Northfield Park Associates, LLC v. Mancino et al
Memorandum of Opinion and Order For the reasons set forth herein, the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over the case. The case is remanded to the Summit County, Ohio Court of Common Pleas forthwith. The Case Management Conference sched uled for 2/8/2017 is cancelled. As the Court has lacked subject-matter jurisdiction from the date of removal, the Court also lacks the jurisdiction to consider the pending Motion for Transfer. The Motion to Attend the Case Management Conference by Telephone is denied as moot. Judge Benita Y. Pearson on 2/7/2017. Related document(s) 4 , 5 , 12 . (JLG)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
NORTHFIELD PARK ASSOCIATES, LLC,
RENEE MANCINO, et al.,
CASE NO. 5:16CV2854
JUDGE BENITA Y. PEARSON
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND
ORDER [Resolving ECF Nos. 4, 5, and
Pending before the Court are Defendant’s Motion to Transfer and Consolidate (ECF No.
4), Plaintiff’s Motion to Remand (ECF No. 5), and Defendants’ Motion to Attend the Case
Management Conference Telephonically (ECF No. 12). For the following reasons, Plaintiff’s
Motion to Remand is granted.
Plaintiff brought this defamation suit in the Summit County, Ohio Court of Common
Pleas. ECF No. 1-1. Defendants removed the case on the basis of federal question jurisdiction,
arguing that the Court will have to engage in “an in depth analysis” of the Interstate Horseracing
Act (“IHA”), 15 U.S.C. § 3001, to determine whether its statements are defamatory. ECF No. 1
at PageID #: 2. Plaintiff has moved to remand. ECF No. 5.
II. Standard of Review
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), “any civil action brought in a State court of which the
district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or
defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the
place where such action is pending.” District courts have original jurisdiction over civil actions
that arise under federal law, see 28 U.S.C. § 1331, or that involve parties of diverse citizenship
and exceed $75,000 in controversy, see 28 U.S.C. § 1332. “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 v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987); see
also Warner v. Ford Motor Co., 46 F.3d 531, 533 (6th Cir. 1995) (“[T]he plaintiff is the master
of the complaint . . . [T]he plaintiff may, by eschewing claims based on federal law, choose to
have the cause heard in state court.”).
The United States Supreme Court has recognized that federal question jurisdiction may
exist where there are “state-law claims that implicate significant federal issues.” Hampton v. R.J.
Corman R.R. Switching Co., LLC, 683 F.3d 708, 712 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Grable & Sons
Metal Prods., Inc. v. Darue Eng’g & Mfg., 545 U.S. 308, 312 (2005)). A claim presents a
significant federal question when “(1) the state-law claim . . . necessarily raise[s] a disputed
federal issue; (2) the federal interest in the issue [is] substantial; and (3) the exercise of
jurisdiction [does] not disturb any congressionally approved balance of federal and state judicial
responsibilities.” United States v. City of Loveland, 621 F.3d 465, 472 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting
Mikulski v. Centerior Energy Corp., 501 F.3d 555, 568 (6th Cir. 2007) (en banc) and citing
Grable, 545 U.S. at 314).
Defendants’ argument that the Court has subject-matter jurisdiction fails for several
reasons. First, Defendants’ arguments that its potential counterclaims or defenses may implicate
the Interstate Horseracing Act cannot serve as a basis for jurisdiction in federal court. Beneficial
Nat’l Bank v. Anderson, 539 U.S. 1, 6 (2003) (“To determine whether the claim arises under
federal law, we examine the ‘well pleaded’ allegations of the complaint and ignore potential
defenses . . . .”); see also Holmes Grp., Inc. v. Vornado Air Circulation Sys., Inc., 535 U.S. 826,
831–32 (2002) (finding that, pursuant to the well-pleaded-complaint rule, a counterclaim cannot
serve as the basis for a federal court’s “arising under” jurisdiction). Therefore, Defendants’
arguments that “truth is a complete defense to a claim of defamation,” ECF No. 1. at PageID #: 2,
and that its legal defenses arise under federal law, ECF No. 9 at PageID #: 99, are not relevant to
the Court’s jurisdictional inquiry.
