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Moore v. Service Employees International Union Local 221

September 2, 2010

SHARON-FRANCES MOORE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION LOCAL 221, ET AL., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Janis L. Sammartino United States District Judge

ORDER: (1) GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND; (2) REMANDING THE ACTION TO STATE COURT; (3) DENYING AS MOOT DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

Presently before the Court is Service Employees International Union Local 221's ("Defendant") motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust internal union remedies (Doc. No. 3) and Sharon-Frances Moore's ("Plaintiff") motion to remand the action to state court. (Doc. No. 4.) For the reasons stated below, the Court HEREBY GRANTS Plaintiff's motion to remand; REMANDS the action to state court; and DENIES AS MOOT Defendant's motion to dismiss.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are undisputed or immaterial to the motions before the Court unless indicated otherwise.

Plaintiff was the President of Defendant prior to her resignation, effective January 19, 2010. At the time of her resignation, Defendant also purportedly entered into two contracts with Plaintiff, a sixty-day consultant agreement and a severance and release agreement ("the Agreements"). The Agreements provided that Plaintiff would be paid quarterly payments totaling over $100,000 as well as health care benefits in exchange for a release of claims arising from Plaintiff's tenure as President. The Agreements were signed by three officers of Defendant and by Plaintiff. However, approximately two weeks later on February 4, 2010, Defendant rescinded the Agreements.

Plaintiff filed the present action in San Diego Superior Court on March 22, 2005, alleging causes of action for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. (Doc. No. 1.) Defendant thereafter removed the action to this Court on April 30, 2010, asserting that Plaintiff's state claims are preempted by Labor Management Relations Act § 301, 29 U.S.C. § 185. (Id.)

Defendant subsequently filed the present motion to dismiss the action for failure to exhaust internal union remedies on May 5, 2010. (Doc. No. 3.) While that motion was still pending, Plaintiff filed the present motion to remand the action to state court. (Doc. No. 4.) The Court thereafter continued the motion to dismiss and rescheduled the hearing so that both motions would be heard and briefed simultaneously. (Doc. No. 6.) As such, the parties filed their respective responses in opposition on July 22, 2010. (Doc. Nos. 7, 8.) Defendant also filed a reply in support of its motion to dismiss. (Doc. No. 10.) Plaintiff did not file a reply in support of her motion to remand. The hearing on both motions scheduled for August 5, 2010 was thereafter vacated and the motions were taken under submission without oral argument.

LEGAL STANDARDS

I. Removal

"If at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded." 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). The burden of establishing federal subject matter jurisdiction and therefore proper removal is on the party seeking removal. See Wilson v. Republic Iron & Steel Co., 257 U.S. 92, 97 (1921); Emrich v. Touche Ross & Co., 846 F.2d 1190, 1195 (9th Cir. 1988). The removal statute is strictly construed against removal. Emrich, 846 F.2d at 1195; see also Salveson v. W. States Bankcard Ass'n, 731 F.2d 1423, 1426 (9th Cir. 1987).

II. Federal Preemption and Labor Management Relations Act § 301

"Only state-court actions that originally could have been filed in federal court may be removed to federal court by the defendant." Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). "The presence or absence of federal question jurisdiction is governed by the 'well-pleaded complaint rule,' which provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented on the face of the plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint." Id. As such, the plaintiff is the "master of the claim." Id.

However, the "complete preemption" doctrine provides a corollary to the well-pleaded complaint rule. See Franchise Tax Bd. of Cal. v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust for S. Cal., 463 U.S. 1, 22 (1983). This doctrine provides that any claim purportedly based on preempted state law is properly considered a federal claim arising under federal law. Id. at 24; see also Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 393. The complete preemption doctrine "is applied primarily in ...


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