United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division
ALEXANDER E. JONES
KELLY R. JONES
THE HONORABLE LEE YEAKEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES
W. AUSTIN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
the Court are Defendant Alexander E. Jones' Motion to
Remand to State Court (Dkt. No. 5) and Plaintiff Kelly R.
Jones' Response (Dkt. No. 15). The Court submits this
Report and Recommendation to the United States District Court
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(b) and Rule 1 of Appendix C
of the Local Rules.
Kelly Jones removed this dispute after Plaintiff Alexander
Jones filed a petition seeking modification of a prior Travis
County District Court custody order. In the removal notice,
Kelly Jones pointed to “[g]ross violations of the
Defendant's human and civil rights” under the
First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments as the basis for
federal jurisdiction in this case. Dkt. No. 1 at 1. Plaintiff
Alexander Jones moves to remand this case to state court.
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction.”
Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of America, 511
U.S. 375, 377 (1994). This Court lacks jurisdiction to hear
Jones' claims under the domestic relations exception to
federal jurisdiction. Under the domestic relations exception,
federal courts have traditionally refused to adjudicate cases
involving marital status or child custody issues. Rykers
v. Alford, 832 F.2d 895, 899 (5th Cir. 1987). Courts
have reasoned that (1) the state courts have greater
expertise and interest in domestic matters; (2) such disputes
often require ongoing supervision, a task for which the
federal courts are not suited; (3) piecemeal adjudication of
such disputes increases the chance of different court systems
handing down incompatible decrees; and (4) such cases serve
no particular federal interest, while crowding the federal
court docket. Id. at 899-900. “If the federal
court must determine which parent should receive custody,
what rights the noncustodial parent should have, how much
child support should be paid and under what conditions, or
whether a previous court's determination on these matters
should be modified, then the court should dismiss the
case.” Id. at 900.
Jones argues that this Court has federal question, not
diversity, jurisdiction, and thus the domestic relations
exception does not apply. Dkt. No. 15 at 3-4. However, a
court looks only at the plaintiff's well-pleaded
complaint to determine if a claim arises under federal law.
Franchise Tax Bd. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation
Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 10 (1983). Here, Kelly Jones removed
Alexander Jones' Petition to Modify Parent-Child
Relationship, which is clearly premised on state law, and
does not present a federal question. Kelly Jones' has not
brought a separate suit alleging civil rights claims, but has
instead merely removed the state court custody
petition. Thus, this Court does not have federal
question jurisdiction over the dispute.
upon the foregoing, the Magistrate Judge
RECOMMENDS that the District Court
GRANT Plaintiff Alexander Jones' Motion
to Remand (Dkt. No. 5) and REMAND this
action to state court. All other motions should be
DISMISSED AS MOOT.
parties may file objections to this Report and
Recommendation. A party filing objections must specifically
identify those findings or recommendations to which
objections are being made. The District Court need not
consider frivolous, conclusive, or general objections.
See Battle v. United States Parole Comm 'n , 834
F.2d 419, 421 (5th Cir. 1987).
party's failure to file written objections to the
proposed findings and recommendations contained in this
Report within fourteen (14) days after the party is served
with a copy of the Report shall bar that party from de
novo review by the District Court of the proposed
findings and recommendations in the Report and, except upon
grounds of plain error, shall bar the party from appellate
review of unobjected-to proposed factual findings and legal
conclusions accepted by the District Court. See 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S.
140, 150-53, 106 S.Ct. 466, 472-74 (1985); Douglass v.
United Servs. Auto. Ass'n, 79 F.3d 1415, 1428-29
(5th Cir. 1996) (en banc).