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Julien v. CCA of Tennessee

June 9, 2003


Document No. 3




This case comes before the court on the plaintiff's motion to remand the matter to the Superior Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiff, Diane Julien, sues her employer, CCA of Tennessee, Inc. ("the defendant"), for wrongful termination under the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, as amended D.C. Code Ann. § 1-2501. The plaintiff asserts that the defendant discriminated against her on the basis of her disability, and then discharged her in retaliation for her complaints about the alleged discrimination. The plaintiff originally filed her compliant in the Superior Court, whereupon the defendant removed the case to this court on the proffered basis of diversity jurisdiction. The court grants the plaintiff's motion to remand because the defendant has not demonstrated that the requisite amount in controversy exists for diversity jurisdiction.


On December 11, 2002, the plaintiff filed her complaint in the Superior Court. The plaintiff is a Maryland resident and the defendant is a Tennessee corporation with its principal place of business in Nashville, Tennessee. Compl. at 1; Notice of Removal ¶ 4. The complaint seeks damages "in an amount to be determined by a jury, but not less than $50,000, for compensatory damages for pain and suffering, emotional distress, mental anguish, lost pay/benefits, front pay, punitive damages, interests, costs and reasonable attorney's fees." Compl. at 5.

The plaintiff provided responses to the defendant's requested interrogatories, which the defendant's attorney received on February 5, 2003. Notice of Removal ¶ 3. The plaintiff reiterated her damages request in those responses, clarifying that her annual salary was $26,000.00, her lost pay since her dismissal approximated $13,000.00, and the cost of her medication since her dismissal totaled $450.00. Answer to Interrogs. ¶ 5.

Based on the plaintiff's responses, the defendant removed the case to this court on February 28, 2003, asserting that the court may entertain the matter on the basis of diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Notice of Removal ¶ 5. The defendant alleges that the plaintiff's responses provided the defendant with notice that the amount in controversy exceeded the threshold statutory amount of $75,000.00, thereby making the case removable. Id. ¶ 3. The plaintiff then filed her motion for remand on March 5, 2003, asserting that the defendant did not timely file its notice of removal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b). Mot. to Remand at 1.


A. Legal Standard for Remand

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and therefore the law presumes that "a cause lies outside of [the court's] limited jurisdiction." Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994); St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 288-89 (1938). According to the removal statute, a defendant may properly remove to federal court an action brought in a state court when original subject-matter jurisdiction exists in the form of diversity. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a); Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). Diversity jurisdiction exists when the action involves citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.00, exclusive of interest and costs. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a); Carden v. Arkoma Assocs., 494 U.S. 185, 187 (1990). Courts must strictly construe removal statutes. Williams v. Howard Univ., 984 F.Supp. 27, 29 (D.D.C. 1997) (Green, J.) (citing Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 107-09 (1941)). When the plaintiff makes a motion to remand, the defendant bears the burden of proving federal jurisdiction. Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 377.

If a defect in removal procedures or lack of subject-matter jurisdiction becomes apparent at any point prior to final judgment, the removal court must remand the case to the state court from which the defendants originally removed the case. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). If the federal court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, remand is mandatory. Republic of Venez. v. Philip Morris, Inc., 287 F.3d 192, 196 (D.C. Cir. 2002); Johnson-Brown v. 2200 M St. LLC, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5947, at *5 (D.D.C. April 8, 2003).

B. The Court Remands the Case Because the Defendant Fails to Prove Federal Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

At the outset, the court must assure itself that it has subject-matter jurisdiction over the action. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. v. Wetzel, 424 U.S. 737, 740 (1976); Cobell v. Norton, 240 F.3d 1081, 1094 (D.C. Cir. 2001). Because the defendant is the party pleading federal jurisdiction here, it has the burden of proving that jurisdiction. Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 377. The defendant states that the plaintiff now seeks damages in an amount that varies from the ...

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