United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
MARKO BACA, ET AL.
SABINE RIVER AUTHORITY
RULING AND ORDER
A. JACKSON, CHIEF JUDGE.
the Court is the United States Magistrate Judge's Report
and Recommendation (Doc. 28), issued pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1), addressing the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 5)
filed by Defendant Sabine River Authority and the Motion to
Remand (Doc. 8) filed by Plaintiffs. (Doc. 8). In the Report and
Recommendation, the Magistrate Judge recommended that the
Motion to Remand be granted and that this matter be returned
to the 19th Judicial District Court, Parish of East Baton
Rouge, State of Louisiana, for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. (Doc. 28 at p. 20). The Magistrate Judge also
recommended that the Motion to Dismiss be denied as moot if
the Court remands the case. Id.
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C) and Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 72, the parties had fourteen days from the date
they received the Report and Recommendation to file written
objections to the proposed findings of fact, conclusions of
law, and recommendations therein. Plaintiff timely objected
to the Report and Recommendation. (Doc. 29).
the owners of property located in Vernon and Beauregard
Parishes, Louisiana, allege that Defendant operated the
Toledo Bend Dam in Louisiana and that the dam caused
catastrophic flooding to their property. (Doc. 1-4 at ¶
5-11). Plaintiffs claim that Defendant's actions
constitute a taking under the Louisiana Constitution, Article
I, Section 4 "for the condemnation/taking of their
property" and that under the Louisiana Constitution and
La. R.S. § 13:5111, they are "entitled to just
compensation to the full extent of their losses resulting
from Defendant's partial taking of their
properties." (Doc. 1-4 at ¶ 18-23). On March 9,
2017, Plaintiffs filed suit in the 19th Judicial District
Court for the Parish of East Baton Rouge, State of Louisiana.
(Doc. 1-4). On April 24, 2017, Defendant removed the action
to this Court, asserting subject matter jurisdiction under 28
U.S.C. § 1331 and 16 U.S.C. § 825p, which provides
federal courts with jurisdiction over duties and liabilities
created by the Federal Power Act. (Doc. 1-5 at p. 2).
Magistrate Judge recommended granting Plaintiffs' Motion
to Remand. (Doc. 28). Defendant objects to the Magistrate
Judge's Report and Recommendation. (Doc. 29 at p. 3).
First, Defendant argues that Plaintiffs' claims trigger
federal jurisdiction because they necessarily raise actually
disputed and substantial issues of federal law. Id.
at 3. "A case aris[es] under federal law for § 1331
purposes if a well-pleaded complaint establishes either that
federal law creates the cause of action or that the
plaintiffs right to relief necessarily depends on resolution
of a substantial question of federal law." Empire
Healthchoice Assurance, Inc. v. McVeigh, 5A1 U.S. 677,
678 (2006) (internal quotations omitted). Where, as here,
plaintiffs have not pled a federal cause of action, the
question is whether "a state-law claim necessarily raise
a stated federal issue, actually disputed and substantial,
which a federal forum may entertain without disturbing any
congressionally approved balance of federal and state
judicial responsibilities." Grable & Sons Metal
Products, Inc. v. Darue Engineering & Mfg., 545 U.S.
308, 314 (2005).
argues that Plaintiffs' state law claims necessarily
raise a federal issue because the adjudication of
Plaintiffs' claims requires the Court to assess the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's orders holding
that the Toledo Dam project does not affect flooding
downstream of the Dam. (Doc. 23 at p. 3). The United States
Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has held that where
the federal issue involves a predominantly fact bound
inquiry, federal courts lack jurisdiction. See Singh v.
