423 U.S. 336 (1976), 74-206, Thermtron Products, Inc. v. Hermansdorfer

Docket Nº:No. 74-206
Citation:423 U.S. 336, 96 S.Ct. 584, 46 L.Ed.2d 542
Party Name:Thermtron Products, Inc. v. Hermansdorfer
Case Date:January 20, 1976
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 336

423 U.S. 336 (1976)

96 S.Ct. 584, 46 L.Ed.2d 542

Thermtron Products, Inc.

v.

Hermansdorfer

No. 74-206

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 20, 1976

Argued October 7, 1975

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Title 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) provides that "any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction" may be removed by the defendant to the federal [96 S.Ct. 586] district court, and § 1446 provides the removal procedure. Section 1447(c) provides for remand to the state court on the ground that the case was removed "improvidently and without jurisdiction," and § 1447(d) imposes a general bar against appellate review of a remand order. After two citizens of Kentucky had brought a damages action against petitioners, an Indiana corporation and its employee, a citizen of Indiana, petitioners removed the action to the Federal District Court under §§ 1441(a) and 1446. Thereafter respondent, the District Judge, though conceding that petitioners had the statutory right to remove the action to federal court, ordered the case remanded to the state court for trial, solely on the ground that his heavy docket would unjustly delay the plaintiffs from going to trial on the merits. Petitioners then filed in the Court of Appeals an alternative petition for a writ of mandamus or prohibition on the ground that the action had been properly removed, and that respondent lacked authority to remand the case on the ground that he had asserted. The Court of Appeals denied the petition after concluding that (1) the District Court had jurisdiction to enter the remand order and (2) the Court of Appeals because of § 1447(d) had no jurisdiction to review that order. Petitioners concede that § 1447(d) prohibits appellate review of all remand orders issued pursuant to § 1447(c), whether erroneous or not, but maintain that the bar does not apply to remand on a ground not authorized by § 1447(c).

Held:

1. The District Court exceeded its authority in remanding the case on grounds not permitted by § 1447(c). Pp. 342-345.

2. Section 1447(d), when construed as it must be in conjunction with § 1447(c), does not bar appellate review by mandamus of a remand order made on grounds not specified in § 1447(c),

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there being no indication either in the language or the legislative history of the provision that Congress intended to extend the bar against review to reach remand orders not based on statutory grounds. Pp. 345-352.

3. Here, where the District Court had refused to adjudicate a case, and had remanded it on grounds not authorized by the removal statutes, mandamus was the proper remedy to compel the District Court to entertain the remanded action. Pp. 35353.

Reversed and remanded.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, J., joined, post, p. 353. STEVENS, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

WHITE, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The questions in this case are whether a Federal District Judge may remand a properly removed diversity case for reasons not authorized by statute, and, if not, whether such remand order may be remedied by writ of mandamus.

I

On April 9, 1973, two citizens and residents of Kentucky filed an action in a Kentucky state court against Thermtron Products, Inc., an Indiana corporation without office or place of business in Kentucky, and one Larry Dean Newhard, an employee of Thermtron and a citizen and resident of Indiana, seeking damages for injuries arising out of an automobile accident between plaintiffs' automobile and a vehicle driven by Newhard.

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Service on the defendants, who are petitioners here, was by substituted service on the Secretary of State of the Commonwealth, pursuant to Kentucky law. Later that month, petitioners removed the cause to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky pursuant [96 S.Ct. 587] to 28 U.S.C. §§ 14411 and 1446.2 The

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case was assigned a number, and the defendants filed their answer and later proceeded with discovery. On February 5, 1974, respondent judge issued an order in the case which recited that the action "was removed from the Pike Circuit Court, Pike County, Kentucky, on April 30, 1973, pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1446," that his court had reviewed its entire civil docket and found "that there is no available time in which to try the above-styled action in the foreseeable future," and that an adjudication of the merits of the case would be expedited in the state court. Record 31. The order then called upon the defendants to show cause "why the ends of justice do not require this matter [to] be remanded to the Pike Circuit Court. . . ." Ibid. In response to the

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order, petitioners asserted that they believed they could not have a fair and impartial trial in the state courts, that the cause had been properly removed pursuant to the applicable statutes, that petitioners had a federal right to have the cause tried in the federal court, that respondent had no discretion to remand the case merely because of a crowded docket, and that there was no other legal ground for the remand.

