Perkins v. Halex Co. Div. of Scott Fetzer

Decision Date03 August 1990
Docket NumberNo. 090-895.,090-895.
Citation744 F. Supp. 169
PartiesVelma PERKINS, Plaintiff, v. The HALEX COMPANY DIVISION OF SCOTT FETZER, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Ohio

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

Daniel T. Todt, Daniel T. Todt & Assoc., Cleveland, Ohio, for plaintiff.

Martin S. List, Frank W. Buck, Duvin Cahn & Barnard, Cleveland, Ohio, for Halex Co.

Stephen J. Hopp, Jacobson, Maynard, Tuschman & Kalur, Cleveland, Ohio, for Kaufman.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

BATTISTI, District Judge.

This employment discrimination case, removed under the ever problematic language of 28 U.S.C. § 1441(c) separate and independent claims — see Notice of Removal at 2, ¶ 3, raises a thorny jurisdictional problem. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) and Rule 12(h)(3), the Court, sua sponte, examines the statutory basis for removal. In light of Finley v. U.S., 490 U.S. 545, 109 S.Ct. 2003, 104 L.Ed.2d 593 (1989) (the death knell for pendent-party jurisdiction) and its subsequent application in Stallworth v. City of Cleveland, 893 F.2d 830 (6th Cir.1990), pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) this case must be REMANDED to the Court of Common Pleas, Cuyahoga County.

A. Facts

On April 18, 1990, Plaintiff Velma Perkins ("Perkins"), a black female — Complaint at ¶¶ 3, 5, filed a Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 90-188211-CV, against Defendant The Halex/Scott Fetzer Company1 ("Halex") alleging, inter alia, claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and against Defendant Richard S. Kaufman, M.D. ("Dr. Kaufman"), alleging various state law claims. The claims surround the discharge of Perkins from her employment at Halex. On May 17, 1990, Halex and Dr. Kaufman jointly removed this action to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(c). Notice of Removal at ¶ 3. Dispositive to the jurisdictional inquiry are: 1) the federal claim asserted solely against Halex under Title VII and the state law claims asserted against Halex; and 2) the purely state law claims asserted against Dr. Kaufman.2

B. Statutory Removal

Since federal courts are courts of limited, as opposed to general jurisdiction — Gross v. Hougland, 712 F.2d 1034, 1036 (6th Cir.1983) (Celebreeze, J.), cert. denied, 465 U.S. 1025, 104 S.Ct. 1281, 79 L.Ed.2d 684 (1984), the asserted basis for subject matter jurisdiction must be affirmatively established by the party invoking federal jurisdiction. McNutt v. General Motors Acceptance Corp. of Indiana, 298 U.S. 178, 56 S.Ct. 780, 80 L.Ed. 1135 (1936). Federal courts must carefully scrutinize the proffered basis for jurisdiction; the inquiry is, in essence, one of federalism and comity:

Due regard for the constitutional allocation of powers between the state and federal systems requires a federal court to confine itself to the jurisdiction conferred on it by Congress and permitted by the Constitution.

Gross v. Hougland, supra, at 1036 (quoting In re Carter, 618 F.2d 1093, 1098 (5th Cir.1980)).

As a means towards protecting the "constitutional allocation of powers between the state and federal systems," there is a rebuttable presumption that a federal court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Randazzo v. Eagle Picher, 117 F.R.D. 557, 559 (E.D.Pa.1987) (Lord, J.) (citing Smith v. McCullough, 270 U.S. 456, 459, 46 S.Ct. 338, 339, 70 L.Ed. 682 (1926)); 13 C. Wright, A. Miller, & E. Cooper, Federal Practice & Procedure § 3522 at 61-63 (1984). Whether the case is directly commenced in federal court, or statutorily removed, the party seeking to invoke federal jurisdiction bears the burden of rebutting the presumption against federal jurisdiction. McNutt, supra, at 189, 56 S.Ct. at 785, 80 L.Ed. 1135 (1936); Thornton v. Allstate Insurance Co., 492 F.Supp. 645, 647 (E.D.Mich.1980); Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(1).

Under the well-pleaded Complaint rule, original jurisdiction must appear on the face of the Complaint well-pleaded. Oklahoma Tax Commission v. Graham, 489 U.S. 838, ___, 109 S.Ct. 1519, 1521, 103 L.Ed.2d 924, 928-29 (1989); Louisville & Nashville R. Co. v. Mottley, 211 U.S. 149, 29 S.Ct. 42, 53 L.Ed. 126 (1908). The right of a defendant or defendants to remove rests entirely by statutory provision, such provisions are strictly construed, and all doubts are resolved against removal.3 Shamrock Oil & Gas v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 108-09, 61 S.Ct. 868, 872, 85 L.Ed. 1214 (1941); 14A C. Wright, A. Miller, & E. Cooper, Federal Jurisdiction & Procedure § 3721 at 215-217 (2d ed. 1985).

