BRODY v. SALVATO et al
OPINION AND ORDER granting 4 Motion to Remand to the Superior Court of New Jersey, Union County. Signed by Judge Stanley R. Chesler on 8/9/2016. (seb)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
MATTHEW SALVATO et al.,
Civil Action No. 16-3297 (SRC)
OPINION & ORDER
CHESLER, District Judge
This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff’s motion to remand for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction. Defendants Matthew Salvato, Next Level Web Strategies, LLC, Professional
Court Reporting and Video, LLC, and Stephen Silenzio (collectively, “Defendants”) filed a
Notice of Removal and Complaint in this Court on or about June 7, 2016. The Notice of
Removal asserts that this Court has federal subject matter jurisdiction over this action by virtue
of a counterclaim arising under federal law, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Plaintiff now moves
to remand the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Plaintiff moves for remand on a number of grounds, but this Court need only reach the
matter of subject matter jurisdiction to decide this motion. Plaintiff contends that a federal
question counterclaim is not a proper basis for removal. Plaintiff is correct. The Supreme Court
Allowing a counterclaim to establish “arising under” jurisdiction would also
contravene the longstanding policies underlying our precedents. First, since the
plaintiff is “the master of the complaint,” the well-pleaded-complaint rule enables
him, “by eschewing claims based on federal law, . . . to have the cause heard in
state court.” The rule proposed by respondent, in contrast, would leave
acceptance or rejection of a state forum to the master of the counterclaim. It
would allow a defendant to remove a case brought in state court under state law,
thereby defeating a plaintiff's choice of forum, simply by raising a federal
counterclaim. . . For these reasons, we decline to transform the longstanding
well-pleaded-complaint rule into the “well-pleaded-complaint-or-counterclaim
rule” urged by respondent.
Holmes Group, Inc. v. Vornado Air Circulation Sys., 535 U.S. 826, 832 (2002) (citation
In an action removed to federal court under 28 U.S.C. § 1441, the removing party bears
the burden of demonstrating that there is federal subject matter jurisdiction over the action.
Samuel-Bassett v. KIA Motors Am., Inc., 357 F.3d 392, 396 (3d Cir. 2004); Boyer v. Snap-On
Tools Corp., 913 F.2d 108, 111 (3d Cir. 1990). Section 1441 must be strictly construed against
removal, with all doubts to be resolved in favor of remand. Batoff v. State Farm Ins. Co., 977
F.2d 848, 851 (3d Cir. 1992). Federal statutory law mandates that “if at any time before final
judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be
remanded.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(d); see also Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(h)(3). The Court,
moreover, has an independent obligation to satisfy itself that it has subject matter jurisdiction
over a case. Meritcare Inc. v. St. Paul Mercury Ins. Co., 166 F.3d 214, 217 (3d Cir. 1999),
overruled on other grounds by Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Svcs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546 (2005).
In opposition, Defendants argue that their copyright infringement counterclaim is
compulsory. Whether or not this is true, it does not change the rule of Holmes: it is the
complaint alone that provides the basis for removal jurisdiction. Nor have Defendants offered
any authority for their assertion that the complete preemption doctrine has any application here.
Defendants, the removing party, have failed to demonstrate that there is federal subject
matter jurisdiction over this action. Because this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this
case, this case shall be remanded to the Superior Court of New Jersey.
For these reasons,
IT IS on this 9th day of August, 2016
ORDERED that this case is REMANDED to the Superior Court of New Jersey.
s/Stanley R. Chesler
STANLEY R. CHESLER, U.S.D.J.
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