On March 22, 1974, respondent filed a memorandum opinion and order remanding [96 S.Ct. 588] the case to the Pike Circuit Court. The opinion noted petitioners' contention that they had a "right" to remove the action by properly invoking 28 U.S.C. § 1441, and remarked that "[t]he court must concede that fact." Record 36. That right, the opinion then stated, nevertheless had to be "balanced against the plaintiffs' right to a forum of their choice and their right to a speedy decision on the merits of their cause of action." Ibid. Because of the District Court's crowded docket and because other cases had priority on available trial time,3 "plaintiffs' right of redress

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is being severely impaired," which "would not be the case if the cause had not been removed from the state courts." Id. at 37. Remarking that the purpose of the removal statute was to prevent prejudice in local courts and being of the view that petitioners had made no showing of possible prejudice that might follow from remand, respondent then ordered the case remanded.4

Petitioners then filed in the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit their alternative petition for writ of mandamus or prohibition, requesting relief on the ground that the action had been properly removed and that respondent had no authority or discretion whatsoever to remand the case on the ground asserted by him. Based on the petition and respondent's response, the Court of Appeals denied the petition after concluding (1) that the District Court had jurisdiction to enter the order for remand and (2) that the Court of Appeals

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had no jurisdiction to review that order or to issue mandamus because of the prohibition against appellate review contained in 28 U.S.C. § 1447(d). We granted the petition for certiorari, 420 U.S. 923 (1975), and now reverse.

II

Title 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) provides that, unless otherwise expressly provided by Act of Congress, "any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction," may be removed by the defendant to the district court of the United States.5 Section 1446 provides the procedure for removal,6 and a case removed under that section may be remanded only in accordance with § 1447, which governs procedure [96 S.Ct. 589] after removal. Section 1447(c) provides in part:

If at any time before final judgment it appears that the case was removed improvidently and without jurisdiction, the district court shall remand the case, and may order the payment of just costs.

The following section, § 1447(d), generally forbids review of remand orders:

An order remanding a case to the State court from which it was removed is not reviewable on appeal or otherwise, except that an order remanding a case to the State court from which it is removed pursuant to section 1443 of this title shall be reviewable by appeal or otherwise.7

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It is unquestioned in this case and conceded by petitioners that this section prohibits review of all remand orders issued pursuant to § 1447(c) whether erroneous or not and whether review is sought by appeal or by extraordinary writ. This has been the established rule under § 1447(d) and its predecessors stretching back to 1887. See, e.g., In re Pennsylvania Co., 137 U.S. 451 (1890); Ex parte Matthew Addy S.S. Co., 256 U.S. 417 (1921); Employers Reinsurance Corp. v. Bryant, 299 U.S. 374 (1937); United States v. Rice, 327 U.S. 742 (1946). If a trial judge purports to remand a case on the ground that it was removed "improvidently and without jurisdiction," his order is not subject to challenge in the court of appeals by appeal, by mandamus, or otherwise.

The issue before us now is whether § 1447(d) also bars review where a case has been properly removed and the remand order is issued on grounds not authorized by § 1447(c). Here, respondent did not purport to proceed on the basis that this case had been removed "improvidently and without jurisdiction." Neither the propriety of the removal nor the jurisdiction of the court

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was questioned by respondent in the slightest.8 Section 1447(c) was not even mentioned. Instead, the District Court's order was based on grounds wholly different from those upon which § 1447(c) permits remand. The determining factor was the District Court's heavy docket, which respondent thought...

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