United States District Court, D. Connecticut
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO REMAND
BOND ARTERTON, U.S.D.J.
Luigi Amasino initiated this action in Connecticut Superior
Court alleging that Defendant Town of Branford retaliated
against him for exercising rights protected by the First
Amendment to the United States Constitution and by Article
First, Sections 3, 4, and 14 of the Connecticut Constitution
in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-51q. Defendant
removed [Doc. # 1] the action on May 5, 2011. Plaintiff filed
a Motion [Doc. # 13] to Remand to State Court and thereafter
filed an Amended Complaint removing all allegations invoking
his First Amendment rights under the United States
Constitution. Defendant opposes [Docs. ## 17, 21] remand. For
the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs Motion to Remand to State
Court is GRANTED.
claims that because his only cause of action seeks relief
solely under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-51q and there are no
federal claims, this case must be remanded back to state
court. However, Defendant correctly notes that "a
plaintiff need not allege a cause of action created by
federal law for the case to arise under federal law"
within the meaning of 28 U.S.C § 1331 where "the
plaintiffs statement of his or her state-law claim in a
well-pleaded complaint necessarily depends on resolution of a
substantial question of federal law." Bracey v. Bd.
of Educ. of City of Bridgeport, 368 F.3d 108, 113 (2d
Cir. 2004) (internal quotation marks omitted). In
Bracey, the complaint alleged violation of the
plaintiffs rights as established by either the
United States or the Connecticut Constitution. Id.
The Second Circuit found that "the vindication of [the
plaintiffs] state-law rights as asserted in his well-pleaded
section 31-51q cause of action requires that a court construe
federal First Amendment law and evaluate its scope"
without significance as to whether the plaintiff
"recovered because the [defendant] violated his right to
free expression under the United States Constitution or the
Connecticut Constitution, or both." Id. at 116.
Defendant therefore claims that pursuant to Bracey
the Court has federal question jurisdiction over Plaintiffs
state law claim.
following Bracey, several district courts concluded
they had federal question jurisdiction even when the
plaintiffs' complaints referenced only the Connecticut
Constitution, omitting the First Amendment of the U.S.
Constitution. See e.g., Ting v. Univ. of Bridgeport,
No. 3:11-CV-20 (CFD), 2011 WL 2222309 at *4 (D. Conn. June 7,
2011) (finding, in light of Bracey, that the
plaintiffs' 31-51q claim "arises under federal law
because courts construe section 31-51q claims in accordance
with federal First Amendment law, irrespective of whether the
plaintiff claims a violation of federal or state
constitutional law."); Vale v. City of New Haven
Police Dep't, No. 3:11-CV-00632 (PCD), 2011 WL
13104125, at *1 (D. Conn. Oct. 25, 2011)
("Bracey departs from the typical rule and does
not permit the federal constitutional claim to be severed
from the § 31-51q claim even if the plaintiff has relied
solely on state constitutional provisions.").
in 2015 the Connecticut Supreme Court held in Trusz v.
UBS Realty Investors, LLC that "textual differences
[in Article First of the Connecticut Constitution] warrant an
interpretation separate and distinct from that of the [F]irst
[A]mendment." 123 A.3d 1212, 1221 (Conn. 2015) (internal
quotation marks omitted). Thus, "the governing standard
applicable to retaliation claims pursuant to Section 31-51q
differs from federal First Amendment analysis."
Perez-Dickson v. Bridgeport Bd. of Educ, No.
3:13CV198 (WWE), 2016 WL 236206, at *6 (D. Conn. Jan. 19,
Trusz, district courts have determined there is no
federal jurisdiction when a Section 31-51q claim expressly
seeks protection only under the Connecticut Constitution.
See e.g., Kolpinski v. Rushford Ctr., Inc., No.
3:15-CV-1267 (SRU), 2016 WL 3919798 (D. Conn. July 18, 2016);
Perez-Dickson, 2016 WL 236206, at *6. In
Koplinski Judge Underhill found that where the
plaintiff "chose only to seek the protections provided
by the Connecticut Constitution, " his or her
"right of relief does not necessarily turn on the
construction of a federal law, " and thus the federal
court has no jurisdiction. 2016 WL 3919798 at *6. Relying on
Trusz, Judge Underhill concluded that
"[b]ecause a section 31-51q claim does not require an
allegation of First Amendment injury, it does not necessarily
require resolution of a federal question" and the case
was remanded to state court. Id. at *5; see also
Perez-Dickson v. Bridgeport Bd. of Educ, 2016 WL 236206,
at *6 (D. Conn. Jan. 19, 2016) (finding appropriate remand of
the plaintiffs section 31-51q claim after federal claims had
been dismissed at summary judgment).
light of Trusz, because Plaintiffs Amended Complaint
elects to claim violation of the Connecticut Constitution
only, it does not "necessarily" raise an issue of
federal First Amendment law and Plaintiffs right to relief
will not be determined in relation to the scope of First
Amendment law. Accordingly, this Court lacks federal question
jurisdiction over Plaintiffs claim.
foregoing reasons, Plaintiffs Motion to Remand is GRANTED.
This case is remanded to the Connecticut Superior Court for