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Carnegie-Mellon University and John Kordesich v. Cohill

filed: August 29, 1986.


On Petition for Writ of Mandamus, Original Proceeding, Related to W.D. Civil No. 84-2285.

Author: Sloviter

Before: SLOVITER and STAPLETON, Circuit Judges, and LONGOBARDI, District Judge*fn*


SLOVITER, Circuit Judge.

This petition for mandamus requires us to decide whether the district court has the power to remand to state court a properly removed action after the complaint has been amended to delete all federal claims.


Facts and Procedural History

The facts in this case are briefly stated. William and Carrie Boyle initiated this action in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, against Carnegie-Mellon University and John Kordesich, an employee of Carnegie-Mellon, complaining of the termination of William Boyle's employment. The complaint alleges William Boyle was discharged because he refused to accept blame or guilt in connection with improper billings and certain thefts at the University.

In the complaint, William Boyle alleged causes of action against Carnegie-Mellon for wrongful discharge in tort, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, misrepresentation, and breach of express and implied contracts. The complaint also alleges many of these same causes of action against Kordesich, who was William Boyle's supervisor at Carnegie-Mellon. Carrie Boyle brought suit against Carnegie-Mellon and Kordesich for loss of consortium, loss of companionship, loss of her husband's household services and "income expectancy", and "loss of life's pleasures."

In addition to the Boyles' state law claims, Court I of the complaint, titled "William S. Boyle vs. Carnegie Mellon University -- In Trespass," contains the following language:

Said termination [of Boyle's employment] was also based upon Boyle's age, 56, and was therefore illegal and improper in violation of the laws of the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

App. at 7a. No other portion of the complaint elaborates on this claim or makes any further reference to federal law, and it appears the parties are not diverse.

Based on the reference to age discrimination, Carnegie-Mellon and Kordesich (thereafter referred to collectively as Carnegie-Mellon) removed the case on September 21, 1984 to the federal District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. The Boyles did not contest removal or move to remand.

On April 15, 1985, after a period of discovery, which was extended by the district court at the Boyles' request, the Boyles moved to amend their complaint to delete the causes of action for age discrimination and defamation and the request for damages for loss of consortium. The Boyles gave as the reason for the proposed amendment that "certain causes of action alleged . . . are not tenable and [they] feel that it would be highly unlikely that they would succeed." App. at 70a-71a. In discovery, it was disclosed that William Boyle had never filed any age discrimination charge with a federal or state agency, a prerequisite for suit under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. See 29 U.S.C. §§ 626(d), 633(b).

At the same time as the motion to amend, the Boyles filed a motion to remand the case to state court because it would no longer contain any federal causes of action. The district court granted the motion to amend the complaint without discussion, and Carnegie-Mellon has not challenged this ruling. The court then ordered remand to the Pennsylvania state court. The court recognized that neither 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) nor 28 U.S.C. § 1441(c), the two statutory provisions authorizing remand, were applicable in this case. It nonetheless held that because it had the discretion to dismiss an action from which all federal claims had been deleted, it also had the discretion to remand a case under like circumstances.

Carnegie-Mellon appealed this decision and also filed a petition for mandamus against the district judge, Chief Judge Cohill, who is the nominal respondent here. Appeals from remand orders are barred with an exception not applicable here, 28 U.S.C. § 1447(d), and the appeal was accordingly dismissed. The issue of mandamus is now before us.


Mandamus Jurisdiction

We consider first whether mandamus is an available vehicle to challenge the remand. The Boyles argue that even if the district court committed error, it is not of the "magnitude" to justify issuance of a Writ of Mandamus.

Mandamus is, of course, not to be used as a substitute for appeal, or to thwart the strong congressional policy against piecemeal appeals. Parr v. United States, 351 U.S. 513, 520-21 (1956). The writ, however, is "appropriately issued . . . when there is 'usurpation of judicial power' or a clear abuse of discretion." Schlagenhauf v. Holder, 379 U.S. 104, 110 (1964) (quoting Bankers Life & Casualty Co. v. Holland, 346 U.S. 379, 383 (1953)). One of its principal uses is, as in this case, to confine federal courts to the proper exercise of their limited statutory jurisdiction. See, e.g., Hoffman v. Blaski, 363 U.S. 335 (1960).

The Supreme Court has made clear that "[a]bsent statutory prohibitions, when a remand order is challenged by a petition for mandamus in an appellate court, 'the power of the court to issue the mandamus would be undoubted,'" Thermtron Products, Inc. v. Hermansdorfer, 423 U.S. 336, 353 (1976) (quoting In re Pennsylvania Co., 137 U.S. 451, 453 (1890)). The Thermtron Court further stated that mandamus is available "where the district court . . . has remanded [a case] on grounds not authorized by the removal statutes." Thermtron, 423 U.S. at 353; accord Levy v. Weissman, 671 F.2d 766, 768-69 (3d Cir. 1982). This is precisely the situation presented in this case, and, therefore, mandamus is available to Carnegie-Mellon to challenge the remand order.


Discussi ...

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