Under the general Federal removal statutes, an action brought in state court can be removed to the Federal district court if that Federal district court would have had original jurisdiction over the action. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a).
A defendant seeking to remove a case must file "a notice of removal containing a short and plain statement of the grounds for removal, together with a copy of all process, pleadings, and orders served ...." 28 U.S.C. § 1446(a).
When confronted with a motion to remand a case to state court, the removing party has the burden of establishing the propriety of removal. See Batoff v. State Farm Ins. Co., 977 F.2d 848, 851 (3d Cir. 1992) (removing party carries "heavy burden of persuasion"); Boyer v. Snap-on Tools Corp., 913 F.2d 108, 111 (3d Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 1085, 112 L. Ed. 2d 1046, 111 S. Ct. 959 (1991); Steel Valley Auth. v. Union Switch and Signal Div., Am. Standard, Inc., 809 F.2d 1006, 1011 (3d Cir. 1987), cert. dismissed, 484 U.S. 1021 (1988); Garcia v. General Motors Corp., 910 F. Supp. 160, 162 (D.N.J. 1995); Moore v. DeBiase, 766 F. Supp. 1311, 1315 (D.N.J. 1991); Mountain Ridge State Bank v. Investor Funding Corp., 763 F. Supp. 1282, 1288 (D.N.J. 1991); Davis v. Baer, 599 F. Supp. 776, 779 (E.D.Pa. 1984). Removal statutes, moreover, "are to be strictly construed against removal and all doubts are to be resolved in favor of remand."
Boyer, 913 F.2d at 111 (quoting Steel Valley, 809 F.2d at 1010); see Garcia, 910 F. Supp. at 102; Moore, 766 F. Supp. at 1314; Mountain Ridge, 763 F. Supp. at 1288.
The removing party must show Federal subject matter jurisdiction exists and that removal is proper. Batoff, 977 F.2d at 851; Boyer, 913 F.2d at 111; Steel Valley, 809 F.2d at 1011; Garcia, 910 F. Supp. at 102; Moore, 766 F. Supp. at 1315; Mountain Ridge, 763 F. Supp. 1282 at 1288; Capone v. Harris Corp., 694 F. Supp. 111, 112 (E.D.Pa. 1988). Defendants assert Federal question jurisdiction. Defendants Brief at 10 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b)). Plaintiffs argue, however, removal was improper because the State Complaint is based solely on state law claims. Plaintiffs Brief at 4. As mentioned, diversity does not exist among the parties.
Federal question jurisdiction exists if the action "arises under ... the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331. To determine whether a case "arises under" Federal law, a court must look to the allegations of the plaintiff's "well-pleaded complaint." Franchise Tax Bd. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 10, 77 L. Ed. 2d 420, 103 S. Ct. 2841 (1983); accord United Jersey Banks v. Parell, 783 F.2d 360, 365 (3d Cir.), cert. denied sub nom., First Fidelity Bancorporation v. Parell, 476 U.S. 1170, 90 L. Ed. 2d 979, 106 S. Ct. 2892 (1986). As generally interpreted, "a right or immunity created by the Constitution or laws of the United States must be an element, and an essential one, of the plaintiff's cause of action." Franchise Tax Bd., 463 U.S. at 10-11 (quoting Gully v. First Nat'l Bank, 299 U.S. 109, 112, 81 L. Ed. 70, 57 S. Ct. 96 (1936)) (emphasis added); accord Parell, 783 F.2d at 365; New Jersey State AFL-CIO v. New Jersey, 747 F.2d 891, 892 (3d Cir. 1984).
It is a settled principle of Federal jurisdiction jurisprudence that a Federal question must appear on the face of the complaint, and Federal jurisdiction cannot be created by anticipating a defense based on Federal law. Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392, 96 L. Ed. 2d 318, 107 S. Ct. 2425 (1987); Franchise Tax Bd., 463 U.S. at 10 (a defendant may not remove a case to Federal court unless the plaintiff's complaint establishes that the case "arises under" Federal law); American Fire & Casualty Co. v. Finn, 341 U.S. 6, 14, 95 L. Ed. 702, 71 S. Ct. 534 (1951) ("we look to the plaintiff's pleading, which controls"); Louisville & Nashville R.R. v. Mottley, 211 U.S. 149, 152, 53 L. Ed. 126, 29 S. Ct. 42 (1908); accord Parell, 783 F.2d at 365.
Indeed, the plaintiff is master of his or her claim and may choose not to assert an available Federal right and rely only on state law. Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 392; Great Northern Ry. v. Alexander, 246 U.S. 276, 282, 62 L. Ed. 713, 38 S. Ct. 237 (1918); The Fair v. Kohler Die & Specialty Co., 228 U.S. 22, 25, 57 L. Ed. 716, 33 S. Ct. 410 (1913); accord Parell, 783 F.2d 360 at 365-66; see also 14A Charles A. Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Edward H. Cooper, Federal Practice & Procedure § 3722, at 266-68 (2d ed. 1985). If a claim can be maintained on both state and Federal grounds, the plaintiff has the option to defeat removal by ignoring the Federal question and only asserting the state law claim. Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 392 ("the rule makes the plaintiff the master of the claim; he or she may avoid Federal jurisdiction by exclusive reliance on state law"); Great Northern Ry., 246 U.S. at 282; Fair, 228 U.S. at 25; accord Sullivan v. First Affiliated Sec., Inc., 813 F.2d 1368, 1372 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 850 (1987); see also 1A James WM. Moore, Moore's Federal Practice P 0.160[3.-3], at 231-32 (2d ed. 1996).
