United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON MOTION TO REMAND
Michael P. Shea, U.S.D.J.
State of Connecticut brought this suit under Conn. Gen. Stat.
§ 51-298 against inmate Rashad Williams to recover the
costs it incurred in providing public defender services to
him over the course of several years. Williams removed the
case to this Court, citing federal question jurisdiction.
(ECF No. 1 at 2). In particular, Williams asserts that this
case is related to another case before this Court in which he
attained a $300,000 judgment against an employee of the State
of Connecticut’s Department of Correction for
violations of his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
(“Section 1983”). See Williams v.
Murphy, 13CV01154 (MPS) (“2013 case”). After
the entry of judgment in that case, the State of Connecticut
sought to apply a lien against the judgment for the costs of
incarcerating Williams under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 18-85b.
Williams challenged the constitutionality of that action,
along with others, in motions filed in that case on the basis
that the State’s actions were preempted by Section
1983. (See Id. at ECF No. 240; ECF No. 256). He
asserts in his removal notice that the State of
Connecticut’s attempt to recover public defender costs
from the proceeds of his judgment is similarly preempted by
Section 1983. (ECF No. 1 at 3).
me now is the State of Connecticut’s motion to remand
the case back to state court and for costs and
attorney’s fees. (ECF No. 11). For the reasons set
forth below, the State’s motion is granted in part and
denied in part. I remand this case to Connecticut Superior
Court but I do not award the State of Connecticut costs and
evaluating the propriety of a removal, courts start with the
baseline principle that federal courts are courts of limited
jurisdiction.” Veneruso v. Mount Vernon
neighborhood Health Center, 933 F. Supp. 2d 613, 618
(S.D.N.Y. 2013). Thus, “removal jurisdiction exists in
a given case only when that jurisdiction is expressly
conferred on the courts by Congress.” Id.
(internal quotation marks omitted). Under “28 U.S.C.
§ 1441, a civil action filed in state court may be
removed by the defendant to federal district court if the
district court has original subject matter jurisdiction over
the plaintiff’s claim.” Lupo v. Human Affairs
Intern., Inc., 28 F.3d 269, 271 (2d Cir. 1994); see
also 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) (“Except as
otherwise expressly provided by Act of Congress, 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 the defendants, to the district
court of the United States for the district and division
embracing the place where such action is pending.”).
“[D]istrict courts . . . have original jurisdiction of
all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or
treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
“[t]his provision for federal-question jurisdiction is
invoked by and large by plaintiffs pleading a cause of action
created by federal law,” “[t]here is . . .
another longstanding, if less frequently encountered variety
of federal ‘arising under’ jurisdiction.”
Grable & Sons Metal Products, Inc. v. Darue
Engineering & Mfg., 545 U.S. 308, 312 (2005).
“[E]ven where a claim finds its origins in state rather
than federal law,” the Supreme Court has
“identified a ‘special and small category’
of cases in which arising under jurisdiction still
lies.” Gunn v. Minton, 568 U.S. 251, 258
(2013) (quoting Empire Healthchoice Assurance, Inc. v.
McVeigh, 547 U.S. 677, 699 (2006)). A state-law claim
falls within this limited category when it “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.” Id.
(quoting Grable, 545 U.S. at 314). Thus,
“federal 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.” (Id.). “The
removing party bears the burden of establishing that removal
is proper.” Zerafa v. Montefiore Hosp. Hous.
Co., 403 F. Supp. 2d 320, 325 (S.D.N.Y. 2005).
argues that the State’s claim falls within this narrow
category of federal “arising under” jurisdiction.
(ECF No. 15 at 5). However, he fails to meet the first factor
of the Gunn test. With regard to the first factor,
“[a] state-law claim ‘necessarily’ raises
federal questions where the claim is affirmatively
‘premised’ on a violation of federal law.”
New York ex rel. Jacobson v. Wells Fargo National Bank,
N.A., 824 F.3d 308, 315 (2d Cir. 2016) (quoting
Grable, 545 U.S. at 314). By contrast, a state
law-claim does not necessarily raise a federal question
“where all [of the plaintiff’s] claims s[eek]
relief under state law and none necessarily raise[s] a
federal issue.” Id. (quoting Merrill
Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc. v. Manning, 136
S. Ct. 1562, 1575 (2016)). Thus, the relevant inquiry
concerns whether the plaintiff’s state law claim
requires a showing under federal law to succeed.
