United States District Court, D. Columbia.
For Carmen Group Incorporated, Plaintiff: Marc Edmund Miller, LEAD ATTORNEY, CARMEN GROUP, INC, Washington, DC.
For Xavier University of Louisiana, Defendant: John T. Balhoff, II, SHER, GARNER, CAHILL, RICHTER, KLEIN & HILBERT, L.L.C., New Orleans, LA.
CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER, United States District Judge.
The parties to this action entered a contract providing that venue for any disputes " shall be the Superior Court of the District of Columbia." Despite this straightforward mandate, Defendant Xavier University of Louisiana removed Plaintiff's D.C. Superior Court breach of contract action to this Court. Plaintiff Carmen Group, Inc. now seeks remand. Magistrate Judge Alan Kay issued a Report and Recommendation finding that the parties' unambiguous selection of D.C. Superior Court as the exclusive forum for their disputes barred Xavier's removal of the case. The Court adopts the Magistrate Judge's conclusion and grants Carmen's Motion to Remand.
Xavier University of Louisiana engaged Carmen Group, Inc., a D.C.-based government affairs firm, to help it secure relief from repayment obligations arising under a U.S. Department of Education loan program for historically black colleges and universities that had been affected by Hurricane Katrina. Compl. [Dkt. No. 1-1] ¶ 6. The parties memorialized the engagement in a March 11, 2010 Consulting Services Agreement, which Carmen drafted. Id. ¶ 4; Answer [Dkt. No.5] ¶ 26. The agreement contains the following forum selection clause:
The venue for any claim, controversy, or dispute which arises between the parties from or related to this Agreement shall be the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and the parties hereby consent to the jurisdiction of such court and waive any objection to such venue.
Compl. Ex. A [Dkt. No. 1-1] § 6.1.
Following Xavier's alleged failure to pay $270,000 due under the contract, Carmen filed a Complaint in D.C. Superior Court. Compl. ¶ 8-11. Xavier timely filed a Notice of Removal to this Court based on the Court's diversity jurisdiction. Carmen countered with a Motion to Remand the case to D.C. Superior Court, arguing that the agreement's forum selection clause barred Xavier from removing the suit and requesting an award of attorney's fees and costs. Mot. to Remand [Dkt. No. 6] at 3-4.
Xavier responds that removal is proper because the forum-selection clause does not reflect a " clear and unequivocal" waiver of its statutory right of removal. Opp. to Mot. to Remand [Dkt. No. 7] at 4-12. Alternatively, Xavier asserts that the clause should not be enforced because Xavier had objected to the clause during contract negotiations and was unaware that Carmen had kept it in the executed agreement. Id. at 12-14.
Magistrate Judge Kay, to whom the case was referred for pre-trial proceedings, issued a Report and Recommendation on Carmen's Motion to Remand. Magistrate Judge Kay concluded that ...