United States District Court, D. Connecticut
SCOTT D. JACKSON, State of Connecticut, Commissioner of Labor, Plaintiff,
FIRST NIAGARA BANK, N.A., Defendant.
ORDER ON MOTION FOR REMAND
A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
D. Jackson, Commissioner of the State of Connecticut
Department of Labor (“Plaintiff”), brought this
suit under his statutory authority under Conn. Gen. Stat.
§ 31-72 to collect unpaid wages on behalf of Brian L.
Pelletier, from his former employee First Niagara Bank, N.A.
(“First Niagara” or “Defendant”), in
the Connecticut Superior Court. ECF No. 1-1.
Niagara then removed the case to this Court. ECF No. 1.
Plaintiff has moved to remand this case to the Connecticut
Superior Court. ECF No. 19. At oral argument on this motion,
the Court granted leave for the parties to provide the Court
with supplemental briefing. ECF No. 29.
reasons that follow, this motion is DENIED.
the State of Connecticut Commissioner of Labor, brings this
case on behalf of Mr. Pelletier, a citizen of the State of
Connecticut. Removal Statement ¶ 1, ECF No. 2. Plaintiff
filed this action on August 4, 2016, in the Connecticut
Superior Court for the Judicial District of Hartford, see
generally Compl., ECF No. 1-1, alleging that First
Niagara was an employer under Conn Gen. Stat. §
31-72a(1). Id. ¶ 2. First Niagara is based in
Buffalo, New York, and is a subsidiary of KeyBank, based in
Cleveland, Ohio. Id. ¶ 4.
Niagara allegedly employed Mr. Pelletier from February 2009
through October 17, 2013. Compl. ¶ 3. On December 2,
2013, Mr. Pelletier allegedly filed a claim with Plaintiff,
seeking assistance in obtaining unpaid wages from First
Niagara. Id. ¶ 4. Plaintiff allegedly
investigated the claim and determined that First Niagara owes
Mr. Pelletier $43, 934 in unpaid wages, consisting of $6, 300
in “true up” commissions based on annual
production, $12, 634 in commissions on mortgage loans for
loans that closed more than thirty days after his October 17,
2013, termination, and a $25, 000 bonus based on Mr.
Pelletier's 2012 performance. Id. ¶ 5. The
$43, 934 in unpaid wages allegedly due to Mr. Pelletier
remains due and outstanding. Compl. ¶ 8. Under Conn.
Gen. Stat. §31-72, Plaintiff seeks to collect double
damages, for a total of $87, 868, in addition to reasonable
attorney's fees, costs and interest. Id. §
support of its motion to remand, Plaintiff has provided a
stipulation, signed by the Attorney General for the State of
Connecticut, George Jepsen, Assistant Attorney General Philip
M. Schulz, Plaintiff's counsel, Assistant Attorney
General, Richard T. Sponzo, and Resa Spaziani, the Director
of the Wage and Workplace Standards Division of the
Connecticut Department of Labor. See generally
Stipulation, ECF No. 19-1. The Stipulation provides that the
State of Connecticut Commissioner of Labor, “will not
seek more than $75, 000.00 in his claims against” First
Niagara. Id. at 1. Plaintiff has also provided a
stipulation signed by Mr. Pelletier, where he agreed not to
seek more than $75, 000.00 from First Niagara. See
Pl.'s Reply Ex. A at 12, ECF No. 23.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
courts have “original jurisdiction of all civil actions
where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of
$75, 000, exclusive of interests and costs, and is between .
. . citizens of different States.” 28 U.S.C. §
1332(a). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1441, “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 . . . to the district court of the United
States for the district . . . embracing the place where such
action is pending.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a).
has the burden of demonstrating that removal of a case to
federal court is proper. California Pub. Employees'
Ret. Sys. v. WorldCom, Inc., 368 F.3d 86, 100 (2d Cir.
2004); Mehlenbacher v. Akzo Nobel Salt, Inc., 216
F.3d 291, 296 (2d Cir. 2000). The Court must “resolve
any doubts against removability, ” out of
“respect for the limited jurisdiction of the federal
courts and the rights of states.” In re Methyl
Tertiary Butyl Ether (“MTBE”) Prod. Liab.
Litig., 488 F.3d 112, 124 (2d Cir. 2007) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
argues that the Court should remand this case for three
reasons: (1) suits involving a state as a real party in
interest cannot be removed, because a state is not a citizen
of any state, precluding diversity jurisdiction, Pl.'s
Br. at 9-10, ECF No. 19-1; (2) the amount in controversy does
not exceed $75, 000, id. at 2-6; and (3) the Court
should abstain from deciding Plaintiff's claims because
they raise novel issues of state law. Id. at 6-9;
Pl.'s Supp. Br. Add. at 2-4, ECF No. 33. First Niagara