See In re Standard & Poor's Rating Agency
Litig., 23 F. Supp. 3d 378, 396 (S.D.N.Y. 2014)
(concluding state law claim did not “necessarily”
raise a federal question because it did not require plaintiff
to prove a violation of federal law to prevail on the claim).
State of Connecticut’s sole claim in this case relies
upon Conn. Gen. Stat. § 51-298, which provides a right
of action under Connecticut state law against any person who
has received public defender services from the State.
See Conn. Gen. Stat. § 51-298 (“The
[Connecticut Public Defender] [C]ommission shall have a claim
against any person represented by a public defender,
assistant public defender, deputy assistant public defender
or Division of Public Defender Services assigned counsel
pursuant to this chapter, for the reasonable value of
services rendered to him, as determined in accordance with
the schedule of reasonable charges for public defender
services provided by the [Public Defender Services
Commission].”). This claim does not turn on any
construction of federal law and therefore does not
“necessarily” raise a federal question. Even if,
as Williams suggests, the State is only bringing the claim
because Williams has won a federal judgment, that does not
make proof of the federal judgment-or the underlying Section
1983 claim-a necessary component of the State’s claim.
This remains true even if, as Williams argues, the State must
prove that Williams has “become financially able to
meet all or some part of the cost of the [public defender]
services rendered to him,” Conn. Gen. Stat. §
51-298(a), and the State can make that showing only because
Williams won the Section 1983 judgment. That circumstance
would not necessarily raise an issue of federal law for the
Court to decide.
also argues that this Court “may appropriately exercise
its ancillary jurisdiction arising from the [2013 case] to
adjudicate this case.” (ECF No. 15 at 5); see also
K.C. ex rel. Erica C. v. Torlakson, 762 F.3d 963, 966
(9th Cir. 2014) (“The ‘doctrine of
ancillary jurisdiction . . . recognizes federal courts’
jurisdiction over some matters (otherwise beyond their
competence) that are incidental to other matters properly
before them.’” (quoting Kokkonen v. Guardian
Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 378 (1994))).
However, the Supreme Court foreclosed this avenue of removal
in Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc. v. Henson, 537
U.S. 28 (2002). Syngenta concerned attempted removal
by defendants of a state court proceeding they alleged was
initiated in violation of a settlement in a related but
separate federal court case. See Id. at 30. The
defendants claimed that the removal was justified, in part,
on the basis that the federal court possessed
“ancillary enforcement jurisdiction” over the
state law claims at issue due to their violation of the
settlement in federal court. Id. at 33-34.
Syngenta Court rejected this contention.
Id. at 34. It noted that the defendants
“fail[ed] to explain how the [federal district
court’s] retention of jurisdiction over the . . .
settlement [in the related case] authorized removal
of the [state court] action.” Id. at 34.
Removal, the Court noted, “is governed by statute, and
invocation of ancillary jurisdiction . . . does not dispense
with the need for compliance with statutory
requirements.” Id. The Court also rejected the
defendants’ claim “that ancillary jurisdiction
authorizes removal under 28 U.S.C. § 1441.”
Id. Since “a court must have jurisdiction over
a case or controversy before it may assert jurisdiction over
ancillary claims,” the Court noted, ancillary
jurisdiction “cannot provide the original jurisdiction
that petitioners must show in order to qualify for removal
under § 1441.” Id. (internal citations
and quotation marks omitted). Thus, even if this Court did
possess ancillary jurisdiction over the issues presented by
this case, that would not provide a valid basis for removal
of this action from state court.
therefore conclude that this matter must be remanded to
Connecticut Superior Court.
Costs and Attorney’s Fees
order remanding the case may require payment of just costs
and any actual expenses, including attorney fees, incurred as
a result of the removal.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).
“Absent unusual circumstances, courts may award
attorney’s fees under § 1447(c) only where the
removing party lacked an objectively reasonable basis for
seeking removal.” Martin v. Franklin Capital
Corp., 546 U.S. 132, 141 (2005). “In applying this
rule, district courts retain discretion to consider whether
unusual circumstances warrant a departure from the rule in a
given case.” Id. The Martin Court
provides as examples of such unusual circumstances “a
plaintiff’s delay in seeking remand or failure to
disclose facts necessary to determine jurisdiction. . .
.” Id. “When a court ...