424 F.Supp. 494 (W.D.Mo. 1977), 76 CV 805-W-1, Jones Store Co., Inc. v. Hammons

Docket Nº:76 CV 805-W-1, 76 CV 808-W-1.
Citation:424 F.Supp. 494
Party Name:The JONES STORE CO., INC., Plaintiff, v. Leo HAMMONS et al., Defendants, and United States Postal Service, Garnishee. J. C. PENNEY, Plaintiff, v. Ronald PARKS, Defendant, and United States Postal Service, Garnishee.
Case Date:January 19, 1977
Court:United States District Courts, 8th Circuit, Western District of Missouri
 
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Page 494

424 F.Supp. 494 (W.D.Mo. 1977)

The JONES STORE CO., INC., Plaintiff,

v.

Leo HAMMONS et al., Defendants,

and

United States Postal Service, Garnishee.

J. C. PENNEY, Plaintiff,

v.

Ronald PARKS, Defendant,

and

United States Postal Service, Garnishee.

Nos. 76 CV 805-W-1, 76 CV 808-W-1.

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division.

Jan. 19, 1977

Page 495

Glen L. Whitaker, Kansas City, Mo., for plaintiff in No. 76 CV 805-W-1.

George E. Murray, Overland Park, Kan., for plaintiff in No. 76 CV 808-W-1.

Bert C. Hurn, U.S. Atty., J. Whitfield Moody, First Asst. U.S. Atty., Kansas City, Mo., for Garnishee.

No appearance for defendants.

JOHN W. OLIVER, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER REMANDING CASES TO STATE COURT

I.

The United States Attorney's Office has again attempted to remove two ancillary garnishment proceedings from separate Magistrate Courts for Jackson County, Missouri, in which the United States Postal Service is named as garnishee. 1 Case. No. 76 CV 805-W-1 involves an ancillary garnishment proceeding on behalf of the Jones Store Company, which recovered a $470.12 judgment against Leo Hammons, an employee of the Post Office Garage in the First District Magistrate Court for Jackson County, Missouri. The petition for removal shows on its face that, unlike the Taylor and Evans cases cited in footnote 1, the judgment obtained by the Jones Store Company against the said Leo Hammons was for an obligation "other than child support or maintenance." It is therefore clear that the garnishment involved in that case is completely outside the scope of Public Law 93-647 (January 4, 1975), as claimed in Taylor and Evans, and that the United States Attorney's Office now claims the right to remove all ancillary garnishment proceedings involving Postal Service employees regardless of the nature of the claim and regardless of the amount of the judgment rendered against the employee in the State Court.

Similar factual circumstances and identical legal contentions are involved in Case No. 76 CV 808-W-1. That case involves the ancillary garnishment proceedings in connection with a $233.87 judgment obtained by the J. C. Penney Company against Ronald Parks, a Postal Service employee, in the Sixth District Magistrate Court for Jackson County, Missouri. We are advised that still other cases pending in other Divisions

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of this Court which have been removed on the same ground.

The petitions for removal in both cases which pend in this Division allege in identical language that:

That the United States Postal Service is an agency of the United States and, as a party to this action, removal to the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri, which court has original jurisdiction of civil actions in which the United States Postal Service is a party, is proper under the provisions of Title 39, United States Code, Section 409(a) and (b), and therefore this removal is timely and proper pursuant to Title 28, United States Code, Section 1441(b).

Plaintiff's motion to remand in No. 76 CV 805-W-1 focused our attention on the obvious jurisdictional question presented by the United States Attorney's Office's most recent effort to remove State court ancillary garnishment proceedings to collect judgments rendered against employees of the Postal Service. Both cases will be remanded for the reasons we now state.

II.

While the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 generally provides in Section 409, Title 39, United States Code, that "the United States district courts shall have original but not exclusive jurisdiction over all actions brought by or against the Postal Service," that section also expressly provides that "Any action brought in a State court to which the Postal Service is a party may be removed to the appropriate United States district court under the provisions of chapter 89 of title 28."

Power and jurisdiction to remove the garnishment proceedings involved in the pending cases must therefore be found in Chapter 89 of Title 28, United States Code. For it is clear that the portion of Section 409, Title 39, United States Code, which confers concurrent jurisdiction on both the State and federal courts over actions brought by or against the Postal Service does not create an independent ground of removal. 2

Johnson v. Butler Bros., (8 Cir. 1947) 162 F.2d 87, presented the question of whether a case properly filed in a State court under a federal statute which vested original jurisdiction in both the State and federal courts could nevertheless be removed to the federal court. Section 16(b) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. s 216(b), provided that an action to recover unpaid minimum wages and actions to recover overtime "may be maintained in any court of competent jurisdiction." 3

The Eighth Circuit concluded in Johnson that when Congress created a right to maintain an action under the Fair Labor

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Standards Act and conferred concurrent jurisdiction on both the State and federal courts, it must be concluded that Congress "intended not only that the action might be commenced in any court of competent jurisdiction, but that it would be prosecuted to final judgment in the court in which it was commenced." Id. at 89.

Judge Sanborn concluded in Johnson that such a construction of a statute conferring concurrent jurisdiction on State and federal courts "does no violence to the removal statute . . . which is neither impaired nor repealed with respect to cases which properly come within its purview." Johnson further stated that "There was nothing in the practical situation with which Congress was confronted . . . which would negative an intent on its part to permit an employee to enforce his right of action in his local state courts." Id. at 89. Indeed, the Eighth Circuit cited Wingate v. General Auto Parts, (W.D.Mo.1941) 40 F.Supp. 364, to support its conclusion that "There are many obvious practical considerations which can be urged in support of the probable existence of such a Congressional intent." 4

Application of the Eighth Circuit's rationale as stated in Johnson v. Butler Bros. to the concurrent jurisdiction question presented by the language of Section 409, Title 39, U.S.Code, requires that we conclude that the language of that section, standing alone, does not create an independent right of removal on the Postal Service to remove ancillary garnishment proceedings from the State courts and that the only cases subject to removal are those which may properly be removed under the provisions of Chapter 89 of Title 28, United States Code.

We further conclude, for reasons stated in the next part of this opinion, that the Postal Service may not remove these cases under Section 1441(b), Title 28, United States Code, the only portion of Chapter 89 of Title 28, United States Code, relied upon as a basis for removal of the two cases before the Court.

III.

Each petition for removal in the two cases before the Court alleges that removal is proper under Section 1441(b), Title 28, United States Code. That section sets forth the basic removal jurisdiction of a federal court over cases involving a federal question and provides that:

Any civil action of which the district courts have original jurisdiction founded on a claim or right arising under the Constitution, treaties or laws of the United States shall be removable without regard to the citizenship or residence of the parties.

Section 1331(a), Title 28, United States Code, which sets forth the original jurisdiction of a federal court, provides that:

The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions wherein the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $10,000, exclusive of interest and costs, and arises under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.

The removal papers before the Court show on their face that neither of the ancillary garnishment proceedings which the United States Attorney's Office seeks to remove "exceeds the sum or value of...

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