Turner et al v. State of Alabama, Department of Youth Services et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING plfs' time-sensitive 3 MOTION to Remand to State Court, as further set out in order. Signed by Chief Judge William Keith Watkins on 7/21/15. (Attachments: # 1 civil appeals checklist)(djy, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR
THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
DR. CAROLYN TURNER, et al.,
STATE OF ALABAMA,
DEPARTMENT OF YOUTH
SERVICES, et al.,
CASE NO. 2:15-CV-507-WKW
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Before the court is Plaintiffs’ Time Sensitive Motion to Remand. (Doc. #
3.) Defendants filed a response in opposition to the motion. (Doc. # 8.) Based
upon careful consideration of the arguments of counsel, the relevant law, and the
facts, the court finds that the motion is due to be denied.
I. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Federal courts have a strict duty to exercise the jurisdiction conferred on
them by Congress. Quackenbush v. Allstate Ins. Co., 517 U.S. 706, 716 (1996).
At the same time, “[f]ederal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction.” Burns v.
Windsor Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 1092, 1095 (11th Cir. 1994). Hence, in actions removed
from state court to federal court, federal courts must strictly construe removal
statutes, resolve all doubts in favor of remand, and place the burden of establishing
federal jurisdiction on the defendant. Miedema v. Maytag Corp., 450 F.3d 1322,
1328–30 (11th Cir. 2006).
Plaintiffs are tenured teachers of the State of Alabama Department of Youth
Services (“DYS”). They filed this lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Montgomery
County, Alabama, against DYS, the DYS Board of Education, its members, the
superintendent of the DYS School District 210, and the governor of Alabama,
challenging their transfers from McNeel School in Birmingham to DYS campuses
in Montgomery and Prattville. The transfers are scheduled to take effect on
August 10, 2015.
Plaintiffs’ complaint encompasses four counts. Counts I, II, and III are
phrased as claims for relief. These counts embody claims for a writ of mandamus
seeking to stop Defendants from transferring them in violation of the Students First
Act, Alabama Code §§ 16-24C-1, et seq., for a declaratory judgment construing
their rights under the Students First Act, and for corresponding injunctive relief.
Counts I, II, and III also include allegations that Plaintiffs were denied a due
process hearing that complies with the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment to the United States Constitution. Count IV alleges a 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 claim that the state administrative proceedings did not provide Plaintiffs
with full due process hearings in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s
procedural due process protections.
The Circuit Court of Montgomery County entered a temporary restraining
order on July 10, 2015, “insofar as [the action] pertains to further actions required
pursuant to the provisions of the Students First Act . . . and the timelines associated
with the transfer action . . . .” (TRO (Doc. # 1-23).) The state-court Order also set
a hearing on the motion for preliminary injunction for July 20, 2015.
On July 16, 2015, Defendants removed this action to this court pursuant to
28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1441(a), and 1441(c)(1)(A). Plaintiffs responded with the
pending Time Sensitive Motion to Remand (Doc. # 3).
The issue is whether Defendants have met their burden of demonstrating
removal jurisdiction over this action. Section 1441(a) authorizes removal of “any
civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States
have original jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). “The district courts shall have
original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or
treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
Plaintiffs admit that their Complaint includes 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims
alleging Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process violations. Because the
Complaint includes allegations that Defendants violated Plaintiffs’ rights protected
under the United States Constitution and § 1983, the court has original federalquestion jurisdiction over these claims. Accordingly, the removal of the action
was not improper.
The Complaint also includes state-law claims. The Notice of Removal is
conspicuously silent as to the basis for the removal of the state-law claims. The
Notice of Removal focuses on the Fourteenth Amendment allegations and does not
acknowledge the existence of any state-law claims. Additionally, the Notice of
Removal cites § 1441(c)(1)(A), but not § 1441(c)(1)(B).
Section 1441(c)(1) governs removal of actions that contain a claim arising
“under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States,” § 1441(c)(1)(A),
and a claim “not within the original or supplemental jurisdiction of the district
court or a claim that has been made nonremovable by statute,” § 1441(c)(1)(B).
Section 1441(c) provides further that, whenever “a claim not within the original or
supplemental jurisdiction of the district court or a claim that has been made
nonremovable by statute, the entire action may be removed if the action would be
removable without the inclusion of the claim described in subparagraph (B).”
§ 1441(c). Supplemental jurisdiction over state-law claims exists where the claims
“are so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they
form part of the same case or controversy under Article III of the United States
Constitution.” § 1367(a). In other words, when the state-law claims “arise out of a
common nucleus of operative fact with a substantial federal claim,” § 1367(a)’s
prerequisites are satisfied. Lucero v. Trosch, 121 F.3d 591, 587 (11th Cir. 1997).
This comparison “is ordinarily determined on the pleadings.” Id. at 598.
Defendants did not predicate their removal of the state-law claims under the
provisions of § 1441(c)(1)(B). Defendants have not argued, therefore, that the
state-law claims are not within the court’s supplemental jurisdiction or are nonremovable claims.
In response, Plaintiffs argue that “it is likely that the
adjudication of the state law issues can only be done by the state court pursuant to
Pennhurst.” (Doc. # 3, at 6 (citing Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman,
465 U.S. 89 (1984).) Plaintiffs contend, therefore, that “the proper course is for this
Court to remand the state law issues, at least,” (Doc. # 3, at 6), but their argument
lacks supporting statutory or decisional law.
Supplemental jurisdiction exists.
The allegations of the Complaint
demonstrate that the § 1983 claims satisfy the substantiality requirement. The
substantiality question “for jurisdictional purposes is not whether the claims are
without merit but whether the prior decisions inescapably render the claims
frivolous.” L.A. Draper & Son v. Wheelabrator-Frye, Inc., 735 F.2d 414, 427
(11th Cir. 1994) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted); see also Tamiami
Partners, Ltd. ex rel. Tamiami Dev. Corp. v. Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Fla.,
177 F.3d 1212, 1223 (11th Cir. 1999) (A federal claim is insubstantial only if
“prior decisions inescapably render the claims frivolous.” (alterations, citation, and
internal quotation marks omitted)).
For obvious reasons, in their Notice of
Removal, Defendants do not argue that the federal-law claims supplying this
court’s original jurisdiction are frivolous within the meaning of L.A. Draper &
Son, and Plaintiffs’ position is that their § 1983 claims indeed are substantial.
Additionally, the facts underlying the federal- and state-law claims all arise out of
the proceedings surrounding Defendants’ decisions to transfer Plaintiffs to other
DYS campuses in Alabama. The nucleus of facts in the Complaint is the same for
the federal and the state-law claims. Accordingly, the requirements of § 1367(a)
While the court maintains the discretion to decline jurisdiction over the
state-law claims even where jurisdiction is otherwise proper under § 1367(a), see
§ 1367(c), the court intends to take a closer look at jurisdiction over state-law
claims when addressing the arguments raised in briefing on the pending motion to
For the foregoing reasons, it is ORDERED that Plaintiffs’ Time-Sensitive
Motion to Remand (Doc. # 3) is denied.
DONE this 21st day of July, 2015.
/s/ W. Keith Watkins
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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