Szendrey-Ramos v. First Bancorp

512 F. Supp. 2d 81 (D.P.R. 2007)

 

RULE:

Supplemental jurisdiction is subject to exceptions, and is codified at 28 U.S.C.S. § 1367: (c) The district courts may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a claim under subsection (a) if--(1) the claim raises a novel or complex issue of State law, (2) the claim substantially predominates over the claim or claims over which the district court has original jurisdiction, (3) the district court has dismissed all claims over which it has original jurisdiction, or (4) in exceptional circumstances, there are other compelling reasons for declining jurisdiction. In including these exceptions, Congress recognizes long-standing U.S. Supreme Court precedent that pendent jurisdiction is a doctrine of discretion not of plaintiff's right, and that district courts can decline to exercise jurisdiction over pendent claims for a number of valid reasons.

FACTS:

This complaint arose from the termination of plaintiff wife from employment with defendant bank. It appears however, that the complaint included only two federal claims under Title VII, for discrimination and retaliation, while the remaining claims arose out of P.R. law. The defendant sought to dismiss, inter alia, for failure to state a claim and lack of jurisdiction over the P.R. law claims.

ISSUE:

May the court decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction on a Complaint that predominantly consists of claims under state law?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

This necessitated the court's consideration of whether to exercise its supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.S. § 1367. Not only did the P.R. law claims far outnumber the federal claims, but their scope also exceeded that of the federal claims. Some of the P.R. law claims mimicked the federal claims. A large concern was that plaintiffs' prosecution of their claims ran afoul of Canon 21 of the Puerto Rico Code of Professional Ethics, 4 P.R. Laws Ann. Ap. IX C. 21. The Puerto Rico courts had not yet addressed the possibility of divulging confidential information in order to pursue a lawyer's claim against a former client. Because the P.R. law claims substantially predominated over the federal claims, and because they posited novel and complex issues of state law, the court declined to exercise its supplemental jurisdiction. As for the Title VII claims, dismissal was not warranted except for the claims against the individual defendants because Title VII did not stand for individual liability.

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