United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Marvin E. Aspen United States District Judge.
an action involving removal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1442. Respondent Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) filed a motion to vacate and dismiss a
state court order in the Circuit Court of Cook County,
Illinois, Criminal Division. (Mot. to Vacate (Dkt. No. 8).)
The challenged order compelled SSA to produce “any/all
social security numbers associated with Theresa
Sawyer.” (Mot. to Vacate, Ex. A.) For the following
reasons, we hereby grant SSA’s motion to vacate and
dismiss the state court order.
December 11, 2017, the Circuit Court of Cook County,
Illinois, Criminal Division entered the disputed order to
compel in an underlying criminal case, in which SSA is not a
party (13 CR 13633). Id. The next day, SSA filed a
notice of removal to this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1442. (Dkt. No. 2; Mot. to Vacate ¶ 2.) Invoking
sovereign immunity, SSA filed a motion requesting we vacate
the state court order, arguing state courts “may not
compel production of records or compliance with discovery by
federal agencies or officials.” (Mot. to Vacate ¶
3.) Furthermore, SSA argues “federal law prohibit[s]
disclosure of SSA records to the state court in this
case,” as compliance with the order would require the
prohibited provision of SSA records to third parties.
(Id. ¶ 4.) We entered a briefing schedule on
SSA’s motion to vacate on December 21, 2017. (Dkt. No.
10.) Defendant Camari Glover did not file a response by our
ordered deadline. (Id.) Nor has Defendant filed a
timely motion to remand. See 28 U.S.C. §
1447(c) (requiring motions to remand be filed within thirty
days of removal).
addressing SSA’s argument, we first consider our
authority to exercise jurisdiction over this motion. Pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1442, any civil or criminal action
“commenced in a State court and that is against or
directed to [a federal agency] may be removed by the
[agency] to the district court of the United States for the
district and division embracing the place wherein it is
pending.” 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1). Under §
1442, the definition of “civil action” and
“criminal prosecution” encompasses any
“judicial order, including a subpoena for testimony or
documents.” 28 U.S.C. § 1442(d)(1). Because this
matter challenges a state court order to compel SSA, a
federal agency, to produce information in our district, we
find removal proper and exercise derivative jurisdiction over
this dispute. See Edwards v. U.S. Dep’t of
Justice, 43 F.3d 312, 315 (7th Cir. 1994).
agree with SSA that state courts may not compel a federal
agency or official unless sovereign immunity has been waived.
“[T]he United States may restrict the release of its
information,” and state courts may not compel discovery
of confidential information from an “unwilling
sovereign.” Edwards, 43 F.3d at 317 (affirming
the quashing of a state subpoena because the state court
“had no jurisdiction to compel the delivery of
[Department of Justice] information”). Congress
enacted. § 1442 to “protect federal officers from
interference by hostile state courts.” Willingham
v. Morgan, 395 U.S. 402, 405, 89 S. Ct. 1813, 1815
(1969) (discussing the history of § 1442). Accordingly,
federal courts vacate or quash state court orders compelling
federal agencies to produce information when the agency has
not explicitly waived sovereign immunity. See, e.g.,
Hous. Bus. Journal, Inc. v. Office of the Comptroller of
the Currency, 86 F.3d 1208, 1211 (D.C. Cir. 1996)
(explaining that where a litigant seeks to obtain documents
from a non-party federal government agency in state court,
the federal government is shielded by sovereign immunity,
which prevents the state court from enforcing a subpoena);
Louisiana v. Sparks, 978 F.2d 226, 235 (5th Cir.
1992) (citing “myriad cases involving a § 1442(a)
removal of a state subpoena proceeding against an unwilling
federal officer [holding] that the sovereign immunity
doctrine bars enforcement of the subpoena”);
Illinois v. Countee, 07 C 5319 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 17,
2007) (slip op.) (vacating rule to show cause order
compelling production of records by SSA) (attached to Mot. to
Vacate, Ex. A); In re “Order to Show Cause Why Soc.
Sec. Admin. Should Not be Held in Contempt for Failure to
Comply with This Court’s Order Dated Oct. 19,
2006”, No. 07 60178 CIV, 2007 WL 2077632, at *2
(S.D. Fla. July 13, 2007) (“When a litigant seeks to
obtain documents from a non-party federal government agency
in state court, the federal government is shielded by
sovereign immunity, thereby preventing the state court from
enforcing a subpoena.”) (footnote omitted). We
accordingly vacate and dismiss the state court order
compelling SSA to produce social security information.
SSA argues federal law and regulations prohibit disclosure of
the requested information, we do not decide the propriety of
SSA’s decision to withhold the requested social
security numbers. (Mot. to Vacate ¶ 3.) Should Defendant
seek to challenge the propriety of SSA’s decision,
Defendant must initiate a separate federal claim under the
Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 701 et seq.
See Illinois v. Holmes, No. 17 C 183, 2017 WL 2345631,
at *2 n.2 (N.D. Ill. May 30, 2017) (declining to convert a
motion to vacate and dismiss a state court order into an APA
proceeding without the parties’ request).
foregoing reasons, we hereby grant SSA’s motion to
vacate the state court order. The instant action is hereby
remanded to the Circuit Court of Cook County in the
underlying criminal case (13 CR 13633). It is so ordered.
 Neither SSA’s motion to vacate
nor the state court order explicitly indicates which party to
the criminal prosecution requested SSA information. However,
we assume that Defendant requested SSA records ...