Duane Morris LLP, 538 F.3d 334, 339 (5th Cir. 2008). The
cause of the flooding will necessarily be a disputed issue in
the context of Plaintiffs' state law takings claim, and
the issue is inherently fact bound and situation specific
such that it cannot support federal jurisdiction pursuant to
Grable. (Doc. 28 at p. 11). Additionally,
Defendant's claim regarding the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission's orders are defenses to Plaintiffs claims,
which do not support federal jurisdiction. See
Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 393
Defendant argues that the case of Simmons v. Sabine River
Authority, 732 F.3d 469, 472 (5th Cir. 2013) provides
support for its assertion that this matter be heard in
federal court to maintain consistency and balance. (Doc. 29
at p. 3). Defendant also argues that the Simmons
case governs Plaintiffs' claims with respect to the
implicit duty of inverse condemnation and ripeness of
Defendant's motion to dismiss. Id. However, as
the Magistrate Judge noted, Simmons is not
controlling. In that case, the plaintiffs alleged that their
properties were flooded and eroded following the opening of
the Toledo Bend Dam. Id. Plaintiffs sued various
defendants, including the Sabine River Authority in state
court. Id. Plaintiffs brought claims for negligence,
nuisance, trespass, unconstitutional taking, damage of
property without just compensation, and due process
violations under the Louisiana and United States
Constitutions. Id. Defendants removed the suit under
28 U.S.C. §1331 and 16 U.S.C. §825p. Id.
Plaintiffs then filed a motion to remand, arguing that the
petition did not present a federal question, and defendants
filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that plaintiffs'
claims were preempted.
district court granted defendants motion to dismiss, without
ruling on the motion to remand. Id. at 478. The
Fifth Circuit affirmed, and in doing so elected to not
address the motion to remand, finding that because "we
have concluded that the district court properly granted
Defendants' motion to dismiss, we need not consider
whether the district court abused its discretion in denying
Plaintiffs' motion to remand." Id. at 478.
Accordingly, Simmons has no bearing on the pending
motion to remand because the Fifth Circuit did not decide
whether subject matter jurisdiction was established.
Defendant argues that 16 U.S.C. §825p supports
jurisdiction under the "arising under" framework
established in Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith
Inc. v. Manning ___ U.S. ___, 136 S.Ct. 1562, 1568
(2016). (Doc. 29 at p. 3). Section 825p grants federal courts
exclusive jurisdiction over "all suits in equity and
actions at law brought to enforce any liability or duty
created by, or to enjoin any violation of, [the Federal Power
Act] or any rule, regulation, or order thereunder." 16
U.S.C. § 825p. In Merrill Lynch, the Court
interpreted the nearly identical "brought to
enforce" language in the exclusive jurisdiction
provision of § 27 of the Securities Exchange Act of
1934. The Court concluded that the provision does not provide
jurisdiction over complaints that simply mention a duty
established by federal law. Id. at 1568-69. Rather,
a claim is "brought to enforce" such a duty only if
its "very success depends on giving effect to a federal
requirement." Id. at 1570. Here, however,
Plaintiffs do not assert that Defendant failed to comply with
any duty or liability created by the Federal Power Act.
Therefore, § 825p does not grant subject matter
jurisdiction in this case.
Magistrate Judge also recommended that Defendant's Motion
to Dismiss, arguing that Plaintiffs claims are preempted, be
denied as moot. (Doc. 28 at p. 20). When a federal court
lacks subject matter jurisdiction over a case, any other
pending motions must be denied as moot, which is a dismissal
without prejudice. See International Energy Ventures
Management, LLC v. United Energy Group, Ltd., 818 F.3d
193, 210 (5th Cir. 2016). Defendant did not object to this
portion of the Report and Recommendation, and therefore the
Court will deny Defendant's motion to dismiss as moot.
IT IS ORDERED that the Magistrate
Judge's Report and Recommendation (Doc.
28) is ADOPTED as the Court's
IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Motion to Remand
(Doc. 8) is GRANTED and this case
is REMANDED to the 19th Judicial District
Court, Parish of East Baton Rouge, State of Louisiana.
IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Motion to
Dismiss (Doc. 5) is DENIED AS MOOT.
IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Motion for Leave
to File Supplemental Written Objections to Magistrate's