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Melillo v. Brais

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

June 7, 2017

ALICE MELILLO and ALLEN NORDEN, Plaintiffs,
v.
RYAN BRAIS, Defendant.

          RULING RE: MOTION TO REMAND CASE

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Alice Melillo and Allen Norden (“Plaintiffs”) initiated this action against Ryan Brais (“Defendant”) in small claims court on December 21, 2016. Defendant filed a motion to have Plaintiffs' action transferred to the Connecticut Superior Court for the Judicial District for New London on January 31, 2017, which was granted on or about February 6, 2017. Plaintiffs filed a Revised Complaint in Superior Court on March 9, 2017.

         On March 30, Defendant removed the case to this Court, claiming original federal jurisdiction based on Plaintiffs' allegations under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Not. of Removal, ECF No. 1. Plaintiffs filed an “Objection of Removal” on April 3, 2017 requesting that the Court remand this case to the Superior Court in New London.[1] Mot. to Remand, ECF No. 22. Defendant filed a reply to Plaintiffs' motion on April 17, 2017 opposing remand in this case. Def. Opp., ECF No. 19. For the reasons outlined below, Plaintiffs' [22] Motion to Remand Case is DENIED.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Defendant Ryan Brais is a Zoning Official for the Town of Plainfield. Small Claims Compl., Pls. Motion to Remand Ex. 1, ECF No. 22-1. Plaintiffs' initial Complaint, filed with the Small Claims Session of the Connecticut Superior Court, alleged harassment, emotional distress, and violation of civil rights. Id. Plaintiffs' Revised Complaint, filed in Connecticut Superior Court, further clarified Plaintiffs' claims by specifically alleging that Defendant, acting in his official capacity, violated Plaintiffs' constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Rev. Compl. ¶ 1, ECF No. 1-1.

         Plaintiffs allege that Defendant violated their Fourth Amendment right to privacy and caused them financial and emotional distress by harassing them through numerous and repetitive inspections of their home. Id. According to Plaintiffs, Defendant conducted multiple unnecessary inspections of the same area in Plaintiffs' detached garage. Id. at ¶ 9. Plaintiffs also allege that Defendant required them to sign a document giving Defendant permission to inspect Plaintiffs' property at any time with only twenty-four hours' notice. Id. at ¶¶ 8, 10-12. Defendant allegedly took some of Plaintiffs' personal belongings from their home without their permission. Id. at ¶ 18. According to Plaintiffs, Defendant's conduct ultimately required them to sell their home at a loss. Id. at ¶ 16.

         On March 30, 2017, twenty-one (21) days after Plaintiffs filed their Revised Complaint in Superior Court, Defendant removed the case to this Court, and the Revised Complaint became the operative Complaint in this action. Not. of Rem., ECF No. 1. After filing an Objection to the Notice of Removal, ECF No. 13, which was later re-filed as a Motion to Remand, ECF No. 22, Plaintiffs submitted a motion to amend their Revised Complaint by adding an additional federal claim under 18 U.S.C. § 242, Mot. to Am., ECF No. 24.[2]

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), “any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending.” District courts have original jurisdiction over all cases “arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331. A case may be removed to federal court if the plaintiff's well-pleaded complaint raises issues arising from federal law. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 62 (1987).

         A defendant must file a notice of removal either within thirty days of receiving a copy of the initial pleading setting forth the claim for relief, or within thirty days of receiving “a copy of an amended pleading, motion, order or other paper from which it may first be ascertained that the case is one which is or has become removable.” 28 U.S.C. §§ 1446(b)(1) and (3). Absent a finding of estoppel or waiver, this statutory time limit is rigorously enforced by the federal courts. Somlyo v. J. Lu-Rob Enterprises, Inc., 932 F.2d 1043, 1046 (1991).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiffs have petitioned the Court to remand this case to the Connecticut Superior Court in New London. Plaintiffs do not argue that their claims are not federal in nature; rather, Plaintiffs allege that removal is inappropriate because (1) Defendant initiated the removal outside of the thirty-day time limit imposed by 28 U.S.C. § 1446, and (2) moving the case from New London to Bridgeport would result in hardship to Plaintiffs, as they are elderly and are unable to travel to the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut in Bridgeport. Pl. Mot. at ¶ 16. Each of Plaintiffs' arguments is examined in further detail below.

         A. Time Limit for Removal

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1446, “[t]he notice of removal of a civil action or proceeding shall be filed 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.” 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(1). The thirty-day time period does not necessarily commence upon serving the initial complaint-it commences only when the defendant receives information from which he can ascertain the case's removability. 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(3) (“[I]f the case stated by the initial pleading is not removable, a notice of removal may be filed within 30 days after receipt by the defendant, through service or otherwise, of a copy of an amended pleading, motion, order or other paper from which it may first be ascertained that the case is one which is or has become removable.”); see also Whitaker v. American Telecasting Inc.,261 F.3d 196, 205-206 (2d Cir. 2001) (“A case is removable when the initial pleading ‘enables the defendant to “intelligently ascertain” removability ...


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