United States District Court, D. New Mexico
ANDREW B. INDAHL, Plaintiff,
MODRALL, SPERLING, ROEHL, HARRIS & SISK, P.A., a New Mexico Professional Association, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to
Remand (Doc. 5), filed June 20, 2018, and
Defendant's Motion to Supplement the Record on
Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (Doc. 16), filed
July 17, 2018. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and
Fed.R.Civ.P. 73(b), the parties have consented to me serving
as the presiding judge and entering final judgment. Docs.
7, 8, 10. Having reviewed the submissions of the parties
and the relevant law, the Court will grant Plaintiff's
Motion to Remand and his request for reasonable attorney fees
and costs in responding to the improper removal of this
action from state court.
Andrew Indahl was employed as an attorney at the Defendant
law firm (“Modrall”), along with his wife, Anna
Indahl. Plaintiff alleges that he complained about perceived
discrimination by the firm against his wife after she had a
child and that, in response, Modrall retaliated against him.
Plaintiff filed three charges of discrimination with the
federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(“EEOC”), alleging conduct in violation of Title
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§
2000e to e-17, and the New Mexico Human Rights Act
(“NMHRA”), N.M. Stat. Ann §§ 28-1-1 to
-15. Doc. 1-2, ¶¶ 31, 43, 47. Those
charges were cross-filed with the New Mexico Human Rights
Bureau (“NMHRB”). See Doc. 16 at 4
(Plaintiff's first charge of discrimination stating
“I want this charged filed with both the EEOC and the
State or local Agency, if any”); see also
Mitchell-Carr v. McLendon, 1999-NMSC-025, ¶ 13, 980
P.2d 65 (explaining that the EEOC and the NMHRB have a
work-sharing agreement, such that a complaint filed with the
EEOC is deemed to be properly filed with the NMHRB).
Plaintiff then filed this lawsuit in state court in the First
Judicial District, Santa Fe County. Doc. 1-2. The
Complaint alleges two claims for relief - retaliatory
discharge and breach of contract. Id.
removed the case to federal court on June 13, 2018, citing
federal-question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1441 and
28 U.S.C. § 1331 for the retaliatory discharge claim and
supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1367 for the
breach of contract claim. Doc. 1. The Notice of
Removal asserts that “as pleaded in the Complaint,
Plaintiff's claims rely upon and arise from Modrall
Sperling's alleged violations of federal law,
specifically Title VII . . . .” Doc. 1, ¶
4. Citing Grable & Sons Metal Products, Inc. v. Darue
Engineering & Manufacturing, 545 U.S. 308 (2005),
Defendant argues that federal law is a necessary element of
Plaintiff's retaliation claim. Plaintiff now moves to
remand this action back to state court, arguing his Complaint
makes only state-law claims that do not implicate any
significant federal issues.
FEDERAL QUESTION JURISDICTION
action brought in state court may be removed to federal court
when the federal court has original subject matter
jurisdiction over the matter. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a).
Federal district courts have “original jurisdiction of
all civil actions arising under the Constitution, law, or
treaties of the United States, ” which is also known as
federal-question jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
“Only state-court actions that originally could have
been filed in federal court may be removed to federal court
by the defendant. Absent diversity of citizenship,
federal-question jurisdiction is required.”
Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392
(1987). If the federal court has original jurisdiction over a
claim, the court also has supplemental jurisdiction over all
other claims that arise from the same case or controversy. 28
U.S.C. § 1367(a).
question jurisdiction is “governed by the
‘well-pleaded complaint rule,' which provides that
federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is
presented on the face of the plaintiff's properly pleaded
complaint.” Caterpillar Inc., 482 U.S. at 392
(citation omitted). The well-pleaded complaint must establish
“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.” Empire Healthcare Assur., Inc. v.
McVeigh, 547 U.S. 677, 690 (2006). Plaintiff is the
master of his complaint, and he “may avoid federal
jurisdiction by exclusive reliance on state law.”
Caterpillar Inc., 482 U.S. at 392.
the ‘artful pleading' doctrine, however, a
plaintiff may not defeat removal by failing to plead federal
questions that are essential elements of the plaintiff's
claim.” Turgeau v. Admin. Review Bd., 446 F.3d
1052, 1060-61 (10th Cir. 2006). The court therefore must
determine if the plaintiff's state law claims are
completely preempted by federal law or if “there is a
substantial, disputed federal-law issue necessarily embedded
in [plaintiff's] state-law claims.” Devon
Energy Prod. Co. v. Mosaic Potash Carlsbad, Inc., 693
F.3d 1195, 1203-04 (10th Cir. 2012).
federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, a
presumption exists against jurisdiction “absent an
adequate showing by the party invoking federal
jurisdiction.” United States ex. rel. Hafter D.O.
v. Spectrum Emergency Care, Inc., 190 F.3d 1156, 1160
(10th Cir. 1999). Thus, in removed cases, the burden is on
the defendant to establish jurisdiction. See id.
“Removal statutes are to be strictly construed, and all
doubts are to be resolved against removal.” Fajen
v. Found. Reserve Ins. Co., 683 F.2d 331, 333 (10th Cir.
1982). Federal courts must remand cases over which they lack
subject matter jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).
Motion to Remand
case, Defendant fails to demonstrate that a federal question
appears on the face of Plaintiff's complaint or that the
artful pleading doctrine applies. On the face of the
Complaint, Plaintiff does not bring a federal cause of action
and his state-law claims do not depend on the resolution of a
substantial federal question.
Plaintiff asserts no claims under a federal cause of
Complaint sets forth two claims for relief - retaliatory
discharge and breach of contract. Defendant does not dispute
that Plaintiff's breach of contract claim is based upon
state law. See Doc. 1, ¶ 16. At issue is
Indahl's retaliatory discharge claim, which Defendant
asserts is “at the very least ambiguous as to whether
it directly asserts a claim for retaliatory discharge in
violation of Title VII.” Doc. 11 at 6.
However, the Court finds that Plaintiff's Complaint
clearly establishes that the retaliatory discharge
claim is premised on violations of New Mexico public policy,
not federal law. See Doc. 1-2, ¶¶ 57-60.
The Complaint does not assert violations of Title VII, nor
does it need to - a plaintiff ...