"It is an independent corollary of the well-pleaded complaint rule[, however,] that a plaintiff may not defeat removal by omitting to plead necessary Federal questions in a complaint." Franchise Tax Bd., 463 U.S. at 22 (citation omitted). Under this "artful pleading" corollary principle, a court will not allow a plaintiff to deny a defendant a Federal forum when the plaintiff's complaint contains a Federal claim "artfully pleaded" as a state claim. Parell, 783 F.2d at 367; see also Eitmann v. New Orleans Public Serv., Inc., 730 F.2d 359, 365 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 1018, 83 L. Ed. 2d 359, 105 S. Ct. 433 (1984); 14A Federal Practice & Procedure § 3722, at 268-76.
To establish artful pleading, the removing party must demonstrate the Federal issue is necessary to the action. Indeed, the "mere presence of a Federal issue in a state cause of action does not automatically confer Federal-question jurisdiction." Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Thompson, 478 U.S. 804, 813, 92 L. Ed. 2d 650, 106 S. Ct. 3229 (1986) (footnote omitted); Gully, 299 U.S. at 115 ("not every question of Federal law emerging in a suit is proof that a Federal law is the basis of the suit"). Rather, Federal question jurisdiction extends only to those cases in which a well-pleaded complaint establishes either Federal law creates the cause of action, or the plaintiff's right to relief necessarily depends on resolution of a substantial question of Federal law. Franchise Tax Bd., 463 U.S. at 13; see also Christianson v. Colt Indus. Operating Corp., 486 U.S. 800, 808-10, 100 L. Ed. 2d 811, 108 S. Ct. 2166 (1988).
For example, in Federal Dep't Stores, Inc. v. Moitie, the action removed from state court tracked the complaint of an earlier Federal antitrust action by the same plaintiff that had been dismissed, after review on the merits, for failure to state a claim. 452 U.S. 394, 395-97 (1981). Concluding in a footnote there was Federal jurisdiction, the Supreme Court held the claims had "sufficient Federal character to support removal." Id. at 397 n.2. The result in Moitie cannot be applied to this action because of significant differences in the procedural histories of the two cases.
In Moitie, judgment dismissing the Federal antitrust claims was granted in the first filed suit on the ground plaintiffs had not alleged an "injury" to their "business or property" within the meaning of section 4 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. § 15. Id. at 396-97. Final judgment on the merits of an action precludes the parties from relitigating issues. Id. at 398. In fact, the bulk of the Moitie opinion focuses on unrelated issues involving claim preclusion.
Several of the other cases heavily relied upon by Defendants are similarly not applicable to this case because, as in Moitie, issues of claim and issue preclusion factored into their results. For example, in Salveson v. Western States Bankcard Ass'n, 731 F.2d 1423 (9th Cir. 1984), summary judgment was granted in the first filed suit on the ground the suit was barred by the statute of limitations. Id. at 1426. Following entry of the judgment, the plaintiffs filed another action in state court. Id. In deciding a motion to remand, the court held the state claims "were actually artfully pleaded Federal claims [to which claim preclusion] properly applied." Id. Likewise, in Hartley v. Mentor Corp., 869 F.2d 1469 (Fed.Cir. 1989), the court determined the validity of the '274 patent was at issue; the same issue determined in a prior litigation. Id. at 1471.
Significantly, the voluntary dismissal of the Amended Federal Complaint came at a time when motions to dismiss were pending. The motions to dismiss had been fully briefed and oral argument had been adjourned at the request of defense counsel. Notwithstanding the "ready nature" of the motions to dismiss, at oral argument on 23 November 1994, counsel for Plaintiffs requested leave to voluntarily withdraw the Amended Federal Complaint. Counsel for Defendants did not request a ruling on the motions to dismiss; on the contrary, they did not oppose the request to voluntarily dismiss. Accordingly, an order of dismissal pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(a)(1) was filed on 28 November 1994. The merits of the motions to dismiss were not addressed.
Unlike the situation in Moitie, the Amended Federal Complaint was voluntarily dismissed by Plaintiffs before the merits of the action were addressed. The State Complaint is not comprised of disguised Clayton and Sherman Act claims against which a final opinion has been previously rendered.
This Circuit applies the artful pleading doctrine "with circumscription." See Parell, 783 F.2d at 368.
Unless applied with circumscription, the artful pleading doctrine may raise difficult issues of Federal-state relations. An expansive application of the doctrine could effectively abrogate the rule that a plaintiff is master of his or her complaint.