United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division
JAMES LARSON, DONALD JUDGE, and JEAN PRICE, individual electors, and the MONTANA DEMOCRATIC PARTY, Plaintiffs,
COREY STAPLETON, in his official capacity as the Montana Secretary of State, Defendant, and THE MONTANA GREEN PARTY, Interested Party.
P. WATTERS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the court is Plaintiffs James Larson, Donald Judge, Jean
Price, and the Montana Democratic Party's emergency
motion to remand. (Doc. 2). Defendants oppose the motion.
(Doc. 2 at 2). Plaintiffs requested this court issue the
emergency motion to remand by 10:00 am this morning so that
the show cause hearing set in the First Judicial District
Court could proceed. The court received the motion at 9:45
a.m.; insufficient time to rule before the hearing.
Nevertheless, after reviewing the record, this court finds
that remand is appropriate.
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and may hear cases
only where empowered to do so by the Constitution or by act
of Congress. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1441, "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 for the district and division
embracing the place where such action is pending." 28
U.S.C. § 1441(a). Original jurisdiction may be based on
the existence of a federal question or complete diversity of
the parties, as set forth in 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332 and
of a case to a district court may be challenged by motion. 28
U.S.C. 1441(c). A federal court must remand the matter if
there is a lack of jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. 1447(c). A
district court has "a duty to establish subject matter
jurisdiction over the removed action sua sponte,
whether the parties raised the issue or not. United
Investors Life Ins. v. Waddell & Reed Inc., 360 F.3d
960, 967 (9th Cir. 2004). Removal statutes are construed
restrictively and in favor of remanding a case to state
court. Gaus v. Miles, 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir.
1992). The party invoking the court's subject matter
jurisdiction "bears the burden of proving by a
preponderance of the evidence that each of the requirements
for subject-matter jurisdiction has been met." Leite
v. Crane Co., 749 F.3d 1117, 1121 (9th Cir. 2014).
their motion to remand, Plaintiffs contend that this court
lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this case and that
Defendants waived their right to remove this action from
state court based upon certain actions they took while this
case was pending in state court. Because the court determines
subject matter jurisdiction does not exist in the first
instance, it need not reach Plaintiffs' second argument.
action brought in state court may be removed by the
defendants to federal district court only where the federal
court would have had jurisdiction over the action had it been
brought originally in the federal court. See 28
U.S.C. § 1441. Accordingly, the basis for jurisdiction
must inhere from the plaintiffs claims in state court.
See Caterpillar v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392
(1987) (stating, [t]he 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 plaintiffs properly pleaded
complaint) (internal citations omitted); see also
Provincial Gov 't of Marinduque v. Placer Dome,
Inc., 582 F.3d 1083, 1086 (9th Cir. 2009)(holding that a
federal question must "be disclosed upon the face of the
complaint, unaided by the answer.").
reviewing the record in this case, the court finds that it
does not have subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs
Amended Complaint. Nowhere in the Amended Complaint do
Plaintiffs allege any claim that arises under federal statute
or the federal constitution.
their notice of removal, Defendants state that the U.S.
Constitutional issues include:
"(a) whether the burdens on fundamental U.S.
Constitutional rights imposed by Mont. Code Ann. §
13-10-601 properly "conditions ballot access in both
primary and general elections 'on a showing of a modicum
of voter support'" (First Amended Complaint, ¶
1 (quoting Munro v. Socialist Workers Party, 479
U.S. 189, 196 (1986)); and
(b) whether barring MTGP from participation in the 2018
Montana primary and general elections satisfies
Constitutional muster by properly promoting the important
state interest of preventing "'frivolous candidates
clogging the ballot and confusing voters.'" (First
Amended Complaint, ¶ 7 (quoting Swanson v.
Worley, 490 F.3d 894, 911(11th Cir. 2007).)
(See Doc. 1 at 3). Despite Defendants'
assertions, however, there is no mention of the U.S.
Constitution in the Complaint or the Amended Complaint. On
the contrary, Plaintiffs' claims appear to arise entirely
out of Montana law and Montana political parties'
abilities to qualify their candidates by primary election as
governed by Montana law. (See gen. Docs. 1-1, 1-2).
Because the first time any claim under the federal
constitution is invoked is in Defendants' Notice of
Removal, Defendants have not met their burden to establish
subject matter jurisdiction in this court. See Provincial
Gov't of Marinduque, 582 F.3d at 1086;
Leite, 749 F.3d at 1121. As a result, the court is
duty bound to remand this case. United Investors Life
Ins., 360 F.3d at 967.
HEREBY ORDERED that Defendants' Motion to Remand (Doc. 2)
is GRANTED. This case is remanded to the First Judicial
District Court for the State of Montana. The Clerk of Court
is directed to send a certified copy of this Order to Remand