Second, Plaintiff’s defamation claims do not involve significant federal questions.
Although Defendants attempt to draw connections between Plaintiff’s claims and the IHA, it is
not enough that a complaint merely implicates matters of federal law. See Marrell Dow
Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Thompson, 478 U.S. 804, 807 (1986) (“Although the constitutional
meaning of ‘arising under’ may extend to all cases in which a federal question is ‘an ingredient’
of the action . . . we have long construed the statutory grant of federal-question jurisdiction as
conferring a more limited power[.]” (citations omitted)). Instead, the court must reference the
well-pleaded complaint to determine whether it poses a substantial question of federal law.1 Id.
at 808; Mikulski, 501 F.3d at 574–75.
In this case, Plaintiff’s claims do not arise under federal law. They are state-law
defamation and respondeat superior claims. Nor do the claims present substantial questions of
federal law. Only one element of Plaintiff’s defamation claim—the truth or falsity of
Defendants’ statements—is related to federal law. This tenuous connection is not sufficient to
establish a substantial question of federal law. See Mikulski, 501 F.3d at 565 (“[T]he mere
presence of a federal issue in a state law cause of action does not automatically confer federal
question jurisdiction[.]”); Miller v. Norfolk & W. Ry. Co., 834 F.2d 556 (6th Cir. 1987) (finding
no federal question jurisdiction when the nature of the federal interest was merely that a federal
statute would be interpreted and applied as a component of plaintiff’s defamation action); Hahn
v. Rauch, 602 F. Supp. 2d 895 (N.D. Ohio Aug. 15, 2008) (“[W]here [the federal interest] is just
one element of the claims at issue, it cannot be said that resolution of Plaintiff’s complaint is
‘inextricably intertwined with’ or ‘substantially dependent on’ analysis of [federal law].”).
Defendants’ argument that Plaintiff artfully pleaded its Complaint (ECF No. 9 at
PageID #: 99–100) has no merit. The “artful pleading” doctrine is an exception to the
well-pleaded complaint rule. Her Majesty the Queen in Right of the Province of Ontario
v. City of Detroit, 874 F.2d 332, 341 (6th Cir. 1989). “If it appears ‘that some substantial,
disputed question of federal law is a necessary element of one of the well-pleaded state
claims’ or if plaintiff's claim is ‘really one of federal law,’ then the matter is properly in
federal court.” Id. (quoting Franchise Tax Bd. v. Laborers Vacation Tr., 463 U.S. 1, 13
(1983)). Defendants rely on little more than Plaintiff’s mention of a federal statute in its
Complaint. Defendants do not, for example, offer evidence of parallel federal claims that
Plaintiff consciously avoided in its pleadings. See Mikulski, 501 F.3d at 563 (6th Cir.
2007) (finding no artful pleading when plaintiffs would not have had a federal, statutory
cause of action); Her Majesty the Queen, 874 F.2d at 341 (artful pleading doctrine not
met when state action unaffected by federal law).
Therefore, because no federal issue is presented on the face of Plaintiff’s Complaint, the Court
finds that it does not have federal question jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s defamation claim.
Defendants do not argue that there is federal question jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s
respondeat superior claims, nor do they argue that the Court has diversity jurisdiction. See
generally ECF Nos. 1 and 9. Accordingly, the Court does not have subject-matter jurisdiction
over the case.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over the case. The
case is remanded to the Summit County, Ohio Court of Common Pleas forthwith. The Case
Management Conference scheduled for February 8, 2017 is cancelled. As the Court has lacked
subject-matter jurisdiction from the date of removal, the Court also lacks the jurisdiction to
consider the pending Motion for Transfer. The Motion to Attend the Case Management
Conference by Telephone is denied as moot.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
February 7, 2017
/s/ Benita Y. Pearson
Benita Y. Pearson
United States District Judge
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