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Me. Mun. Ass'n v. Mayhew - 64 F. Supp. 3d 251 (D. Me. 2014)

Rule:

As a threshold issue, removal of an action from state court to federal court is proper only if the federal court has original jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C.S. § 1441(a). The burden of establishing federal jurisdiction is upon the party who removed the case to federal court. Removal statutes are to be strictly construed against removal. Ambiguities as to the source of law relied upon by the plaintiffs ought to be resolved against removal. 

Facts:

The plaintiffs filed a complaint in state court, the defendants removed it to federal court, and the plaintiffs sought remand to state court.
Plaintiffs argued that the district court lacked federal question jurisdiction in this matter under the "well-pleaded complaint" rule governing removal, that the amended complaint contained only state causes of action, that neither defendants' arguments regarding federal preemption nor the pending motion to intervene created federal question jurisdiction, and that federal abstention principles provided a basis for remand to state court. 

Issue:

Should the case be remanded to the state court?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

Because the defendants in this case were not claiming diversity as the basis for jurisdiction, a federal question must be present for the court to exercise jurisdiction.  Federal district courts have original jurisdiction over "all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States."  In 2009, the First Circuit addressed so-called "arising under" jurisdiction at length.  The First Circuit stated, "[t]here is no mechanical test for determining when an action 'arises under' federal law."  However, there are generally two types of action that fall within federal question jurisdiction.  The first category is comprised of suits in which "plaintiff pleads a cause of action that has its roots in federal law". The second, "and far more rare" type of actions involve "embedded federal questions"; that is, "suits in which plaintiff pleads a state-law cause of action but that cause of action 'necessarily raises a stated federal issue, actually disputed and substantial, which a federal forum may entertain without disturbing any congressionally approved balance of federal and state judicial responsibilities." 

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