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Bringa v. Roque

United States District Court, District of New Jersey

February 27, 2015

Alberto BRINGA, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Mayor Felix ROQUE, et al., Defendants.

OPINION

Kevin McNulty United States District Judge

This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs' motion to voluntarily dismiss Count I, the only federal-law count in the Complaint, and remand this action to the Superior Court of New Jersey, Hudson County (ECF No. 49). I decide the motion without oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78 and Local Civil Rule 78.1. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs' motion is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs are all terminated or former employees of the Town of West New York under the administration of Defendant Mayor Felix Roque (collectively, "Employees"). (See Compl. ¶¶22, 24, ECF No. 1-1). Defendants are the Mayor of West New York, the Town of West New York (the "Town") and other Town officials (collectively, "Town Defendants"). (Id. ¶¶ 11-18). The Employees allege that the Town Defendants engaged in discriminatory and retaliatory employment practices aimed at individuals whom Mayor Roque saw as political enemies. (Id. ¶¶ 25-27). On April 5, 2013, the Employees filed a Complaint in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Hudson County, asserting causes of action for political retaliation under 42 U.S.C. §1983, civil rights violations under the New Jersey Civil Rights Act ("NJCRA"), breach of contract, and violations of the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act ("NJ CEPA"). [Id. ¶¶ 86-145).

On May 24, 2013, Defendants Mayor Roque, the Town, and Defendant Commissioner Fior'Daliza Frias ("Commissioner Frias") removed the matter to this Court.[1] (Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1). The Notice asserted that this Court has subject matter jurisdiction over the case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because the Complaint contains a federal law claim under 42 U.S.C. §1983. (Id. ¶¶ 4-5). The Town Defendants requested that the Court exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the Employees' other state law claims. (Id. ¶7).

Some seven days after removal, the Employees' counsel sent a letter to the Town Defendants advising them of the Employees' intent to voluntarily dismiss the §1983 claim, and requesting the Town Defendants' consent to remand the case to state court. (Pis. Ltr., May 31, 2013, ECF No. 49-5). According to the Employees' counsel, the Town Defendants never responded to this request. (Cert, of Louis A. Zayas, Esq. ("Zayas Cert.") 6, ECF No. 49-1).

On July 1 and 3, 2013, having obtained a brief extension of time, the Town Defendants filed answers to the Complaint. (ECF Nos. 8, 9, 10).[2] On August 16, 2013, the Employees moved to amend the Complaint to add new plaintiffs and claims and to drop Count I, the §1983 count. (ECF No. 11). On September 17, 2013, the Employees wrote to District Judge Cavanaugh, to whom the case was then assigned, requesting a telephone conference to discuss their request for consent to dismiss Count I and "avoid motion practice." (Pis. Ltr., ECF No. 16). At the time, however, the motion to amend was already filed, and a Rule 16 conference was already scheduled. On September 24, 2013, the Town Defendants filed a cross-motion to dismiss the Complaint. (ECF No. 18). Having again failed to obtain defense counsel's consent to a remand, counsel for the Employees sought an extension of time to respond to the cross-motion, and consented to adjourn the Rule 16 conference pending the outcome of the motions. (ECF Nos. 23 to 27)

On April 22, 2014, the Employees filed their first motion to remand this matter to state court. (ECF No. 38). On April 30, 2014, the case was reassigned from District Judge Cavanaugh, who had retired, to me. In an Order dated May 2, 2014, Magistrate Judge Hammer denied without prejudice the Employees' motion to amend, and administratively terminated the Town Defendants' cross-motion to dismiss and the Employees' motion to remand, pending a conference with the Court. (Order ECF No. 41).

Following requested adjournments, that conference was held on July 30, 2014. On July 30, 2014, Magistrate Judge Hammer granted the Employees leave to refile their motion to remand. (See Order, July 30, 2014, ECF No. 48). That motion is now before the Court. (Pis. Mot., ECF No. 49)

II. DISCUSSION

The Employees move (a) to voluntarily dismiss Count I of the Complaint, which alleges a violation of 42 U.S.C. §1983, under Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(a)(2), and (b) to remand the remaining state law claims to state court. (Pis. Mot., ECF No. 49).

A. Voluntary Dismissal

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41 governs voluntary dismissals of civil actions. The Rule provides:

the plaintiff may dismiss an action without a court order by filing: (i) a notice of dismissal before the opposing party serves either an answer or a motion for summary judgment; or (ii) a stipulation ...

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