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National Resident Matching Program v. Alashry

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 26, 2018




         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's motion to remand, Dkt. 7, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). Plaintiff National Resident Matching Program (“NRMP”) originally filed suit to vacate an arbitration award in favor of Defendant Mahmoud Alashry (“Dr. Alashry”) in the D.C. Superior Court. Dkt. 9-2 at 2. On November 28, 2017, Dr. Alashry removed the case to this Court. Dkt. 1. NRMP argues that the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction because the arbitration agreement specifies that D.C. law governs this dispute, and, because the amount in controversy is insufficient to establish diversity jurisdiction. The Court disagrees and will, accordingly, DENY Plaintiff's motion to remand, Dkt. 7.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         NRMP is an Illinois-based, not-for-profit corporation with its principal place of business in Washington, D.C. Dkt. 1 at 1. NRMP “provide[s] a service by which it matches medical school students and graduates to positions in United States graduate medical education residency and fellowship training programs.” Id. Dr. Alashry is a citizen of Egypt-where he obtained his medical degree-and currently resides in Florida. Dkt. 1-1 at 1 (Alashry Decl. ¶¶ 1-2). In 2014, Dr. Alashry began a post-doctoral research fellowship at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Id. (Alashry Decl. ¶ 3). During his fellowship, Dr. Alashry “completed the United States Medical Licensing Examination and obtained a certification from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates.” Id. He then applied to participate in NRMP's 2016 medical residency matching program (“Main Residency Match”), and, through that program, matched to an internal medicine residency program at the North Florida Regional Medical Center (“NFRMC”) on March 18, 2016. Id. at 2 (Alashry Decl. ¶ 5); Dkt. 10-2 at 11.

         To participate in the Main Residency Match, Dr. Alashry entered into an agreement with NRMP (“the Match Agreement”). Dkt. 5-2. Section 4.4 of the Match Agreement requires that each applicant provide “complete, timely, and accurate information” throughout the match process, and states that “NRMP is authorized to take appropriate action, ” specified in a later provision, if “NRMP believes it has credible evidence that an applicant . . . has violated the . . . [a]greement.” Id. at 21. On February 22, 2016-before his match date-Dr. Alashry was arrested for solicitation of prostitution in Minnesota and was subsequently charged on April 1, 2016. Dkt. 10-2 at 11-12; Dkt. 10-2 at 45 (Arb. Award ¶¶ 33-35). He proceeded with the match, however, and did not disclose this information to either NRMP or the program he matched with-NFRMC-until May 23, 2016, when he emailed the program director. Id. at 46 (Arb. Award ¶ 39), id. at 97.

         Due to his arrest and pending charge, Dr. Alashry was not eligible for a J-1 visa and could not start his residency with NFRMC in June 2016; consequently, NFRMC applied to NRMP for a waiver of its match commitment to Dr. Alashry, which NRMP granted. Id. (Arb. Award ¶ 42). NRMP then conducted an investigation into whether Dr. Alashry's actions violated section 4.4 of the Match Agreement and determined that they did. Id. (Arb. Award ¶¶ 45-46). In accordance with section 8.2.1 of the Match Agreement, NRMP issued a Panel Report imposing the following sanctions:

[T]he NRMP is notifying [Dr. Alashry's medical] school of this violation and asking that it become a part of his permanent record. The NRMP also bars Dr. Alashry for one year from accepting or starting a position in any program sponsored by a Match-participating institution . . . ., bars him from participation in future NRMP Matches for two years, and will identify him as a Match violator in the NRMP's Registration, Ranking, and Results (R3) system for two years, effective immediately.

Id. at 47 (Arb. Award ¶ 47). Dr. Alashry contested NRMP's finding of culpability. Id. at 37 (Arb. Award ¶ 7).

         B. Procedural Background

         On September 9, 2016, Dr. Alashry filed a demand for arbitration, pursuant to section 15 of the Match Agreement, with the International Centre for Dispute Resolution (“ICDR”), requesting a declaratory judgment that (1) he did not violate the Match Agreement, (2) the NRMP lacked jurisdiction to sanction him for conduct that occurred after the conclusion of the Match process, and (3) all of the sanctions in the Panel Report should be vacated. Id. NRMP responded that the sanctions “imposed [were] appropriate.” Id. at 38 (Arb. Award ¶ 10). ICDR appointed Elliot E. Polebaum as the sole arbitrator. Id. at 37-38 (Arb. Award ¶¶ 10-11). The arbitrator conducted a hearing on May 16, 2017, and permitted the parties to submit post-hearing briefs and replies. Id. at 38-39 (Arb. Award ¶¶ 14, 16-18). On July 13, 2017, the arbitrator issued an award (1) vacating the “findings of violation” in the Panel Report “except insofar as the Report's violation finding encompasses a violation for untimely disclosure of the pending criminal charges against Dr. Alashry during the period after April 1, 2016;” and (2) vacating the “sanctions . . . for violations of section 4.4 of the Agreement [as] arbitrary and capricious.” Id. at 59 (Arb. Award ¶¶ 90-91).

         On October 13, 2017, NRMP filed suit in D.C. Superior Court seeking to vacate the arbitration award. Dkt. 9-1; Dkt. 9-2. In lieu of filing a response, Dr. Alashry removed the case to this Court asserting both diversity and federal question jurisdiction. Dkt. 1 at 4-7. NRMP now moves to remand, arguing that Dr. Alashry cannot show that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, as required to establish diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), or that the case arises under federal law, 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Dkt. 7. NRMP does not contest that Dr. Alashry has otherwise complied with the requirements for removal.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A defendant may remove a case to federal court if the federal court has original jurisdiction over the matter. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). The fact that the state court-or, here, the D.C. Superior Court-might have concurrent jurisdiction over NRMP's claim is of no moment; if the federal court has subject-matter jurisdiction, and if Congress has not expressly precluded removal, the defendant may elect to litigate in the federal forum. See Breuer v. Jim's Concrete of Brevard, Inc., 538 U.S. 691, 697-98 (2003); 14B Charles Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 3721, at 2-3 (4th ed. 2009). For the reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that it has subject-matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and that, as a result, it need not address whether it has ...

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