In the case sub judice, the asserted basis for removal jurisdiction is 28 U.S.C. § 1441(c), which provides:

(c) Whenever a separate and independent claim or cause of action, which would be removable if sued upon alone, is joined with one or more otherwise non-removable claims or causes of action, the entire case may be removed and the district court may determine all issues therein, or in its discretion, may remand all matters not otherwise within its original jurisdiction.

In American Fire & Casualty Insurance Co. v. Finn, 341 U.S. 6, 71 S.Ct. 534, 95 L.Ed. 702 (1951), the Supreme Court construed § 1441(c), as amended in 1948, as providing a removal standard additional to § 1441(a), but adopted a strict view of the terms "separate and independent." Finn held that "where there is a single wrong to the plaintiff, for which relief is sought, arising from an interlocked series of transactions, there is no separate and independent claim or cause of action under § 1441(c)." 341 U.S. at 14, 71 S.Ct. at 540. Other Circuits have refined the Finn test: Union Planters National Bank of Memphis v. CBS, Inc., 557 F.2d 84, 89, 90 n. 3 (6th Cir.1977) ("The word `separate' means distinct; apart from; not united or associated. The word `independent' means not resting on something else for support; selfsustaining; not contingent or conditioned." (citing Snow v. Powell, 189 F.2d 172, 174 (10th Cir.1951)); Moore v. United Services, 819 F.2d 101, 103 (5th Cir.1987) (A "claim is not separate and independent if it is contingent on the other claim.")

C. "Pendent" vs. "Separate and Independent"

Under Finn and its progeny, separate and independent claims differ from pendent claims — which derive from "a common nucleus of operative fact." United Mine Workers of America v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 86 S.Ct. 1130, 16 L.Ed.2d 218 (1966); 14A C. Wright, A. Miller, & E. Cooper, Federal Practice & Procedure § 3724 at 399-400 (Under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b) "federal courts can exercise pendent claim jurisdiction over a jurisdictionally insufficient nonfederal claim that is so closely related to a federal question"). There may be a middle ground of claims "too distant to be pendent, too close to be `separate and independent.'" Charles D. Bonanno Linen Service, Inc. v. McCarthy, 708 F.2d 1, 9 (1st Cir.) (Breyer, J.), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 936, 104 S.Ct. 346, 78 L.Ed.2d 312 (1983); Allor v. Amicon Corp., 631 F.Supp. 326, 334 (E.D.Mich.1986).

Some additional differences between pendent jurisdiction and the removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1441(c) are worth noting. Pendent jurisdiction, enunciated in Gibbs,4 recognizes that under Article III, there is a broad judicial power to hear an entire constitutional "case" involving federal and closely related state claims. In exercising the discretionary power, trial courts should look to "considerations of judicial economy, convenience and fairness to litigants" and should avoid needless decisions of state law. Gibbs, 383 U.S. at 726, 86 S.Ct. at 1139. The removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1441(c), enacted by Congress, is an affirmative grant of federal jurisdiction. Its legislative history shows that Congress meant to curtail removal — see American Fire & Casualty Insurance Co. v. Finn, 341 U.S. 6, 71 S.Ct. 534, 95 L.Ed. 702 (1951). It too has an element of discretion: the Court may remand jurisdictionally insufficient main case. 14A C. Wright, A. Miller, & E. Cooper, Federal Practice & Procedure, § 3724 at 394-95 (2d ed. 1984).

D. Pendent-Party and Pendent Claim Jurisdiction

Pendent-party jurisdiction is a variant of pendent claim jurisdiction.5 Although there is a common nucleus of operative fact, pendent-party jurisdiction involves "jurisdiction over parties not named in any claim that is independently cognizable by the federal court." Finley v. United States, 490 U.S. 545, 109 S.Ct. 2003, 2006, 104 L.Ed.2d 593 (1989). Without an independent basis of federal jurisdiction, e.g., federal question or diversity, the pendent-party is an additional party who is not already before the court.

In this case, which arises under the removal statute, the claims against Dr. Kaufman are not federal in nature; no cause of action is asserted against Dr. Kaufman under Title VII, nor is he an "employer" under Title VII. The claims asserted against him sound entirely upon state law. The Defendants allege that jurisdiction over the state law claims "are cognizable as pendent claims" Notice of Removal at ¶ 3. Thus, he is a pendent-party.

Additionally, along with the Title VII claim, there are pendent-claims asserted against Halex.

Although this case arises in the context of removal, this Court must apply the holding of Finley v. United States, 490 U.S. 545, 109 S.Ct. 2003, 104 L.Ed.2d 593 (1989) and Stallworth v. City of Cleveland, 893 F.2d 830 (6th Cir.1990) (Gilmore, J.).

In Finley, the Supreme Court held that Congress did not intend in the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. § 1346, to permit pendent-party jurisdiction. In that case, the plaintiff's decedents were killed when their plane struck electric power lines on an approach to a city-run airfield in San Diego, California. The widow sued the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA") under the FTCA for alleged negligence. She later sought to amend her Complaint to add state law claims against the City of San Diego and the utility company that maintained the power lines. Although there was no independent jurisdictional basis against the City or the...

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