entwined. Therefore, the defendants argue, the plaintiff asserts a "classic cause of action pursuant to Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act." (Union Reply Br. at 3). On March 26, the plaintiff moved to remand the case contending that although he could have asserted a federal cause of action, he intentionally limited his request for recovery to the NJLAD and, consequently, should be permitted to proceed in state court.
Following removal to federal court, a plaintiff may obtain a remand to state court "[if] at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction." 28 U.S.C. 1447(c). The defendants, alleging that federal question jurisdiction exists, removed the action to this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441.
The alleged basis for original jurisdiction is federal question or "arising under" jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. 1441(b). It is well settled that "removal statutes are to be 'strictly construed against removal and all doubts should be resolved in favor of remand.'" Angus v. Shiley, Inc., 989 F.2d 142, 145 (3d Cir. 1993) (quoting Boyer v. Snap-On-Tools Corp., 913 F.2d 108, 111 (3d Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 1085, 111 S. Ct. 959, 112 L. Ed. 2d 1046 (1991)), see also Steel Valley Author. v. Union Switch & Signal Div., 809 F.2d 1006, 1010 (3d Cir. 1987), cert. dismissed sub nom American Standard, Inc. v. Steel Valley Authority, 484 U.S. 1021, 108 S. Ct. 739, 98 L. Ed. 2d 756 (1988). Although courts must focus on the plaintiff's complaint at the time the petition for removal was filed, courts have a continuing obligation to monitor jurisdiction after removal. Steel Valley, 809 F.2d at 1010.
The plaintiff seeks to remand, arguing that pursuant to the well-pleaded complaint rule federal jurisdiction must be found on the face of the plaintiffs "well-pleaded complaint." A defendant may remove only those state court actions that originally could have been brought in federal court. According to the well-pleaded complaint rule, "where a plaintiff's complaint on its face states only state law cases of action, the fact that issues of federal law may be involved, as in the nature of a defense, will not suffice to create federal question jurisdiction." Carrington v. RCA Global Communications, Inc., 762 F. Supp. 632, 636 (D.N.J. 1991). The Supreme Court has recognized that this rule was designed to make the plaintiff "master of the claim." Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392, 107 S. Ct. 2425, 2429, 96 L. Ed. 2d 318 (1987). Further, the Court has recognized that a case may not be removed to federal court on the basis of a federal defense, "including the defense of preemption, even if the defense is anticipated in the plaintiff's complaint, and even if both parties concede that the federal defense is the only question truly at issue." See Id. at 393, 107 S. Ct. at 2430 (citing Franchise Tax Bd. of Cal. v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust for Southern Cal., 463 U.S. 1, 12, 103 S. Ct. 2841, 2847-48, 77 L. Ed. 2d 420 (1983)).
However, the defendants rely upon the "independent corollary" to the well-pleaded complaint rule: the complete preemption doctrine. The complete preemption doctrine applies in those circumstances in which "the pre-emptive force of a [federal] statute is so 'extraordinary' that it 'converts an ordinary state common law complaint into one stating a federal claim for purposes of the well-pleaded complaint rule.' . . . Once an area of state law has been completely pre-empted, any claim purportedly based on that pre-empted state law is considered, from its inception, a federal claim, and therefore arises under federal law." Id. at 392, 107 S. Ct. at 2430 (quoting Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 61, 107 S. Ct. 1542, 1547, 95 L. Ed. 2d 55 (1987)); see also, Spellman v. Meridian Bank, F.3d , 1995 U.S. App. LEXIS 37149, 1995 WL 764548, * 3-4 (3d Cir. 1995), Kozar v. AT&T, 923 F. Supp. 67, 1996 WL 203017 (D.N.J. 1996).
The Third Circuit, recognizing the "very limited area in which a federal court in a case removed from a state court is authorized to recharacterize what purports to be a state law claim as a claim arising under a federal statute" (Spellman, at *3 (quoting Railway Labor Exec. Ass'n v. Pittsburgh & Lake Erie R. Co., 858 F.2d 936, 942 (3d Cir. 1988))), has adopted a two-pronged test by which a federal court may determine whether it is authorized to assert complete preemption jurisdiction:
First the court must determine that 'the statute relied upon by the defendant as preemptive contains civil enforcement provisions within the scope of which the plaintiff's state claim falls.' [Railway Labor, 858 F.2d] at 942 (citing Franchise Tax Board, 463 U.S. at 24, 26, 103 S. Ct. at 2854, 2855). Second, the court must find 'a clear indication of a Congressional intention to permit removal despite the plaintiff's exclusive reliance on state law.' Id.
Spellman, at *3.
In Carrington v. RCA Global Communications, Inc., 762 F. Supp. 632 (D.N.J. 1991), Judge Debevoise had occasion to address the application of the complete preemption doctrine in a case very similar to the case before this court. The Carrington plaintiff brought an action against his former employer and his former union alleging that the defendants discriminated against him in violation of the NJLAD when they terminated his employment, and the defendant union discriminated against him "by failing to advocate the plaintiff's position with the RCA management, failing to advise plaintiff of his grievance and appeal rights under the collective bargaining agreement, and otherwise taking a passive role in connection with plaintiff's discharge," again in violation of the NJLAD. Id. at 635. The defendants moved to remand the case arguing that § 301 of the LMRA completely preempted the plaintiff's claims. The court held that the NJLAD claims were not completely preempted. Providing a full summary of Supreme Court precedent in the area of labor law and complete preemption, the court explained that the goal of obtaining a "uniform federal interpretation" of collective bargaining agreements requires "questions relating to what the parties to a labor agreement agreed, and what legal consequences were intended to flow from breaches of that agreement" to be resolved under federal law, whether those cases sounded in contract or tort law. Id. at 640 (quoting Allis-Chalmers Corp. V. Lueck, 471 U.S. 202, 211, 105 S. Ct. 1904, 1911, 85 L. Ed. 2d 206 (1985)). However, the Supreme Court further held that:
not every dispute concerning employment, or tangentially involving a provision of a collective-bargaining agreement, is pre-empted by § 301 or other provisions of federal labor law. Section 301 on its face says nothing about the substance of what private parties may agree to in a labor contract. Nor is there any suggestion that Congress, in adopting § 301, wished to give the substantive provisions of private agreements the force of federal law, ousting any inconsistent state regulation. Such a rule of law would delegate to unions and unionized employers the power to exempt themselves from whatever state labor standards they disfavored. Clearly, § 301 does not grant the parties to a collective-bargaining agreement the ability to contract for what is illegal under state law. In extending the pre-emptive effect of § 301 beyond suits for breach of contract, it would be inconsistent with congressional intent under that section to pre-empt state rules that proscribe conduct, or establish rights and obligations, independent of a labor contract.