Shelley v. City of Headland et al

Filing 20

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER that this case is REMANDED to the Circuit Court of Henry County, AL because the court exercises its discretion under 28 USC 1367(c)(3) to decline to exercise jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claim; DENYING as moot 14 Motion to Remand. Signed by Honorable William Keith Watkins on 7/21/2009. Certified Copy mailed to Clerk, Circuit Court of Henry County. (wcl, )

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT F O R THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA S O U T H E R N DIVISION B E V E R L Y J. SHELLEY, P la in tif f , v. C IT Y OF HEADLAND, et al., D e f e n d a n ts. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) C A S E NO. 1:09-CV-509-WKW [WO] M E M O R A N D U M OPINION AND ORDER B e f o re the court is Plaintiff Beverly J. Shelley's motion to remand her pending statela w claim. (Doc. # 14.) Defendants filed a response opposing the motion (Doc. # 16), and S h e lle y replied (Doc. # 19). Defendants removed this case from the Circuit Court of Henry C o u n ty, Alabama (Doc. # 1), based upon Shelley's original complaint, which alleged D e f e n d a n ts violated her rights under the federal and Alabama constitutions because of D e f e n d a n ts ' application of a zoning ordinance to her property (Doc. # 1-2 8). Shelley a m e n d e d her complaint as a matter of course under Rule 15(a)(1) of the Federal Rules of C iv il Procedure,1 dropping the federal constitutional claim. (See Doc. # 13 Ex. A 8.) She th e n filed her motion to remand. In her reply, Shelley clarified that she was requesting the c o u rt to decline supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1367(c) and by implication, m o re specifically under 1367(c)(3). (Doc. # 19, at 2, 3.) Rule 15 permits one amendment without court approval before being served with a responsive pleading. Rule 15(a)(1)(A). 1 Defendants argue that "a close reading" of 1367(c) does not permit remand in this c a s e . (Doc. # 16, at 5.) Section 1367(c) allows a federal court, in its discretion and in s p e c if ie d situations, to decline to exercise jurisdiction over state-law claims over which it has s u p p le m e n ta l jurisdiction under 1367(a). One of those situations is when "the district court h a s dismissed all claims over which it has original jurisdiction." 1367(c)(3). Defendants c o n te n d that 1367(c) applies only to state-law claims that remain after a court dismisses the f e d e ra l claims, not to state-law claims that remain after a plaintiff voluntarily dismisses the f e d e ra l claims. (Doc. # 16, at 6.) Thus, Defendants argue, because a court may not remand s ta te -la w claims under 1367(c)(3) when those claims were voluntarily dismissed by a m e n d e d pleadings, this court must retain jurisdiction over Shelley's only claim. (Doc. # 16, a t 7.) Defendants argue, alternatively, that remanding is not appropriate because it would a llo w "blatant forum shopping." (Doc. # 16, at 7.) Neither party disputes that supplemental ju ris d ic tio n was properly exercised when Defendants removed this case. The disputed issue is whether the court should or must continue to exercise supplemental jurisdiction on the only re m a in in g claim, which is based on state law. It is at the time of removal that subject-matter jurisdiction is determined, and for cases re m o v e d from state to federal court, "[l]ater changes to the pleadings do not impact the c o u rt's exercise of supplemental jurisdiction." Pintando v. Miami-Dade Hous. Agency, 501 F .3 d 1241, 1244 n.2 (11th Cir. 2007) (per curiam) (citing Behlen v. Merrill Lynch, Phoenix In v . Partners, Ltd., 311 F.3d 1087 (11th Cir. 2002)). Defendants' concern regarding forum- 2 shopping, however, is not misplaced. "The Supreme Court [has] noted that `removal cases ra ise forum-manipulation concerns that simply do not exist when it is the plaintiff who chooses a federal forum and then pleads away jurisdiction through amendment.'" Id. (quoting R o c k w e ll Int'l Corp. v. United States, 549 U.S. 457, 474 n.6 (2007)). Thus, when a plaintiff w h o filed in federal court amends a complaint to drop all federal claims, the amended c o m p la in t divests the court of subject-matter jurisdiction. Id. at 1243-44. But when a p la in tif f who filed in state court, after removal, amends a complaint to drop all federal c la im s , supplemental jurisdiction is not affected by the amendment. Id. at 1244 n.2. E v e n though amending a complaint to drop all federal claims, in removal cases, does n o t divest the court of supplemental jurisdiction, the court may nevertheless decline, under 1367(c)(3), to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims. See B e h le n , 311 F.3d at 1096 ("The court had discretion to retain jurisdiction over the state law c la im s even after [the plaintiff] amended the complaint to remove any federal cause of a c tio n ." ); see also, e.g., Farrell v. G.M.A.C., No. 2:07-cv-817, 2008 WL 1766909, at *3 (M .D . Fla. Apr. 15, 2008) (same); Lieu v. Sandy Sansing Cars, Inc., No. 3:07-cv-345, 2007 W L 4287642, at *1 (N.D. Fla. Dec. 5, 2007) (same). The court may decline to continue its e x e r c i s e of supplemental jurisdiction because "no basis for federal jurisdiction presently e x is ts ," Cook ex rel. Estate of Tessier v. Sheriff of Monroe County, Fla., 402 F.3d 1092, 1123 3 (11th Cir. 2005) (emphasis added).2 "In making this decision, the court `should take into a c c o u n t concerns of comity, judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and the like.'" Id. (q u o tin g Lewis v. City of St. Petersburg, 260 F.3d 1260, 1267 (11th Cir. 2001)). A district c o u rt has discretion to remand "when the exercise of [supplemental] jurisdiction is in a p p ro p ria te ." Carnegie-Mellon Univ. v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 351 (1988). Comity weighs in favor of remand in this case because it concerns only state c o n s titu tio n a l issues. Remand also does not undermine