641 F.3d 155 (5th Cir. 2011), 10-50029, Enochs v. Lampasas County

Docket Nº:10-50029.
Citation:641 F.3d 155
Opinion Judge:DeMOSS, Circuit Judge:
Party Name:Clarence ENOCHS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. LAMPASAS COUNTY, Defendant-Appellee.
Attorney:Delta S. Best, Allison L. Spruill (argued), Best & Spruill, P.C., Austin, TX, for Plaintiff-Appellant. Stuart Gregory Smith (argued), Enid Allyn Wade, Naman, Howell, Smith & Lee, P.L.L.C., Waco, TX, for Defendant-Appellee.
Judge Panel:Before KING, DeMOSS and PRADO, Circuit Judges. PRADO, Circuit Judge, dissenting:
Case Date:May 17, 2011
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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Page 155

641 F.3d 155 (5th Cir. 2011)

Clarence ENOCHS, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

LAMPASAS COUNTY, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 10-50029.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

May 17, 2011

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Delta S. Best, Allison L. Spruill (argued), Best & Spruill, P.C., Austin, TX, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Stuart Gregory Smith (argued), Enid Allyn Wade, Naman, Howell, Smith & Lee, P.L.L.C., Waco, TX, for Defendant-Appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas.

Before KING, DeMOSS and PRADO, Circuit Judges.

DeMOSS, Circuit Judge:

This appeal asks us to determine whether the district court abused its discretion by failing to remand the case to Texas state court after all federal claims had been deleted and only Texas state law claims remained. For the following reasons, we find that the district court abused its discretion when it denied Clarence Enochs's motion to remand. We therefore vacate the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Lampasas County on each Texas state law claim, reverse the district court's denial of Enochs's motion to remand, and remand the case with instructions to the district court to remand the Texas state law claims to the Texas state court from which the case was removed.

I.

Enochs filed an original petition in Texas state court on December 29, 2008, alleging violations of federal law under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, and violations of Texas state law under the Texas whistleblower statute, Texas Government Code § 614, and common law defamation. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441, the County removed the entire case to federal district court on January 26, 2009. On February 26, 2009, the County filed a motion to dismiss both the federal § 1985 claim and the state whistleblower claim. On March 11, 2009, Enochs filed an unopposed motion to amend the complaint to delete all federal claims, and then a separate motion to remand the case to Texas state court.

On April 20, 2009, the district court entered an order which denied Enochs's motion

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to remand because " [r]emoval was proper based on the original petition filed in the state court," and granted Enochs's motion to file an amended complaint pursuant to the district court's discretion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a). The district court also granted the County's motion to dismiss the § 1985 claim because Enochs voluntarily dropped it, and denied the County's motion to dismiss the whistleblower claim because it could not be resolved without an evidentiary record.

With respect to the denial of Enochs's motion to remand, the district court's entire analysis focused on whether removal of the case on January 26, 2009, was proper, and whether it could exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the pendent Texas state law claims in addition to exercising original jurisdiction over the federal claims. Based on the existence of two federal claims in Enochs's original petition, the district court concluded that removal was proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). And based on the existence of " a common nucleus of operative fact" between the federal claims and Texas state law claims included in the original petition, the district court concluded that supplemental jurisdiction extended over the Texas state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). The district court noted at the outset of its discussion of the motion to remand that Enochs's amended complaint deleted all federal claims from the case, but it failed to re-examine its jurisdiction over the Texas state law claims when in the same order it granted Enochs's motion to file an amended complaint.

Following the April 20, 2009 order, the case remained in the district court but involved only Texas state law claims. The parties proceeded to discovery and more than five months later the County filed motions for summary judgment on each of the Texas state law claims. Following briefing and argument on the merits of each of Enochs's Texas state law claims, the district court granted summary judgment on December 2, 2009, in favor of the County on each Texas state law claim and dismissed the case. Enochs timely appealed (i) the district court's denial of his motion to remand the case to Texas state court after all federal claims had been deleted from his original petition, and (ii) the district court's subsequent grant of County's motion for summary judgment on the remaining Texas state law claims.

II.

Enochs concedes that removal of the case to federal district court was proper and we agree. On January 26, 2009, the district court had original jurisdiction over the federal claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and supplemental jurisdiction over the Texas state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). Enochs contends, however, that the district court abused its discretion in failing to relinquish jurisdiction over the pendent Texas state law claims once it had permitted him to file an amended complaint deleting all federal claims.

