The opinion of the court was delivered by: Simandle, District Judge.
In the present lawsuit, plaintiff the City of Camden (the
"City") seeks compensation for its expenditures arising from
handgun-related violence within its borders, and seeks to prevent
such violence from occurring in the future. In furtherance of
these aims, the City has sued a group of 19 manufacturers and/or
distributors of firearms, three firearm industry trade
organizations, and assorted Doe defendants.
The City's complaint, filed in New Jersey Superior Court on
June 21, 1999, alleges that Camden has suffered immense hardship
as a direct result of the defendants' willful, deliberate,
reckless and negligent misconduct in the manufacture,
distribution, sale, marketing and design of their firearms.
(Complaint ¶ 2.) The City claims that as a result of defendants'
conduct, it has seen a decrease in property values, in its
population and in its tax base, and that the City's public
health, safety and peace have all suffered. (Id. at ¶ 1 & 3.)
Plaintiff further alleges that the defendants' conduct directly
helps to perpetuate an illegal secondary market in cheap handguns
which functions through "straw purchases", "kitchen table
dealers", and gun shows, and acts to supply dangerous felons with
firearms that they could not buy on their own. (Id. at ¶ 4.)
Finally, plaintiff alleges that defendants have sold products
that are unreasonably dangerous and defective because of
firearms' lack of adequate warnings and the lack of any safety
features, such as trigger guards. (Id. at ¶¶ 5-6.)
The City's complaint states seven exclusively state law-based
causes of action based on the above allegations. These are (1)
public nuisance; (2) violations of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud
Act, N.J.S.A. §§ 56:8-1 et seq.; (3) negligent distribution and
marketing; (4) defective design under the New Jersey Products
Liability Act, N.J.S.A. §§ 2A:58C-1 et seq.; negligent design
and failure to warn; and (7) unjust enrichment. (Complaint at ¶¶
78-133.) As relief, the City seeks compensatory and punitive
damages for the harm the City has suffered. (Complaint, Relief
Requested, p. 33.) The City also seeks appropriate injunctive
relief in the form of an Order requiring defendants to (1)
implement industrywide standards and training for firearms
distributors for the purpose of reducing the illegitimate
secondary market for firearms that exists in Camden and
elsewhere, (2) cease manufacturing firearms without appropriate
warnings and safety devices, (3) to fund a public education
campaign in Camden about the dangers of guns, and (4) to fund a
city-administered violence prevention program in Camden's
schools. (Complaint, Request for Injunctive Relief, p. 34.)
Notably, the City's complaint is devoid of reference to any
federal statutes, regulations or provisions of the U.S.
Constitution, and diversity of citizenship is absent since
plaintiff and several defendants are New Jersey residents.
Defendants removed the case to this Court on September 10,
1999. In their Notice of Removal, defendants assert that the
City's state law claims (1) arise under and (2) are completely
preempted by several
Constitutional provisions, namely, the Interstate and Foreign
Commerce Clause, U.S. Const. Art. I, § 8, the Import/Export
Clause, U.S. Const. Art. I, § 10, and the Due Process Clause of
the Fourteenth Amendment, U.S. Const. Amend. XIV, § 1. (Notice of
Removal ¶¶ 4-8.) Alternatively, defendants argue that the Gun
Control Act of 1968, 18 U.S.C. § 922 et seq., manifests
Congress's clear intention to preempt state law-based attempts to
regulate firearms, and should preclude plaintiff's state law
claims against defendants.
The City's present motion to remand urges this Court to return
this non-diverse case to state court because none of the City's
claims are, or could have been brought as, a federal cause of
action. Furthermore, plaintiff asserts that defendants'
preemption arguments have no basis in law. For these reasons,
plaintiff moves this Court to follow the other U.S. District
Courts that have considered the issue, and reject defendants'
position that the Commerce Clause preempts state law claims
against firearms manufacturers and merchants. See McNamara v.
Arms Technology, Inc., 71 F. Supp.2d 720 (E.D.Mich. 1999);
Archer v. Arms Technology, Inc., 72 F. Supp.2d 784 (E.D.Mich.
1999); City of Boston v. Smith & Wesson Corp., 66 F. Supp.2d 246
(D.Mass. 1999); Penelas v. Arms Technology, Inc., 71 F. Supp.2d 1251
Because it is not suggested that there is complete diversity of
citizenship between the parties, this Court's jurisdiction, if
any, must be based on a question of federal law. As a general
principle, defendants may remove to the appropriate federal
district court "any civil action brought in a State court of
which the district courts of the United States have original
jurisdiction." 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), "unless Congress expressly
provides otherwise." Rivet v. Regions Bank of Louisiana,
522 U.S. 470, 474, 118 S.Ct. 921, 139 L.Ed.2d 912 (1998).
The removal statute is "strictly construed against removal and
all doubts should be resolved in favor of remand." Boyer v.
Snap-On Tools Corp., 913 F.2d 108, 111 (3d Cir. 1990). In a
motion to remand, the removing party, as the party urging the
existence of jurisdiction, bears the burden of proving that
jurisdiction exists. Id. Hence, the party asserting federal
jurisdiction, here the defendants, must show that the case
originally could have been filed in federal court. City of
Chicago v. International College of Surgeons, 522 U.S. 156, 163,
118 S.Ct. 523, 139 L.Ed.2d 525 (1997) (hereinafter "ICS")
(citing Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392, 107
S.Ct. 2425, 96 L.Ed.2d 318 (1987); Franchise Tax Bd. of Cal. v.
Construction Laborers Vacation Trust for Southern Cal.
463 U.S. 1, 8, 103 S.Ct. 2841, 77 L.Ed.2d 420 (1983)).
The original jurisdiction of the United States District Courts
under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 is limited to cases arising under federal
law, namely, "the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United
States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Under the well-pleaded complaint rule,
a cause of action arises under federal law only when the
plaintiff's complaint raises issues of federal law. ICS, 522
U.S. at 163, 118 S.Ct. 523. The Supreme Court has stated that
under federal pleading standards, the plaintiff is the "master of
the claim", and he or she may avoid federal jurisdiction by
exclusive reliance on state law. Caterpillar, Inc., 482 U.S. at
392. If the complaint does not state a federal cause of action,
then removal is improper. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Taylor,
481 U.S. 58, 65-66, 107 S.Ct. 1542, 95 L.Ed.2d 55 (1987); Dukes
v. U.S. Healthcare, Inc., 57 F.3d 350, 353 (3d Cir. 1995).
Therefore, an anticipated or actual federal defense generally
does not qualify a case for removal. ...