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Dufel v. Stirewalt

United States District Court, Southern District of Georgia, Brunswick Division

March 16, 2015




Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Remand this case to the State Court of Glynn County, Georgia. Dkt. No. 9. Upon due consideration, Plaintiff's Motion is DENIED.


Plaintiff Frederick Dufel brought this suit against Katherine Stirewalt and the City of Brunswick ("Defendants") based on his arrest by Stirewalt on April 6, 2012. Plaintiff asserts that there was no probable cause for his arrest and that the arrest was based on false charges. Among other allegations, [1]Plaintiff maintains that

[t]he wrongful arrest and untrue charges were done under color of law and authority, and said wrongful acts were done intentionally, negligently, and with a complete and deliberate indifference for the Plaintiff's rights, and all of said wrongful conduct has caused the Plaintiff to be deprived of his constitutional rights, including but not limited to the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, as well as being a violation of the Plaintiff's rights conferred by the Georgia Constitution.

Dkt. No. 1-1, ¶ 9. Plaintiff claims to have suffered physical and mental damages as a result of his mistreatment and incarceration, and he requests actual and punitive damages as well as attorney's fees and costs. Dkt. No. 1-1, ¶¶ 8, 10.

Plaintiff filed this action in the State Court of Glynn County, Georgia. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441 and § 1446, Defendants removed the case to this Court. Dkt. No. 1. Defendants assert that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, because Plaintiff asserted claims arising under federal law when he alleged that Defendants violated his rights under the United States Constitution. Dkt. No. 1, ¶¶ 2, 3. Defendants further contend that the Court has supplemental jurisdiction over any state law claims. Dkt. 1, ¶ 4 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1367).

Plaintiff moved to remand the case because, he contends, he did not allege a federal claim, and the Court thus lacks jurisdiction. Dkt. No. 9, p. 1. Later in the filing, Plaintiff characterizes this contention slightly differently, stating, "The Complaint does not state that the predominant claims arise under federal law." Dkt. No. 9, p. 3.


Federal courts have federal question jurisdiction over "all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331. According to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a),

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 defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending.

Id. In other words, a claim initially filed in state court may be removed to federal court if the case could have been filed in federal court originally. Dunlap v. G&L Holding Grp., Inc., 381 F.3d 1285, 1289 (11th Cir. 2004). If a federal district court has original jurisdiction of an action, it also has supplemental jurisdiction "over all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy under Article III of the United States Constitution." 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).

Still, however, "[f]ederal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and there is a presumption against the exercise of federal jurisdiction, such that all uncertainties as to removal jurisdiction are to be resolved in favor of remand." Russell Corp. v. Am. Home Assurance Co., 264 F.3d 1040, 1050 (11th Cir. 2001) (citing Burns v. Windsor Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 1092, 1095 (11th Cir. 1994)). Additionally, the party seeking removal bears the burden of establishing that federal jurisdiction exists. Williams v. Best Buy Co., Inc., 269 F.3d 1316, 1319 (11th Cir. 2001) (citing Kirkland v. Midland Mortg. Co., 243 F.3d 1277, 1281 n.5 (11th Cir. 2001)).

In order to assess whether a claim arises under federal law, courts apply 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." Smith v. GTE Corp., 236 F.3d 1292, 1310 (11th Cir. 2001) (quoting Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987)). Federal question jurisdiction will be found to exist where the "well-pleaded complaint standing alone establishes either that federal law creates the cause of action or that the plaintiff's right to relief necessarily depends on resolution of a substantial question of federal law." Baltin ...

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