the interest of judicial economy. The c o m p la in t in this case was filed in state court only in April 2009 and was removed in May 2 0 0 9 . Since removal, Defendants have filed only a motion to dismiss, to strike, and for a m o re definite statement (Doc. # 11), and a new motion for a more definite statement in light o f the amended complaint (Doc. # 17). On June 30, 2009, the court suspended briefing on a ll pending motions except the motion to remand (Doc. # 18). This case, therefore, is still in the early stages of the proceeding. "`When federal law claims have dropped out of the la w s u it in its early stages and only state-law claims remain, the federal court should decline Defendants provide no case law for their assertion that 1367(c) does not apply when federal claims are voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiff. Defendants note that their interpretation of 1367(c) conflicts with Behlen, which stated that the court's discretionary choice to retain jurisdiction over the state-law claims persisted "even after [the plaintiff] amended the complaint to remove any federal cause of action," 311 F.3d at 1095 (emphasis added). See also Sullivan v. Conway, 157 F.3d 1091, 1095 (7th Cir. 1998) ("[F]ederal jurisdiction is not defeated by dropping federal claims after the case has been properly removed to federal court, although if all the federal claims drop out before trial, even as a consequence of the plaintiff's own voluntary dismissal, the district court normally will relinquish jurisdiction over the state-law claims." (citations omitted)); Carnegie-Melon Univ. v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 346, 357 (1988) (concluding, in reliance upon case law on pendent jurisdiction, that a district court has discretion to remand state-law claims that are remaining after a plaintiff drops, by amending the complaint, the federal claim that was the basis for removal). 2 4 the exercise of jurisdiction,'" Baggett v. First Nat. Bank of Gainesville, 117 F.3d 1342, 1353 (1 1 th Cir. 1997) (quoting Carnegie-Mellon Univ., 484 U.S. 343). See also Raney v. Allstate In s . Co., 370 F.3d 1086, 1089 (11th Cir. 2004) (per curiam) ("We have encouraged district c o u rts to dismiss any remaining state claims when, as here, the federal claims have been d is m is s e d prior to trial.").3 A lth o u g h forum "manipulation" is a "legitimate and serious" concern when a plaintiff d is m is s e s the federal claims that were the basis for federal jurisdiction and moves to remand, th a t concern does not require a "blanket prohibition on remands when the federal district c o u rt's jurisdiction over a case is inherently discretionary." Carnegie-Melon Univ., 484 U.S. a t 356 n.12. "A district court can consider whether the plaintiff has engaged in any m a n ip u la tiv e tactics when it decides whether to remand a case" but that "behavior" is only ta k e n into account as part of "the balance of factors" for determining whether remand is a p p ro p ria te . Id. at 357. There is no "categorical prohibition" on remanding in these c irc u m s ta n c e s "regardless of whether the plaintiff has attempted to manipulate the forum." Id. (emphasis added). It is possible that Shelley's amendment serves her interest to deprive Defendants of a federal forum, but her amendment occurred very early in the pleadings and the only claim See also, e.g., Nobles v. Ala. Christian Acad., 917 F. Supp. 786, 790 (M.D. Ala. 1996) (finding that because the proceedings were at the early stage and because the case "potentially involves unresolved interpretations of the Constitution of Alabama," interests of comity "distinctly favor remand"). 3 5 is a state-law constitutional claim involving a zoning ordinance. The court finds that, on the w h o le , it is inappropriate to exercise supplemental jurisdiction in this case. A c c o rd in g ly, it is ORDERED that this case is REMANDED to the Circuit Court of H e n ry County, Alabama because the court exercises its discretion under 28 U.S.C. 1367(c)(3) to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state-law c la im . The motion to remand (Doc. # 14) is DENIED as moot.4 DONE this 21st day of July, 2009. /s/ W. Keith Watkins UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE The supplemental jurisdictional issue was not resolved on Shelley's motion because it was made pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1447(c). Section 1447(c) was not the proper vehicle for the motion. See Carlsbad Tech., Inc. v. HIF Bio, Inc., 129 S. Ct. 1862, 1867 (2009) ("When a district court remands claims to a state court after declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction, the remand order is not based on a lack of subject-matter jurisdiction for purposes of 1447(c) and (d).")); Snapper, Inc. v. Redan, 171 F.3d 1249, 1253 (11th Cir. 1999) (concluding that 1447(c), which governs remands for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and for procedural defects, does not include remands for refusing to exercise supplemental jurisdiction). To the extent that Defendants moved for attorney's fees and costs in the event jurisdiction was declined (see Doc. # 16, at 8), that motion is also denied. Under 28 U.S.C. 1447(c), "[a]n order remanding a removed case to state court `may require payment of just costs and any actual expenses, including attorney's fees, incurred as a result of the removal.'" Martin v. Franklin Capital Corp., 546 U.S. 132, 134 (2005) (quoting 1447(c)). The award of attorney's fees under this provision, however, concerns the propriety of removal. Attorney's fees are rewarded to the non-removing party based on whether "the removing party has an objectively reasonable basis for removal." Id. at 136. Thus, "when an objectively reasonable basis [for removal] exists, fees should be denied." Id. at 141. In this case, it is the removing party requesting fees for the remand, so 1447(c) does not apply. The court finds no other ground for awarding attorney's fees. 4 6

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