United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
CHRISTINA ARMIJO, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER is before the Court upon Plaintiff Terence
Horner's (Plaintiff's) Motion to Dismiss
Defendants' Notice of Removal and Plaintiff's Motion
to Remand Case to State District Court (Motion to
Remand). [Doc. 7] The Court has considered the
parties' submissions and the relevant law, and is
otherwise fully informed. Also pending before this Court is
the parties' Joint Motion to Stay Proceedings
[Doc. 12]. That matter will be addressed by separate order.
However, the Court does not believe that a decision on the
pending Motion to Remand will have any effect on
Plaintiff's administrative remedies should a stay be
imposed and therefore believes it is the responsibility of
the Court to clarify for the parties the jurisdictional
questions based on the current state of the pleadings. For
the following reasons, the Court denies Plaintiff's
Motion to Remand.
September 1, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in
the Fourth Judicial District Court, San Miguel County, New
Mexico. [Doc. 1-2] In the three-count Complaint,
Plaintiff alleged that Defendants A'Viands, LLC and
Kristi Romero, individually and as an employee of
A'Viands, LLC (collectively, Defendants), discriminated
against him on the bases of sex and national origin contrary
to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e (“Title VII”) and the
New Mexico Human Rights Act (“the NMHRA”). [Doc.
1-2] Plaintiff also alleged that Defendants retaliated
against him contrary to Title VII and the NMHRA. [Doc. 1-2]
Finally, Plaintiff alleged that Defendants intentionally
inflicted emotional distress. [Doc 1-2]
filed a Notice of Removal on October 21, 2016 [Doc.
1], and answered the Complaint on October 28, 2016.
[Doc. 4] Defendants argued that removal to this Court is
appropriate because (1) Plaintiff's action
“involves claims that relate to the laws of the United
States; specifically, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964, 42 U.S.C. [§] 2000e” and (2) this Court has
supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state-law
claims. [Doc. 1] Plaintiff moved for remand of the entire
Complaint back to the Fourth Judicial District
Court. [Doc. 7 (Plaintiff's Motion to Remand);
Doc. 8 (Defendants' Response)] Plaintiff filed a
Notice of Completion of Briefing on Plaintiff's
Motion to Remand on December 13, 2016. [Doc. 11]
“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.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) (2012).
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, federal district courts have
original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the
Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. To
determine whether [a] claim arises under federal law,
[courts] examine the ‘well[-]pleaded' allegations
of the complaint and ignore potential defenses. . . . Under
the ‘well-pleaded complaint' rule, a suit arises
under federal law only when the plaintiff's statement of
his own cause of action shows that it is based on federal
law. . . . By omitting federal claims from a complaint, a
plaintiff can [generally] guarantee an action will be heard
in state court.
Devon Energy Prod. Co. v. Mosaic Potash Carlsbad,
Inc., 693 F.3d 1195, 1202 (10th Cir. 2012) (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted). “For a case to
arise under federal law within the meaning of § 1331,
the plaintiff's ‘well-pleaded complaint' must
establish one of two things: either that federal law creates
the cause of action or that the plaintiff's right to
relief necessarily depends on resolution of a substantial
question of federal law.” Firstenberg v. City of
Santa Fe, N.M., 696 F.3d 1018, 1023 (10th Cir. 2012)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
argues first that remand is proper because “[t]there is
no federal question presented in this lawsuit requiring
original federal jurisdiction.” [Doc. 7-1] Plaintiff
does not address directly whether federal law created the
causes of action in his Complaint. Instead,
Plaintiff attempts to downplay the fact that he included
Title VII claims in his Complaint and their
importance to his suit. Plaintiff also argues that his
state-law claims do not require resolution of a substantial
federal question. Both approaches are unavailing.
maintains that his “lawsuit arises under the NMHRA,
” that “the NMHRA is better suited for
[P]laintiff's cause of action, ” and that
“[t]he federal issue carries no significance.”
[Doc. 7-1, pgs. 4, 6] In his Complaint, however,
Plaintiff specifically states that counts 1 and 2 are based
on both Title VII and the NMHRA. [Doc. 1-2, pg. 9] Plaintiff
references exhaustion of administrative procedures with the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which are
required under Title VII. 42 U.S.C. § 5000e-5(b). [Doc.
1-2, pg. 7-8] Moreover, Plaintiff seeks attorney fees and
costs pursuant to Title VII. 42 U.S.C. § 5000e-5(k).
[Doc. 1-2, pg. 11] Thus, on its face, the Complaint
indicates that Plaintiff is seeking relief under federal law.
Cf. Fielden v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No.
03-1009-WEB, 2003 WL 1751000, at *3 (D. Kan. Mar. 27, 2003)
(stating that the plaintiff had not stated a federal claim
where “[n]o federal laws [we]re cited, no allegation
[wa]s made regarding exhaustion of EEOC administrative
remedies, and no exclusively federal relief [wa]s prayed for
in the complaint.”). As master of his
Complaint, Plaintiff could have avoided federal
jurisdiction by pleading only state-law claims.
Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392
(1987) (stating that the “well-pleaded complaint
rule” “makes the plaintiff the master of the
claim; he or she may avoid federal jurisdiction by exclusive
reliance on state law.”). Plaintiff chose not to do so,
nor has he moved to dismiss the Title VII claims from his
also relies on Gunn v. Minton to argue that federal
jurisdiction is inappropriate because his state-law claims do
not implicate a federal issue that is: “(1) necessarily
raised, (2) actually disputed, (3) substantial, and (4)
capable of resolution in federal court without disrupting the
federal-state balance approved by Congress.” 133 S.Ct.
1059, 1065 (2013). However, this analysis is necessary only
if the first prong of the jurisdictional analysis-whether the
Complaint alleges a cause of action that is created
by federal law-is unsatisfied. Here, Plaintiff's Title
VII claims are clearly created by federal law. Thus, there is
no need to address this argument further.
Plaintiff argues that “[t]here is no basis for this
[C]ourt to agree to take supplemental jurisdiction over the
state[-]law claims” because the state-law claims
“substantially predominate the Title VII claims.”
[Doc. 7-1, pg. 8] 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) provides that
“the district courts shall have supplemental
jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to
claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that
they form part of the same case or controversy under Article
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