United States District Court, D. Maine
ORDER ON MOTION TO REMAND
Torresen, United States District Judge.
me is the Plaintiffs' motion to remand (ECF No. 13) to
state court their Amended Complaint asserting four state law
claims: one count of abuse of process, two counts of wrongful
use of civil proceedings, and one count of violation of the
Maine Civil Rights Act (“MCRA”).
The Defendant opposes remand. For the reasons stated below, I
GRANT the Plaintiffs' motion to remand.
parties are familiar with the background of this case and so
I only highlight a few legally pertinent facts. Plaintiffs
Matthew Pollack and Jane Quirion are parents to B.P., a
student with disabilities. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 4, 5 (ECF
No. 9). The Plaintiffs previously filed two lawsuits in this
Court against the local school district and various district
employees arising out of disagreements about educational
opportunities for B.P. and allegedly retaliatory actions
taken against the Plaintiffs and B.P. The Plaintiffs spent almost
seven years engaged in intensive litigation of their claims.
Ultimately, after due process hearings, extensive motions
practice, a jury trial, and two appeals, they came up
empty-handed. See Pollack v. Reg'l Sch. Unit 75,
886 F.3d 75 (1st Cir. 2018); Pollack v. Reg'l Sch.
Unit 75, 660 Fed.Appx. 1 (1st Cir. 2016); Pollack v.
Reg'l Sch. Unit 75, No. 2:13-CV-109-NT, 2017 WL
1592264 (D. Me. Apr. 28, 2017); Pollack v. Reg'l Sch.
Unit 75, No. 2:13-CV-109-NT, 2016 WL 335860 (D. Me. Jan.
27, 2016). The Defendant here, Jessica Fournier, B.P.'s
special-education teacher from August of 2010 until June of
2012 was not a party to the previous cases, although her
alleged actions were central to the Plaintiffs'
grievances. See Am. Compl. ¶ 6.
of 2018, the Plaintiffs filed a seven-count Complaint against
Fournier in the Maine Superior Court alleging the four state
law claims listed above, as well as claims for unlawful
retaliation under the First Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution, 29 U.S.C. § 794 (the Rehabilitation Act),
and 42 U.S.C. § 12203 (the Americans with Disabilities
Act). Compl. (ECF No. 5-2). The Defendant removed the
Complaint to this Court and filed a motion to dismiss. Notice
of Removal (ECF No. 1); Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss (ECF No.
8). The Defendant's notice of removal asserts that this
Court has federal question jurisdiction over the claims
alleged in the Complaint because they arise under federal
law. Notice of Removal 2. In her motion to dismiss, the
Defendant argues that the majority of the Plaintiffs'
claims are barred by the doctrine of res judicata and the
remaining state law claims are barred by the statute of
limitations, failure to provide notice, and failure to state
a claim. Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss 1.
two weeks after the Defendant filed her motion to dismiss,
the Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint, in which they
dropped their three federal claims and asserted only the four
state law claims. Am. Compl. The Plaintiffs then moved to
remand their case to state court. Pls.' Mot. to Remand.
the dismissal of the Plaintiffs' federal claims, the
Amended Complaint no longer contains an explicit federal
cause of action. See BIW Deceived v. Local S6, Indus.
Union of Marine & Shipbuilding Workers of Am., 132
F.3d 824, 831 (1st Cir. 1997). The Defendant argues that at
the heart of each of the Plaintiffs' state law claims is
a claim that they were retaliated against for exercising
rights protected by the First Amendment, the Rehabilitation
Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Defendant
contends that even though the Plaintiffs abandoned their
federal claims in their Amended Complaint, federal question
jurisdiction still exists under three theories. First, she
contends that the artful pleading doctrine applies; next, she
claims that a federal claim preclusion defense supplies the
jurisdictional toehold; and finally, she argues that there
are embedded federal questions in each of the Plaintiffs'
state law claims.
The Well-Pleaded Complaint Rule
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 of the
district and division embracing the place where such action
28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Federal district courts have
“original jurisdiction” over “all civil
actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of
the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331. There is no
“single, precise definition” for the statutory
phrase “arising under, ” and the phrase
“masks a welter of issues regarding the interrelation
of federal and state authority and the proper management of
the federal judicial system.” Franchise Tax Bd. of
Cal. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Tr. for S. Cal., 463
U.S. 1, 8 (1983).
gates of federal question jurisdiction are customarily
patrolled by a steely-eyed sentry-the ‘well-pleaded
complaint rule.' ” BIW Deceived, 132 F.3d
at 831 (citation omitted). Under that rule, “federal
jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented
on the face of the plaintiff's properly pleaded
complaint.” Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482
U.S. 386, 392 (1987). A plaintiff, as ...