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Fishman v. Williams

United States District Court, D. Maine

September 6, 2016




         Defendant Bradley Williams, proceeding pro se, removed this defamation action to this Court from state court. Defendant, however, has not cited any facts to support a claim within the subject matter jurisdiction of this Court. In addition, Defendant failed to comply with a show cause order of this Court regarding the filing of the state court record. Accordingly, I recommend the Court remand the matter to state court.


         Defendant removed this action from state court on July 1, 2016. (Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1.) In his notice of removal, Defendant asserts that Plaintiff has used the state courts “as a place of sanctuary and safe refuge from prosecution” and that Defendant is “counter-suing for well over the statutory $75, 000 limit required for this to be heard in the U.S. District Court.” (Id. at 1, ¶¶ 6 - 7.) Defendant attached to the notice a number of documents, including the state court complaint in which Plaintiff alleges that Defendant is liable to Plaintiff for defamation. (Complaint, ECF No. 1, PageID # 5 - 7.) The pleadings also reflect that Plaintiff and Defendant are both domiciled in Maine. (ECF No. 1, PageID # 9.)

         Following the removal, the Court issued a procedural order pursuant to which Defendant, as the removing party, was required to file a complete copy of the state court record in the case. (Procedural Order re. Removal, ECF No. 3.) The Court established July 13, 2016, as the deadline for filing the state court record. In the procedural order, the Court wrote: “Failure to timely file the duplicative record and the specified affidavit of counsel may result in a remand of this matter to the state court from which removed or dismissal of the action.” (Id.) When Defendant failed to comply with the procedural order, the Court issued an order directing Defendant to show cause on or before July 29, 2016, “why he has failed to comply with the Court's order that required [him] to file the state court record.” (Order to Show Cause, ECF No. 7.) The Court also warned Defendant that failure to show cause could result in remand to state court or dismissal. (Id.)


         The pleadings before the Court demonstrate that both Plaintiff and Defendant are domiciled in Maine and that the matter removed from state court presents a state law claim of defamation. The Court thus lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action. Additionally, even if this Court has subject matter jurisdiction over the removed action, Defendant has ignored the Court's procedural orders regarding removal, including an order to show cause regarding his failure to file the state court record.

         A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         “Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction [and] [f]ederal courts are expected to monitor their jurisdictional boundaries vigilantly …” Am. Fiber & Finishing, Inc. v. Tyco Healthcare Grp., LP, 362 F.3d 136, 138 - 39 (1st Cir. 2004). This Court, therefore, has “a sua sponte duty to confirm the existence of jurisdiction in the face of apparent jurisdictional defects.” United States v. Univ. of Mass., Worcester, 812 F.3d 35, 44 (1st Cir. 2016). For the matter to proceed in this Court, the parties' dispute must present either a federal question, 28 U.S.C. § 1331, or a matter in controversy that exceeds the value of $75, 000 between persons domiciled in different states, 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

         1. Federal question jurisdiction

         Plaintiff's complaint sets forth a state law defamation claim, not a federal question. Although Defendant might intend to assert a counterclaim or defenses based on federal law, federal question jurisdiction cannot be based on counterclaims and defenses.

[A] suit arises under the Constitution and laws of the United States only when the plaintiff's statement of his own cause of action shows that it is based upon those laws or that Constitution. It is not enough that the plaintiff alleges some anticipated defense to his cause of action, and asserts that the defense is invalidated by some provision of the Constitution of the United States. Although such allegations show that very likely, in the course of the litigation, a question under the Constitution would arise, they do not show that the suit, that is, the plaintiff's original cause of action, arises under the Constitution.

Louisville & Nashville R. Co. v. Mottley, 211 U.S. 149, 152 (1908). See also Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987) (“federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented on the face of the plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint”); Ballard's Serv. Ctr., Inc. v. Transue, 865 F.2d 447, 449 (1st Cir. 1989) (“Title 28 U.S.C. § 1446 authorizes removal only by defendants and only on the basis of claims brought against them and not on the basis of counterclaims asserted by them.”); Rafter v. Stevenson, 680 F.Supp.2d 275, 279 (D. Me. 2010) (“An actual or anticipated counterclaim sounding in federal law … cannot create federal jurisdiction.”). Plaintiff's complaint simply does not include a basis for this Court to exercise federal question jurisdiction.

         2. ...

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