United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Court has received Defendant Ngozika J. Nwaneri, M.D.'s
justification for his removal as well as Plaintiff Quinn
Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP's motion to remand.
Defendant is proceeding pro se in this action, as
well as in the underlying case in the Superior Court of the
District of Columbia. See Quinn Emanuel Urquhart &
Sullivan LLP v. Nwaneri, No. 2018 CA 003686 B (D.C.
Super. Ct.). Upon consideration of the briefing,
relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the
Court shall GRANT Plaintiff's Motion to
Remand, and shall REMAND this matter to D.C.
Superior Court. For the trouble of litigating Defendant's
improper removal, Plaintiff shall have an opportunity to
submit its just costs and actual expenses, including
attorney's fees, in D.C. Superior Court.
case springs from a falling-out between a law firm
(Plaintiff) and its client (Defendant) in a separate matter.
Later an arbitral panel found that Defendant had not paid all
of the attorney's fees and costs owed to Plaintiff for
the prior representation. The panel awarded recovery to
Plaintiff, which sought confirmation in D.C. Superior Court.
That court confirmed the arbitral award and issued a further
award of attorney's fees to Plaintiff for the
confirmation proceedings. Defendant then tried to remove the
case to this Court.
Defendant filed his Notice of Removal, the Court issued its
 Order requiring him to show cause why this case should
not be remanded to D.C. Superior Court for failure to comply
with the requirements for timely removal under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1446(b)(1). Plaintiff had filed the underlying D.C.
Superior Court case on May 24, 2018, and the docket suggests
service upon Defendant on May 24 or 25, 2018. Yet, Defendant
did not attempt removal to this Court until April 8, 2019,
long after the thirty-day time limit established by Section
1446(b)(1). Although Defendant appears to contest proper
service of the Complaint, he cannot dispute that he received
a copy of the Complaint, by one means or another, much more
than thirty days before April 8, 2019. See
Def.'s Justification at ECF p. 4. Accordingly,
Defendant's Notice of Removal is not timely. See
28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(1) (requiring, in pertinent part,
the filing of notice of removal “within 30 days after
the receipt by the defendant, through service or
otherwise, of a copy of the initial pleading setting
forth the claim for relief upon which such action or
proceeding is based” (emphasis added)).
Court turns to any applicable exceptions for a tardy notice
of removal. Those apply only if the case was removable when
it initially was filed. See, e.g., id.
§ 1446(b)(3), (c)(1); Order, ECF No. 5. Defendant
erroneously invokes subject-matter jurisdiction under the
Federal Arbitration Act, which is clearly not a valid basis
for jurisdiction. “Although the Federal Arbitration Act
(FAA) constitutes federal law, ‘the Supreme Court has
interpreted the statute as not itself bestowing jurisdiction
on the federal district courts.'” Karsner v.
Lothian, 532 F.3d 876, 882 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (quoting
Kasap v. Folger Nolan Fleming & Douglas, Inc.,
166 F.3d 1243, 1245-46 (D.C. Cir. 1999) (citing Southland
Corp. v. Keating, 465 U.S. 1, 16 n.9 (1984))). And
Defendant has not identified any other federal law that
purportedly supports federal-question jurisdiction.
timeliness specifically, Defendant cites a provision of the
Federal Arbitration Act providing for removal “at any
time before the trial” of a case that “relates to
an arbitration agreement or award falling under the
Convention” on the Recognition and Enforcement of
Foreign Arbitral Awards, also known as the New York
Convention. Def.'s Justification at ECF pp. 2-3 (quoting
9 U.S.C. § 205) (internal quotation marks omitted);
see also TermoRio S.A. E.S.P. v. Electranta S.P.,
487 F.3d 928, 929, 933 (D.C. Cir. 2007) (noting that the Act
implements the Convention). But, even if this portion of the
Act applies, which the Court need not decide, Defendant could
not rely on the Act to secure this Court's jurisdiction.
As Defendant acknowledges, the Act indicates that
“[t]he procedure for removal of causes otherwise
provided by law shall apply.” 9 U.S.C. § 205 (also
articulating inapplicable exception). That procedure requires
federal subject-matter jurisdiction in order to render the
case originally removable. No. such jurisdiction is available
here, for the reasons described elsewhere in this Opinion.
also attempts to establish diversity jurisdiction, but he
fails there as well. There is no dispute as to diversity of
citizenship. He concedes, however, that “[t]here was no
diversity jurisdiction based on the initial pleading because
the actual amount in controversy was under $75,
000.00.” Def.'s Justification at ECF p. 3. But he
argues that the award of attorney's fees to Plaintiff on
March 7, 2019, for having to litigate the motion to confirm
the arbitration award raised the amount in controversy above
the threshold. Id. at ECF p. 4. Defendant's
belief that this later award of fees makes a jurisdictional
difference is mistaken.
action to confirm an arbitral award, the prevailing
“demand approach” to calculating the amount in
controversy evaluates only “the amount [that Plaintiff]
sought in the underlying arbitration rather than the amount
awarded.” Karsner, 532 F.3d at 882-84
(citations omitted); see also Equitas Disability
Advocates, LLC v. Daley, Debofsky & Bryant, P.C.,
177 F.Supp.3d 197, 204 (D.D.C. 2016), aff'd sub nom.
Equitas Disability Advocates, LLC v. Feigenbaum, 672
Fed.Appx. 13 (Mem.) (per curiam). Plaintiff sought an
arbitration award consisting of attorney's fees and costs
generated during the representation of Defendant in a
separate matter. Those fees and costs totaled $21, 759.08.