The district court's failure to remand the pendent Texas state law claims to the Texas state court from which the case was removed is reviewed for abuse of discretion. Priester v. Lowndes Cnty., 354 F.3d 414, 425 (5th Cir.2004). It its April 20, 2009 order, the district court failed to analyze the statutory and common law factors that are relevant to the question of its jurisdiction over pendent state law claims. We therefore evaluate the factors in the first instance, and then determine whether the district court abused its discretion in denying Enochs's motion to remand.

In determining whether a district court improperly refused to relinquish jurisdiction

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over pendent state law claims, we look to the statutory factors set forth by 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c), and to the common law factors of judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and comity. See Mendoza v. Murphy, 532 F.3d 342, 346 (5th Cir.2008) (noting that " no single factor is dispositive" ); see also Carnegie-Mellon Univ. v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 350, 108 S.Ct. 614, 98 L.Ed.2d 720 (1988) (setting forth the common law factors). We are also instructed to guard against improper forum manipulation. Carnegie-Mellon, 484 U.S. at 357, 108 S.Ct. 614. We consider and balance each of the factors to determine whether the district court abused its discretion. See Mendoza, 532 F.3d at 346.

A.

Precedent instructs us to balance each of the statutory factors in order to determine whether a district court abused its discretion. See McClelland v. Gronwaldt, 155 F.3d 507, 519 (5th Cir.1998), overruled on other grounds by Arana v. Ochsner Health Plan, 338 F.3d 433, 440 n. 11 (5th Cir.2003). The overall balance of the statutory factors is important. See, e.g., Mendoza, 532 F.3d at 346. The statutory factors are: (1) whether the state claims raise novel or complex issues of state law; (2) whether the state claims substantially predominate over the federal claims; (3) whether the federal claims have been dismissed; and (4) whether there are exceptional circumstances or other compelling reasons for declining jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c); see also United Mine Workers of Am. v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726-27, 86 S.Ct. 1130, 16 L.Ed.2d 218 (1966) (setting forth the common law precursor to § 1367(c)).

In this case, each of the four statutory factors favors remand. The first three factors certainly favor remand: (1) Enochs's Texas Government Code § 614 claim concerns a novel Texas state law issue with no Texas Supreme Court guidance, as does his argument that § 1701.456(b) of the Texas Occupations Code has waived the County's sovereign immunity; (2) the Texas state law claims predominate over the non-existent federal claims; and (3) the district court dismissed all federal claims when it granted Enochs's motion to file an amended complaint. The fourth factor also favors remand, as the heavy balance of the common law factors in favor of remand constitutes another compelling reason to decline jurisdiction. Thus, the overall balance of the statutory factors weighs heavily in favor of remand.

B.

The common law factors as set forth in Carnegie-Mellon include judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and comity. 484 U.S. at 350, 353, 108 S.Ct. 614. We find that each factor weighs in favor of remand.

First, at the time the federal claims were deleted hardly any federal judicial resources, let alone a significant amount of resources, had been devoted to the district court's consideration of the Texas state law claims (or to any claims). See La Porte Constr. Co. v. Bayshore Nat'l Bank of La Porte, Tex., 805 F.2d 1254, 1257 (5th Cir.1986); cf. Brookshire Bros. Holding, Inc. v. Dayco Prods., Inc., 554 F.3d 595, 602 (5th Cir.2009); Newport Ltd. v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 941 F.2d 302, 308 (5th Cir.1991). There would be no need for either party to duplicate any research, discovery, briefing, hearings, or other trial preparation work, because very little had been done at that point. See Brookshire Bros., 554 F.3d at 603; Mendoza, 532 F.3d at 347. Moreover, there is no indication that the district court had any " substantial familiarity" or was intimately familiar with the Texas state law claims at such an early

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stage of the litigation. Parker & Parsley Petroleum Co. v. Dresser Indus., 972 F.2d 580, 587 (5th Cir.1992); see Smith v. Amedisys Inc., 298 F.3d 434, 446 (5th Cir.2002). The denial of the County's motion to dismiss did not require a thorough consideration of the merits of the state whistleblower claim at that early stage of the litigation, and the two other Texas state law claims had not yet even been briefed. The judicial economy factor certainly favors remand.

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