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Araguz v. Clinton

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Brownsville Division

May 1, 2019

LEOBARDO ARAGUZ, Plaintiff
v.
DEMPSIE CLINTON, ET AL., Defendants

          MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          IGNACIO TORTEYA, III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         For the reasons provided below, it is recommended that the Court REMAND this civil action back to the 107th Judicial District Court of Cameron County, Texas.

         I. Jurisdiction

         The Court has federal question jurisdiction over this removed civil action because Plaintiff Leobardo Araguz's Original Petition asserted claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] See 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (“The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.”); 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) (“[A]ny 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.”).

         II. Statement of the Case

         Plaintiff Araguz initiated this action by filing suit in the 107th Judicial District Court of Cameron County, Texas on May 24, 2018. Dkt. No. 1-1 at 1.[2] Araguz's Original Petition named the City of Harlingen, the City of Harlingen Police Department, Scott Vega, and Dempsie and Victoria Clinton as Defendants. Id. The City, the City of Harlingen Police Department, and Scott Vega (hereinafter, the “City Defendants”) timely removed Araguz's action to this Court on September 18, 2018. Dkt. No. 1 at 3. Dempsie and Victoria Clinton (hereinafter, the “Clintons”) consented to removal. Id. at 3. Araguz's claims against the City Defendants, including his § 1983 claims, have all been dismissed. See Dkt. No. 20 (Report and Recommendation); Dkt. No. 27 (Order Adopting Report and Recommendation); Dkt. No. 32 (Agreed Order of Dismissal).

         On April 11, 2019, Araguz filed a “Brief to the Court” (hereinafter, Araguz's “Brief”). Dkt. No. 33. Araguz's Brief clarifies the claims his Original Petition has asserted against the Clintons. Id. at 5. In his Original Petition, by making a general reference to all named “Defendants, ” it appeared Araguz was attempting to assert a claim against the Clintons for violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Dkt. No. 1-1 at 13. However, his Brief makes no mention of a § 1983 claim against the Clintons. See generally Dkt. No. 33. Instead, he states that he has asserted the following claims against the Clintons: libel, slander per se, defamation per se, negligence, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and false imprisonment. Id. at 5.

         Although it is unlikely that a § 1983 claim against the Clintons would have been viable, it is now clear that Araguz is not attempting to assert such a claim. With the dismissal of his § 1983 claims against the City Defendants, Araguz's remaining causes of action are limited to his state law claims against the Clintons. Thus, although the City Defendants properly removed this civil action pursuant to this Court's federal question jurisdiction, [3] it is now appropriate for the Court to consider whether to remand this action back to state court. See Jones v. Roadway Express, Inc., 936 F.2d 789, 792 (5th Cir. 1991) (“A federal district court has discretion to remand a properly removed case to state court when all federal-law claims have been eliminated and only pendent state-law claims remain.”); Oliver v. Lewis, 891 F.Supp.2d 839, 843-44 (S.D. Tex. 2012) (explaining that, although post-removal elimination of federal claims does not divest a district court of jurisdiction, the court “must determine whether to remand” the remaining state law claims back to federal court); Akbar v. Nationstar Mortg. LLC, No. CV H-13-3625, 2015 WL 12777365, at *1-2 (S.D. Tex. Feb. 5, 2015) (sua sponte remand of state law claims was appropriate where federal claims had been eliminated post-removal); Tile Sol. Servs., Inc. v. Carrington Mortg. Servs., LLC, No. CV 18-11508, 2019 WL 1469397, at *3-4 (E.D. La. Apr. 2, 2019) (sua sponte consideration of remand was appropriate after post-removal elimination of federal claims).

         On April 17, 2019, the Court issued a “Notice of Intent to Recommend Remand” (hereinafter referred to as the Court's “Notice” or “Notice Regarding Remand”). Dkt. No. 34. The Court's Notice informed the parties of the undersigned's intent to recommend remand and notified them that they could file briefs opposing or supporting remand, provided they filed such briefs on or before April 30, 2019. As of the May 1st filing of this Report and Recommendation, the parties have not filed briefs, or otherwise argued that this case should not be remanded.

         III. Discussion

         Although not mandatory or absolute, “[t]he general rule is that a court should decline to exercise jurisdiction over remaining state-law claims when all federal-law claims are eliminated before trial[.]” Brookshire Bros. Holding v. Dayco Prod., Inc., 554 F.3d 595, 602 (5th Cir. 2009). See also Beiser v. Weyler, 284 F.3d 665, 675 (5th Cir. 2002) (noting that, when “no other grounds for federal jurisdiction exist, the court must ordinarily remand the case back to state court”). As the Supreme Court has repeatedly cautioned, federal courts should avoid making “‘[n]eedless decisions of state law[.]” Enochs v. Lampasas Cty., 641 F.3d 155, 161 (5th Cir. 2011) (quoting Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726 (1966)). When federal claims have been eliminated at an early stage in the litigation, the district court will have “a powerful reason to choose not to continue to exercise jurisdiction.” Carnegie-Mellon Univ. v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 351 (1988); Enochs v. Lampasas County, 641 F.3d 155, 161 (same).

         In determining whether to continue to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a plaintiff's remaining state law claims, courts must consider the “common law factors of judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and comity[, ]” in addition to “the statutory factors” set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c). Brookshire Bros. Holding, Inc. v. Dayco Prods., Inc., 554 F.3d 595, 602.

“The statutory factors are: (1) whether the state claims raise novel or complex issues of state law; (2) whether the state claims substantially predominate over the federal claims; (3) whether the federal claims have been dismissed; and (4) whether there are exceptional circumstances or other compelling reasons for declining jurisdiction.” Enochs v. Lampasas Cnty., 641 F.3d 155, 159 (5th Cir. 2011) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)).

Akbar v. Nationstar Mortg. LLC, No. CV H-13-3625, 2015 WL 12777365, at *1. “[N]o single factor is dispositive[.]” Brookshire Bros. Holding, 554 F.3d 595, 602 (citing Batiste v. Island Records Inc., 179 F.3d 217, 227 (5th Cir. 1999)). Courts should also consider “whether the plaintiff has attempted to manipulate the forum by eliminating all federal law claims from the complaint and then requesting ...


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