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Lawrence v. Caliber Auto Transfer of St. Louis

October 14, 2009

DWAYNE LAWRENCE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CALIBER AUTO TRANSFER OF ST. LOUIS, INC., CALIBER MANAGEMENT, INC., CALIBER AUTO TRANSFER COMPANIES, AN UNINCORPORATED ENTITY ACTING AS A PARTNER, CALIBER AUTO TRANSFER, INC., AND SCOTT DAVENPORT, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on its own initiative. The Court has an independent duty to ensure that it has subject matter jurisdiction to hear cases brought before it. Hammes v. AAMCO Transmissions, Inc., 33 F.3d 774, 778 (7th Cir. 1994); see also Cook v. Winfrey, 141 F.3d 322, 325 (7th Cir. 1998) (citing Crawford v. United States, 796 F.2d 924, 929 (7th Cir. 1986) ("[O]nce the district judge has reason to believe that there is a serious jurisdictional issue, he is obliged to resolve it before proceeding to the merits even if the defendant, whether as a matter of indolence or strategy, does not press the issue.")). The instant matter is identical to other cases that the Court remanded. See Garfield Richards v. Caliber Auto Transfer of St. Louis, Inc., et al., Civil No. 09-561-JPG (S.D. Ill. July 24, 2009); Angela Ingram v. Caliber Auto Transfer of St. Louis, Inc., et al., Civil No. 09-562-JPG (S.D. Ill. July 24, 2009).With this in mind, and for the following reasons, the Court REMANDS the instant matter for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

BACKGROUND

I. Facts

In his Complaint (Doc. 2; Exhibit A), Plaintiff Dwayne Lawrence (hereinafter "Lawrence") asserts numerous claims against Defendants (hereinafter "Caliber"), including breach of contract, fraud, willful and wanton conduct, negligence, and violation of the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act, 820 ILCS 130/0.01 et seq. Specifically, Lawrence argues that Caliber laid off him and his co-workers on the false premise that no work existed, when, in fact, Caliber wanted to replace the workers with cheaper immigrant labor. Lawrence further argues that he was hired and employed as a union laborer entitled to the protection of a collective bargaining agreement between Caliber and United Iron Workers Local 396; however, Caliber failed to pay union dues, thereby depriving Lawrence of union representation. Finally, Lawrence contends that Caliber falsely represented that he and his co-workers voluntarily left their employment and/or engaged in misconduct, thereby depriving them of unemployment benefits. This case was filed originally in the Circuit Court of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit, St. Clair County, Illinois, and was removed on October 9, 2009, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 28 U.S.C. § 1441.

II. Related Procedural Posture

The Southern District of Illinois has already seen litigation involving the aforementioned claims against Caliber as brought by some of Lawrence's co-workers, particularly Charles Bourda and Monica Miller.*fn1 See Charles J. Bourda v. Caliber Auto Transfer of St. Louis, Inc., et al., Civil No. 09-181-GPM (S.D. Ill. filed Mar. 5, 2009); Monica Miller v. Caliber Auto Transfer of St. Louis, Inc., et al., Civil No. 09-563-DRH (S.D. Ill. filed July 24, 2009). Bourda and Miller had been removed for reasons similar to those currently before the Court,*fn2 and both were remanded by Judge Murphy and Chief Judge Herndon respectively.*fn3 Following remand, Caliber once again removed Bourda, only to be met with remand yet again.*fn4 See Charles J. Bourda v. Caliber Auto Transfer of St. Louis, Inc., et al., Civil No. 09-519-GPM (S.D. Ill. filed July 10, 2009).

ANALYSIS

I. Removal Generally

A defendant may remove a case filed in state court to federal court so long as there is original federal jurisdiction over the case. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) (2006); Chase v. Shop 'N Save Warehouse Foods, 110 F.3d 424, 427 (7th Cir. 1997). The party invoking the Court's jurisdiction bears the burden of showing that the case is properly brought. McNutt v. Gen. Motors Acceptance Corp. of Ind., 298 U.S. 178, 189 (1936); Del Vecchio v. Conseco, Inc., 230 F.3d 974, 979 (7th Cir. 2000); Am. Bankers Life Assur. Co. of Fla. v. Evans, 319 F.3d 907, 909 (7th Cir. 2003). Statutes that provide for removal are to be construed narrowly, and any doubts concerning removal should be resolved in favor of remand. Doe v. Allied-Signal, Inc., 985 F.2d 908, 911 (7th Cir. 1993).In other words, there is a strong presumption in favor of remand. Jones v. Gen. Tire & Rubber Co., 541 F.2d 660, 664 (7th Cir. 1976).

II. "Arising Under" Federal Jurisdiction

Federal district courts hold "original jurisdiction of all civil matters arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (2006). A case arises under federal law if it meets the "well-pleaded complaint" rule, whereby federal law appears on the face of a plaintiff's complaint. Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). The policies surrounding this rule are clear: "that the plaintiff is the master of the complaint, that a federal question must appear on the face of the complaint, and that the plaintiff may, by eschewing claims based on federal law, choose to have the cause heard in state court." Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 398-99.

Even if the well-pleaded complaint rule is not met, an action may arise under federal law if the state law at issue is "completely preempted" by federal law. This occurs when "the preemptive force of a [federal] statute is so 'extraordinary' that it 'converts an ordinary state common-law complaint into one stating a federal claim for purposes of the well-pleaded complaint rule.'" Nelson v. Stewart, 422 F.3d 463, 466-67 (7th Cir. 2005) (quoting Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 393). Following complete preemption, "any claim purportedly based on that preempted state law is considered, from its inception, a federal claim, and therefore arises under federal law [thereby authorizing removal]." Nelson, 422 F.3d at 467. While complete preemption represents a very narrow exception to the well-pleaded ...


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