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Sanchez v. City of Belen

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

March 8, 2017

M. FELICIA SANCHEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF BELEN, and ESTATE OF MICHAEL ESQUIBEL, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND AND DENYING OTHER PENDING MOTIONS AS MOOT

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court upon the following motions:

• Plaintiff s Motion to Remand to State Court, filed January 27, 2017 (Doc. 14);
• Plaintiff s Motion to Amend/Correct Complaint, filed February 24, 2017 (Doc. 27);
• Defendant City of Belen's Motion to Dismiss, filed January 4, 2017 (Doc. 4); and
• Defendant Estate of Michael Esquibel's Motion to Dismiss, filed January 4, 2017 (Doc. 5).

         Having reviewed the parties' briefs and applicable law, the Court finds that Plaintiffs motion to remand is well-taken and, therefore, is GRANTED, and that the other motions are denied as moot based on the Court granting Plaintiffs motion to remand.

         BACKGROUND

         On September 7, 2016, Plaintiff filed this case in the Thirteenth Judicial District, County of Valencia, State of New Mexico. Doc. 1-2. Defendants removed the case to federal court on December 28, 2016, asserting federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §1331. Plaintiff in this case (hereinafter, “M.S.”) was at all relevant times a student at Belen Middle School and Belen High School and alleges conduct on the part of Defendant Esquibel (“Defendant” for purposes of this Order) which was inappropriate and harmful.[1]

         DISCUSSION

         In order to establish federal question jurisdiction, the federal question must be “presented on the face of the plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint.” Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). Except for narrow circumstances not present here, a case may not be removed to federal court solely because of a defense or counterclaim arising under federal law. Topeka Housing Auth. v. Johnson, 404 F.3d 1245, 1247 (10th Cir.2005); see also Holmes Group, Inc. v. Vornado Air Circulation Sys., Inc., 535 U.S. 826, 830-31 & n.2 (2002). Generally, the presumption is “against removal jurisdiction.” Laughlin v. Kmart Corp., 50 F.3d 871, 873 (10th Cir. 1995). The removing party has the burden to demonstrate the appropriateness of removal from state to federal court. McNutt v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 189 (1936). Thus, doubtful cases must be resolved in favor of remand. “If at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, it shall be remanded.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) (emphasis added).

         I. Whether Remand is Proper

         The complaint is captioned as a “Complaint for Personal Injuries” and contains a single count brought under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act (“Tort Claims Act”), §41-4-12. Doc. 1-2. This Count alleges that M.S. suffered personal injuries “resulting from the deprivation of M.S.' Constitutional Rights” based on Defendant Esquibel's actions in threatening and intimidating M.S. and removing her from class and unlawfully detaining her in his office at Belen Middle School.

         Defendants contend that while Plaintiff did not expressly cite to 42 U.S.C. §1983 in her complaint, she nevertheless alleges federal claims in the following allegations:[2]

29. At all times material hereto, the City of Belen and Esquibel owed M.S. a duty to act reasonably so as not to deprive her of ...

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