Decl. of Florentina Dragulescu in Supp. of Quinn
Emanuel's Mot. to Remand, ECF No. 12-1 (Final Award, Ex.
1, at 8, 9). Because that amount does not exceed the
requisite $75, 000, “exclusive of interest and
costs” incurred in either the arbitral proceedings or
in the D.C. Superior Court proceedings in this case, the
amount in controversy is not satisfied. 28 U.S.C. §
Court entertains one further possibility regarding the demand
approach, though removal is not proper on this basis either.
Plaintiff's arbitration demand also sought
“attorneys' fees and costs related to bringing
[that arbitration] action and pursuing payment as a result of
[Defendant's] conduct, as provided in the [parties']
Agreement, in an amount to be established at the
hearing.” Decl. of Florentina Dragulescu in Supp. of
Quinn Emanuel's Reply in Supp. of Its Mot. to Remand, ECF
No. 15-1, Ex. 1 (Claimant Quinn Emanuel Urquhart &
Sullivan, LLP's Demand for Arbitration, ECF No. 15-2, at
11). Plaintiff did not yet know, before the arbitration, the
total value of those attorney's fees and costs. Even if,
arguendo, the final value of the costs could be known then,
in no instance would the costs be factored into calculation
of the amount in controversy. See 28 U.S.C. §
1332(a) (expressly excluding costs). And the Court need not
decide whether the final value of the attorney's fees for
the arbitral proceedings could count towards the amount in
controversy. Even assuming, arguendo, that the final value of
those attorney's fees could count towards the amount in
controversy-because Plaintiff generically requested
attorney's fees in its arbitration demand-that total of
$50, 000 would be insufficient to satisfy the amount in
controversy. Adding these fees to the $21, 759.08 at issue
would give only $71, 759.08, below the $75, 000 threshold
under Section 1332(a).
Court also rejects Defendant's argument that the Court
should consider attorney's fees awarded to Plaintiff for
the proceedings in D.C. Superior Court. See, e.g.,
Def.'s Justification at ECF p. 4. Fees for state court
litigation regarding confirmation of the arbitration award
plainly fall outside of the demand approach, which evaluates
only the amount sought during the arbitration itself.
the amount in controversy is not satisfied, and diversity
jurisdiction fails. The Court concludes that it lacks
subject-matter jurisdiction over this matter. Defendant's
remaining arguments are unavailing.
it should have been clear to Defendant that removal was not
proper. Defendant has removed this case after a judge on the
D.C. Superior Court confirmed an arbitration award against
him and awarded attorney's fees for the proceeding.
Defendant improperly urges this Court to review and/or re-do
the state court proceedings. See Def.'s
Justification at ECF p. 5 (asking this Court to, inter
alia, “review all [of Defendant's]
submissions, grant motion hearings that allow for oral
arguments, evidence, testimony, and other measures that [a
D.C. Superior Court judge] spelled out during [a] September
12, 2018 Hearing . . . when a roadmap was laid for a case
resolution”). Defendant has not cited any authority for
the notion that this federal trial court may review the
proceedings of the state trial court in this matter. His
efforts effectively to re-litigate in this Court proceedings
before the D.C. Superior Court are therefore wholly
sole issue remaining is whether Plaintiff should be allowed
to recover “just costs and any actual expenses,
including attorney fees, incurred as a result of the
removal.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). Generally, no such
costs or expenses are justified if Defendant had an
“objectively reasonable basis” to notice the
removal. Martin v. Franklin Capital Corp., 546 U.S.
132, 136, 141 (2005); see also Id. at 138
(“Section 1447(c) authorizes courts to award costs and
fees, but only when such an award is just.”). The
threshold for objective reasonableness is rather low: Did
Defendant's grounds for removal contain “at least
some logical and precedential force”? Knop v.
Mackall, 645 F.3d 381, 383-84 (D.C. Cir. 2011). But the
Court finds that even this low threshold is not satisfied,
because the removal is neither logical nor supported by
citation to any precedent.
light of the resolution on the merits, already, of the
underlying D.C. Superior Court proceeding,  Defendant's
removal of this case was patently improper. There was no
logical basis to believe that he could gain another bite at
the apple in this Court. And despite precedent that cleanly
disposes of Defendant's jurisdictional arguments,
Defendant has not cited a single case to distinguish
that case law or otherwise to justify his removal. Although
Defendant's Justification cites statutory support for
various of his arguments, that authority does not affect the
Court's conclusion that this case was not removable when
it originally was filed, and has not become removable since
then. Accordingly, in an exercise of its discretion, the
Court shall require Defendant to pay Plaintiff's just
costs and actual expenses, including attorney's fees,
that Plaintiff incurred as a result of the improper removal.
See McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113
(1993) “[W]e have never suggested that procedural rules
in ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to
excuse mistakes by those who proceed without
counsel.”). Although the Court has decided that costs
and expenses are warranted, the Court shall leave a
determination of that award to the state court hearing the