

 When the new section 45-910 is read in conjunction with the old one, it is clear that the intent of the Court Reform Act is to vest exclusive jurisdiction of all ejectment proceedings in the Superior Court, even those brought by the United States. All mention of the District Court as an available forum was specifically eliminated by the Act. Section 1345 itself provides for original jurisdiction in the district courts of suits brought by the United States "[except] as otherwise provided by Act of Congress." The new section 45-910 is just such a provision. It is both more recent and more specific than section 1345. Moreover, the word "may" in section 45-910 refers only to the landlord's option of bringing suit for possession, not to an option to bring an ejectment action in any court but the Superior Court.

 Therefore section 1345 provides no basis for removal and these cases will be remanded to the Superior Court as improvidently removed and without jurisdiction in this Court. Cf. United States v. Coleman, 101 Daily Wash. L. ...


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