Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

No Federal Jurisdiction under Grable If Adequate and Independent Bases for Liability Exist under State Law

The Defendants argued in their notice of removal in Martinez v. City of Faiurfield, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 73746 (E.D. Cal. Aug. 12, 2008), that federal question jurisdiction existed because the plaintiff alleged that the defendant police officer exceeded his authority under the U.S. Constitution and because the plaintiff’s Sixth and Seventh Causes of Action alleged a claim for liability under Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978). Not enough:

"When a claim can be supported by alternative and independent theories — one of which is a state law theory and one of which is a federal law theory — federal question jurisdiction does not attach because federal law is not a necessary element of the claim." Rains v. Criterion Sys., Inc., 80 F.3d 339, 346 (9th Cir. 1996). Accordingly, even if Plaintiff's sixth and seventh cause of action could constitute a Monell claim, they also constitute state tort claims, and thus do not necessarily arise under federal law. See Mary M. v. City of L.A., 54 Cal. 3d 202, 209 (1991) ("The doctrine of respondeat superior applies to public and private employers alike."); White v. Super. Ct., 225 Cal. App. 3d 1505, 1511 (1990) (Recognizing causes of action for "negligent hiring, training, and retention and for failure to train, supervise, and discipline" against the City and County of San Francisco for police officer's misconduct.).

Nonetheless, federal question removal jurisdiction exists where a state law claim "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 jurisdictional responsibilities." Grable & Sons Metal Prods. Inc. v. Darue Eng'g & Mfg., 545 U.S. 308, 314 (2005). Here, Plaintiff's sixth cause of action contains allegations of "excessive force" and that Defendants "have demonstrated deliberate indifference to this pattern and practice of constitutional violations and illegal practices . . . ." (Compl. PP 39-40 (emphasis added).) These allegations appear to raise federal constitutional violations, but any stated federal issue is not a necessary element of Plaintiff's sixth cause of action because that claim could also "be supported by alternative and independent" state law theories of liability. Rains, 80 F.3d at 346. The federal constitution is not expressly mentioned except in the preliminary allegations section of the Complaint, and the referenced illegal practices could be based on the claims that Defendant Garcia violated the California Civil Rights Act, California Civil Code section 52.1. (Compl. PP 19-22.)

Motion to remand granted.

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