Removal Jurisdiction: Definition & Examples

In this lesson, you will learn about removal jurisdiction, including when it is applicable, and why it occurs. Example cases will be provided to enhance understanding of the topic.

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Suppose you are in a business agreement with a company CEO in New York. You live in Texas. You begin to realize that the CEO in New York is not holding up his end of the bargain. Your agreement was that, as partners you would each cover the cost of advertising that represented your company in your respective states. You would then split the profits from money made in connection with the advertising. The New York CEO, however, is not evenly splitting the profits. You determine the damages to be around $300,000, and decide to sue the New York CEO and his company in a Texas state court. The New York CEO files to have the case heard in federal court, and his plea is approved. Your case will now be heard in a federal court.

How was the CEO in New York able to file a plea to have the case heard in a federal court? Why does he file for the move? Who does this benefit?

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What is Removal Jurisdiction?

Removal Jurisdiction is removal of a case to the United States Federal Court’s authority that was originally filed in a state court. Title 28 of the U.S. Code, sections 1441 and 1442, cover removal jurisdiction, which provides a defendant the ability to have the case heard in a federal court, rather than in the state where the plaintiff resides. This helps provide a more equal playing field between the plaintiff and the defendant. In order for a case to be removed to a federal court, the defendant must file a plea within 30 days of the summons, and the amount in damages must exceed $75,000. The defendant and the plaintiff must reside in different states.

Section 1441 authorizes a defendant to remove the civil case from a state court to a federal court if the federal court originally had authority over the case.

  • This would be the section that the New York CEO would have filed his plea under, for removal to federal court.

Section 1442 authorizes the United States, any federal agencies, and any officer of the United States to request for removal from a state court to a federal court. The defendant can request the removal if their act in question was done in relation to their employment or the federal government.

  • An example of this is a cop being sued for an aggressive stop and frisk, which he conducted as part of his duty as a federal police officer.

Why Would a Defendant Want the Case Heard in a Federal Court and not a State Court?

One reason that is typical when considering removal, is that there may be prejudice against the non-resident defendant. In court, this prejudice could come from the jury and/or the judge, who may favor the in-state resident.

There are, however, other factors that are looked at by the defendant and their defense when considering if removal is necessary:

  • The judge– It is important to consider the judge who will be on the case. Determining the background, political views, and experience of the judge will help determine if the judge is more likely to favor the plaintiff. If that is the case, then the defense would choose to remove to a federal court for a neutral judge.

A defendant may represent a company that promotes oil companies, while the judge is an environmentalist. The judge could be biased against the defendant.

  • The council– Knowing more about the plaintiff’s council can help determine the defense’s next move. Knowing if the council is well known in state courts and if they practice a lot in court can be a deciding factor for removal to federal court. If the council rarely practices in federal courts, it would be beneficial for the defense to remove to federal court to have the advantage.

The council is well-liked in the state court and has won many cases because of her likability. The defense would consider removal because of this.

  • The jury-Considering the demographics of the jury is also important. The defense must determine if the jury selected for the state court would most likely sway to the side of the plaintiff or the defendant. The defense may decide the jury would be more fair in a federal court than a court in the state where the plaintiff resides.

A company that is an advocate for stronger gun laws may wish to remove to a federal court if they are called to court in a southern state that has a pool of jury members who support open carry of guns.

  • Rules of procedure-Determining if federal procedures or state procedures would affect the case in the defendant’s favor is important. Federal proceedings are more in depth and require the case to move on a strict timeline. A case built on frivolous claims would be more likely to be taken seriously in a state court than in a federal court. In this case, the defendant would benefit from removal to federal court so that the plaintiff’s frivolous claims hold no weight.

A plaintiff who does not have a strong case may struggle in a federal court. This could be due to the inability to build a stronger case when held to a strict time schedule. This would work in the defense’s favor.

In the example at the beginning of this lesson, the defense does not have a strong case. You, as the plaintiff, have documented proof that you were not receiving the money that was promised in a contract between you and the defendant. The defendant realized this and made the decision to remove to a federal court in order to level the playing field.

Lesson Summary

Sections 1441 and 1442 of U.S. Code Title 28 allow defendants the ability to plea for removal jurisdiction in order to receive a fair hearing in court, instead of going to court in the plaintiff’s state of residence. The defendant must consider many factors that affect how a ruling will go in court. If the judge, the council, the jury, and the rules of procedure would favor the plaintiff in the state court, then the defendant will plea for removal to federal court.

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