United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON MOTION TO REMAND
R. UNDERHILL, United States District Judge.
Kolpinski filed a two-count complaint against Rushford
Center, Inc. (“Rushford”), in Connecticut
Superior Court on July 27, 2015. Kolpinski, a former employee
of Rushford, alleges that he was terminated as a result of
his speech and subsequent whistleblower report relating to
Rushford’s alleged illegal and unethical business
practices. He contends that his termination was the result of
retaliation in violation of Connecticut General Statutes
§§ 31-51q and 31-51m.
August 24, 2015, Rushford filed a notice of removal, in
accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1331, arguing that
Kolpinski’s section 31-51q claim necessarily implicates
a substantial question of federal law. After an answer was
filed, Kolpinski responded by filing an amended complaint and
a motion to remand on November 6, 2015.
amended complaint and subsequent motion to remand, Kolpinski
clarified that his state law claims for relief only seek to
vindicate rights protected by the Connecticut Constitution.
In the motion to remand, Kolpinski asserts that the court
lacks subject matter jurisdiction because no federal question
remains in his complaint. For the reasons detailed below,
Kolpinski’s motion to remand (doc. # 21) is granted.
Standard of Review
party opposing a motion to remand bears the burden of showing
that the requirements for removal have been met.
California Public Employees’ Retirement Sys.v.
WorldCom, Inc., 368 F.3d 86, 100 (2d Cir. 2004) (citing
Grimo v. Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Vermont, 34 F.3d
148, 151 (2d Cir. 1994)); 14C Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R.
Miller & Edward H. Cooper, Federal Practice and
Procedure § 3739 (3d ed. 1998) (collecting cases).
“In light of the congressional intent to restrict
federal court jurisdiction, as well as the importance of
preserving the independence of state governments, federal
courts construe the removal statute narrowly, resolving any
doubts against removability.” Lupo v. Human Affairs
Intern., Inc., 28 F.3d 269, 274 (2d Cir. 1994) (citing
Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S.
100, 108 (1941); 1A J. Moore & B. Ringle,
Moore’s Federal Practice ¶ 0.157, at 38
(2d ed. 1989)).
district courts have “original jurisdiction” over
civil actions “arising under” federal law. 28
U.S.C. § 1331. Unless otherwise provided by Congress,
district courts also have removal jurisdiction over
“any civil action brought in a State court of which the
district courts of the United States have original
jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a).
“[F]ederal-question jurisdiction is invoked by and
large by plaintiffs pleading a cause of action created by
federal law.” New York ex rel. Jacobson v. Wells
Fargo Nat’l Bank, N.A., 2016 WL 3093243, at *5 (2d
Cir. June 2, 2016) (citing Grable & Sons Metal
Products, Inc. v. Darue Engineering & Mfg., 545 U.S.
308, 312 (2005)). However, in a “‘special and
small category’ of cases, ” id. at *5
(quoting Gunn v. Minton, ___U.S. ___, 133 S.Ct.
1059, 1064 (2013)), federal-question jurisdiction will also
“lie over state-law claims that implicate significant
federal issues.” Id. at *5 (citing Hopkins
v. Walker, 244 U.S. 486, 490-91 (1917)). “[T]he
Supreme Court has been sparing in recognizing state law
claims fitting this criterion.” Id. (quoting
NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc. v. UBS Securities,
LLC, 770 F.3d 1010, 1019 (2d Cir. 2014)).
law cause of action will only “arise under”
federal law if the “state-law claim necessarily
raise[s] a stated federal issue, actually disputed and
substantial, which a federal forum may entertain without
disturbing any congressionally approved balance of federal
and state judicial responsibilities.” Grable,
545 U.S. at 314. Construing Grable, the Court
applied the following four-factor test:
[F]ederal jurisdiction over a state law claim will lie if a
federal issue is: (1) necessarily raised, (2) actually
disputed, (3) substantial, and (4) capable of resolution in
federal court without disrupting the federal-state balance
approved by Congress . . . .
Gunn, 133 S.Ct. at 1065. A state law claim may only
be the basis for federal-question jurisdiction if “all
four of these requirements are met . . . .”
state-law claim ‘necessarily’ raises federal
questions where the claim is affirmatively
‘premised’ on a violation of federal law.”
New York ex rel. Jacobson, 2016 WL 3093243, at *5
(quoting Grable, 545 U.S. at 314). The
plaintiff’s “right to relief” must
“necessarily depend on resolution of a substantial
question of federal law.” See Franchise Tax Bd. v.
Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 28 (1983).
That first element will not be satisfied where “all of
the plaintiff’s claims seek relief under state law and
none necessarily raises a federal issue.” New York
ex rel. Jacobson, 2016 WL 3093243, at *5 (quoting
Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc. v.
Manning, ___U.S. ___, 136 S.Ct. 1562, 1575 (2016)
(internal alterations omitted). In order to determine whether
a state law claim necessarily turns on a construction of
federal law, the court must evaluate the allegations in the
complaint. See Id. at *7. In New York
ex rel. Jacobson, the plaintiff sought to remand an
action filed under the New York False Claims Act, alleging
that the defendants filed fraudulent federal tax forms to
claim state and city tax exemptions. Id. at *1.
Rather than evaluating New York’s False Claims Act
statute in isolation, the Second Circuit looked to the
allegations in the complaint to determine whether the claims
necessarily turned on a construction of federal law.
Id. at *7. The Court held that, “in order to
establish a false statement or record within the meaning of
the NYFCA, Jacobson must prove at least that the trusts did
not qualify under federal law.” Id. Because
proving a violation of federal law was a necessary component
to the plaintiff’s right to relief, the Court held that
federal jurisdiction was proper. Id.
contrast, when “the plaintiff can get all the relief he
seeks just by showing [a violation of state law], without
proving any violation of federal  law, ” the claim
does not belong in federal court. See Manning, 136
S.Ct. at 1568. Though the Court in Manning was
evaluating the preemptive effect of the Exchange Act, its
holding and reasoning are applicable to the instant suit
because it compared the Exchange Act’s phrase,
“brought to enforce, ” to section 1331’s
language, “arising under.” See Id. at
1569. In Manning, the Court held that a complaint
will only be found to have been “brought to
enforce” the Exchange Act if it “explicitly or
implicitly asserts that the defendant breached an Exchange
Act duty.” Id. at 1568. In other words,
“[a] plaintiff seeking relief under state law must
undertake to prove, as the cornerstone of his suit, that the
defendant infringed a requirement of the federal
statute.” Id. at 1569. The Court analogized
such a requirement to federal-question jurisdiction, which
will only lie if the allegations in the complaint explicitly
or implicitly assert that the defendant violated a federal
right. See Id. at 1571-72 (“a federal court
could adjudicate a suit stating only a state-law claim if it
included as ‘an element, and an essential one, ’
the violation of a federal right.”) (citing