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Parish v. Linder Oil Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 15, 2015

PLAQUEMINES PARISH, Plaintiff,
v.
LINDER OIL COMPANY, et al., Section

ORDER AND REASONS

SUSIE MORGAN, District Judge.

Before the Court is a Motion to Remand to State Court filed by Plaintiff Plaquemines Parish ("the Parish").[1] For the reasons that follow, the motion to remand is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

This case is one of many filed in state court by the Parish against various defendants for alleged violations of permits issued pursuant to the State and Local Coastal Resources Management Act of 1978.[2] The Defendants removed this case to federal court, and the Parish filed a motion to remand.[3] On April 17, 2014, the Court granted the parties' joint motion to stay the proceedings until Judge Zainey resolved a motion to remand presenting substantially identical issues.[4]

On December 1, 2014, Judge Zainey issued a thorough, well-reasoned order and reasons remanding the action before him to state court.[5] Judge Zainey found that the Court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction based on diversity, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act ("OCSLA"), admiralty, or federal question. Relying on Judge Zainey's ruling, Judge Africk granted remand in the case before him shorty thereafter.[6] Judge Lemelle also remanded his four actions to state court for substantially the same reasons.[7] Last month, Judge Feldman remanded his five cases, [8] and Judge Barbier recently remanded two cases presenting substantially identical issues.[9] This Court assumes familiarity with the aforementioned orders. Following Judge Zainey's ruling, the Court issued an order setting a briefing schedule on the motion to remand.[10] Briefing has been completed, and the motion to remand is ripe for decision.

In the present case, the Parish asserts permit-violation claims relating to a different geographic area as compared to the cases before the other sections of this court.[11] Although different areas and permits are involved, the cases are functionally indistinguishable. For the purposes of resolving this motion, the Court notes that (1) at least one defendant is a citizen of Louisiana;[12] (2) the conduct that allegedly violated the permits occurred within Plaquemines Parish and not on the Outer Continental Shelf ("OCS"), and (3) the Parish in its Petition disclaims, at great length, any claims other than "state law claims arising under the [applicable regulations, rules, orders, and ordinances promulgated or adopted under the State and Local Coastal Resources Management Act of 1978]."[13]

STANDARD OF LAW

A defendant's right to remove is strictly statutory in nature.[14] The general removal statute governing civil actions provides: "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 defendants."[15] Thus, defendants may remove a state court case only if the case could have originally been filed in federal court.[16] As the removing party, the defendants have the burden of establishing the existence of federal subject-matter jurisdiction.[17]

"To determine whether jurisdiction is present for removal, [district courts] consider the claims in the state court petition as they existed at the time of removal."[18] "In assessing whether removal was appropriate, the Court is guided by the principle, grounded in notions of comity and the recognition that federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, that removal statutes should be strictly construed."[19]

ANALYSIS

In this case, the parties disagree about three potential bases for removal jurisdiction: (1) diversity jurisdiction, (2) OCSLA jurisdiction, and (3) maritime jurisdiction.[20] As noted by Judges Africk and Feldman, this Court likewise "does not under the State and Local Coastal Resources Management Act of 1978]." Id. at p. 34. write on a blank canvas with respect to these issues.'"[21] Because "[t]he Court is persuaded by the thoughtful reasoning in [Judge Zainey's ruling] and sees little benefit in rehashing arguments that have been thoroughly aired and addressed[, ]... the Court will address the parties' arguments only to the extent that they assert errors in [Judge Zainey's] opinion or raise arguments not briefed in that case.'"[22]

A. Diversity Jurisdiction

As in the cases before other sections of this court, complete diversity of citizenship is lacking on the face of the state-court petition because at least one Defendant is a citizen of Louisiana, [23] and the Parish, as a subdivision of the State of Louisiana, is considered a citizen of Louisiana for diversity jurisdiction purposes.[24] The Defendants argue that the Court nevertheless has diversity jurisdiction over the Parish's claims because the Parish has egregiously misjoined in one suit independent actions against diverse and non-diverse Defendants, and the Parish cannot avoid diversity jurisdiction by claiming, with no authority, to represent the State of Louisiana.[25] This is the same argument that has been rejected by Judges Zainey, Africk, Lemelle, Feldman, and Barbier, and this Court finds their reasoning persuasive.

Under the egregious misjoinder theory, as promulgated by the Eleventh Circuit, there may be "fraudulent joinder in instances in which the claim against the diverse defendant has no real connection to the claim against the nondiverse defendant and there is no joint, several or alternative liability."[26] The egregious misjoinder theory requires "egregious" misjoinder of parties with no real connection ...


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