Schroeder v. Trans World Airlines, Inc.

Decision Date24 March 1983
Docket NumberNos. 80-5486,s. 80-5486
Citation702 F.2d 189
Parties113 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2051, 96 Lab.Cas. P 14,192 Stuart L. SCHROEDER, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. TRANS WORLD AIRLINES, INC., a corporation; John F. Rhodes; and Does I through X, inclusive, Defendants-Appellees. Clinton L. DAVIS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. TRANS WORLD AIRLINES, INC., a corporation; John F. Rhodes; and Does I through X, inclusive, Defendants-Appellees. Melvin J. DRAKE, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. TRANS WORLD AIRLINES, INC., a corporation; John F. Rhodes; and Does I through X, inclusive, Defendants-Appellees. to 80-5488.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit

David Laufer, James H. Lehr, Shapiro, Laufer, Posell & Close, Los Angeles, Cal., for plaintiff-appellant.

James C. Roberts, Norman Wilky, Kadison, Pfaelzer, Woodard, Quinn & Rossi, Los Angeles, Cal., for defendants-appellees.

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

Before WALLACE and ANDERSON, Circuit Judges, and JAMESON, District Judge *.

J. BLAINE ANDERSON, Circuit Judge:

These separate appeals involve similar legal issues and accordingly were consolidated at oral argument and for disposition in a single opinion. They pertain to the application of federal question jurisdiction in the context of removed actions.

I. BACKGROUND

The appellants were employees of defendant Trans World Airlines, Inc., (TWA) within its Student Captain Training Program. Defendant John F. Rhodes is an employee of TWA holding the position of General Manager-Flying. As a part of his duties, Rhodes supervises and conducts the line check program of the Student Captain Program in the Los Angeles area. All three appellants were removed from the program because of "unsatisfactory performance" during the final phase and permanently demoted to Flight Engineer, in compliance with the collective bargaining agreement. Appellants' Opening Briefs, page 2a--the briefs of the parties in each case are practically identical.

The employees filed actions in state court alleging unlawful business practices which were "not provided for nor authorized" by the bargaining agreement. The complaints alleged violations of California Business and Professions Code Secs. 17200, et seq. Defendants filed a Petition for Removal for each action in the District Court for the Central District of California.

Once the actions were removed, defendants answered the complaints. In Schroeder, the court issued an order to show cause why the action should not be remanded. At the hearing, defendants orally moved to dismiss. However, in both Davis and Drake, defendants filed motions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction following the employee's motion to remand. Without opinion, the district courts entered orders dismissing the actions. In Drake, the order also denied Drake's motion to remand. Notices of Appeal were timely filed in all three actions.

On appeal, defendants argue the district court erred in dismissing their respective actions and failing to remand to the state court. Appellants challenge the action because their complaints assert violation of state law, not federal. In addition, appellants argue it was improper for the court to consider any facts alleged in the Petition for Removal.

II. DISCUSSION
A. Removal

We look first to the removal of these actions. The plaintiff is generally considered master of his complaint and free to decide the forum in which to bring his action. This principle is not without limitation, however. Avco Corp. v. Aero Lodge No. 735, I.A.M. & A.W., 390 U.S. 557, 88 S.Ct. 1235, 20 L.Ed.2d 126 (1968); Lambert Run Coal Co. v. Baltimore & Ohio R. Co., 258 U.S. 377, 383, 42 S.Ct. 349, 351, 66 L.Ed. 671, 675 (1922); Sheeran v. General Electric Co., 593 F.2d 93, 96-7 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 868, 100 S.Ct. 143, 62 L.Ed.2d 93 (1979). Our judiciary has been established with separate and independent state and federal court systems. Congress saw the importance of a federal court system and created a mechanism for a defendant to gain access to a federal tribunal though the plaintiff brings his action in state court. Title 28 United States Code Sec. 1441, the general removal statute, states:

"(a) Except as 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 or the defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending.

"(b) 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. Any other such action shall be removable only if none of the parties in interest properly joined and served as defendants is a citizen of the State in which such action is brought."

Upon the filing of a petition for removal, the district court analyzes the complaint to determine if federal jurisdiction could be invoked, either by diversity or federal question. It is proper to use the petition for removal to clarify the action plaintiff presents and to determine if it encompasses an action within federal jurisdiction. In a case removed based upon diversity, it will frequently be necessary for the defendant to state the facts showing citizenship since it may not appear in the complaint. See generally, Fristoe v. Reynolds Metal Co., 615 F.2d 1209 (9th Cir.1980) (recharacterizes state law claim as federal), and 14 Wright, Miller & Cooper, Federal Practice and Procedure, Sec. 3721 at 530-32 (1976). (For a discussion of the competing principles, see Comment, Intimations of Federal Removal Jurisdiction in Labor Cases: The Pleading Nexus, 1981 Duke Law Journal 743-764.)

Similarly, jurisdiction based upon the presence of a federal question may not be evident from the language of the complaint. It is clear from plaintiffs' complaints here, they intended to avoid application of federal law and relied solely on state law to articulate their claims. However, viewing the complaint with the additional facts in the petition for removal, we see the nature of plaintiffs' complaints is a grievance or dispute between an employee and his employer. This dispute involves removal from the captain training program, salary and conditions of employment. Such topics are discussed in the collective bargaining agreement between TWA and the Air Line Pilots in the Service of TWA (represented by The Air Line Pilots Association, International). Artful pleading by the plaintiff will not be allowed to conceal the true nature of the complaint. See Magnuson v. Burlington Northern, Inc., 576 F.2d 1367, 1369 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 930, 99 S.Ct. 318, 58 L.Ed.2d 323 (1978); Johnson v. England, 356 F.2d 44 (9th Cir.,) cert. denied, 384 U.S. 961, 86 S.Ct. 1587, 16 L.Ed.2d 673 (1966).

The Railway Labor Act is applicable to air carriers and terms of employment with them. 49 Stat. 1189, 45 U.S.C. Secs. 181, et seq. (1936). The application of this statute and the necessity of its interpretation establish the existence of a federal question as an essential element of plaintiffs' cause of action, providing the basis for removal. The district courts acted properly in granting the petitions for removal.

B. Dismissal

Once the actions were properly removed, the court was presented with defendants' Answers, including preemption as an affirmative defense, and a Motion to Dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. The district courts, in examining these motions, looked to the language of the Railway Labor Act and concluded Congress intended to completely occupy the area. (Schroeder, Vol. 2 Clerk's Record, Order Dismissing Action page 2; Drake, Vol. 2 Clerk's Record, Order Denying Motion to Remand and Dismissing Action, page 2; Davis, Reporter's Transcript of June 2, 1980, page 4.)

The Railway Labor Act requires matters involving "minor disputes" (the interpretation of a current collective bargaining agreement) to be brought according to its grievance procedures. Andrews v. Louisville & Nashville R. Co., 406 U.S. 320, 323, 92 S.Ct. 1562, 1564, 32 L.Ed.2d 95, 99 (1972). The Supreme Court, in reviewing this action brought in state court seeking damages for "wrongful discharge" and then removed to federal court, recognized the Act in some situations "makes the federal administrative remedy exclusive, rather than merely requiring...

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