United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
ANTOON II United States District Judge.
Federal Express Corporation and FedEx Ground Package System,
Inc. (FedEx) removed this case from state court,
(see Doc. 1), invoking this Court's federal
question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Plaintiff
ABC Liquors, Inc. (ABC) then filed a "Motion for
Remand" (Doc. 21), asserting that its complaint is based
solely on state law and that this Court thus lacks
jurisdiction over the case. Having considered the arguments
of the parties, the Court determines that remand to state
court is warranted.
underlying facts are not complicated. ABC claims that FedEx
routinely violates Florida law by "mak[ing] delivery of
alcoholic beverages from outside Florida to individual
persons, associations of persons, or corporations within
Florida, in violation of" section 561.54(1), Florida
Statutes. (Doc. 1-2 at 1). ABC also claims that FedEx, in
providing its services as a common carrier, "unjustly
discriminate[s]" against ABC. (See Id.
at 4). ABC seeks as damages triple the amount of the relevant
delivery charges pursuant to section 561.54(2), an order
enjoining FedEx from shipping alcoholic beverages from
outside of Florida to individuals, associations of persons,
or corporations in Florida, a declaratory judgment concerning
FedEx's status as a common carrier under Florida law, and
an order requiring the destruction of the alcohol FedEx
allegedly illegally shipped into Florida. (See id at
asserts that even though ABC's two-count Complaint seeks
relief solely under Florida law, this Court has jurisdiction
because ABC's "right to bring this lawsuit hinges on
a federal issue, the constitutionality of [a] statute, which
is necessarily raised in the Complaint." (Doc. 27 at 5).
Not so. In FedEx's contradictory-and often misleading-
response to ABC's motion to remand, FedEx claims that
"the Eleventh Circuit and this Court "have already
ruled that this statute is unconstitutional because it
violates the Dormant Commerce Clause of the United States . .
. Constitution." (Id. at 4). But two pages
later, FedEx asserts that ABC's claim is
"necessarily intertwined with a federal question -
whether Florida Statute § 561.54 is
unconstitutional." (Id. at 6). Throughout the
remainder of the response, FedEx alternates between arguing
that federal-question jurisdiction exists because this Court
needs to determine the constitutionality of section 561.54,
(see Id. at 6, 7), and that
federal-question jurisdiction exists because ABC is
attempting to recover damages under a statute that has
already been declared unconstitutional, (see
Id. at 10). But alleging, in defending a case, that
a state statute is unconstitutional is not a basis for
federal court jurisdiction.
"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 the
defendants, to the district court of the United States for
the district and division embracing the place where such
action is pending." 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). As is
relevant here, "Congress has authorized the federal
district courts to exercise original jurisdiction in 'all
civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or
treaties of the United States.'" Gunn v.
Minton, 568 U.S. 251, 257 (2013) (quoting 28 U.S.C.
§ 1331). Typically, this "['arising-under']
provision for federal-question jurisdiction is invoked ... by
plaintiffs pleading a cause of action created by federal
law." Grable & Sons Metal Prods., Inc. v. Darue
Eng'g & Mfg., 545 U.S. 308, 312 (2005). Clearly,
this case contains no such cause of action.
variety of "arising-under" federal-question
jurisdiction covers "a 'special and small
category' of cases." Gunn, 568 U.S. at 258
(quoting Empire Healthchoice Assurance, Inc. v.
McVeigh, 547 U.S. 677, 699 (2006)). The Supreme Court
has long held that "in certain cases federal-question
jurisdiction will lie over state-law claims that implicate
significant federal issues." Grable, 545 U.S.
at 312 (citing Hopkins v. Walker. 244 U.S. 486,
490-91 (1917)). This rare form of federal-question
jurisdiction can only be invoked if the "state-law claim
necessarily raise[s] 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."
Gunn, 568 U.S. at 258 (quoting Grable, 545
U.S. at 314). FedEx claims that the constitutionality of
section 561.54, Florida Statutes is such an issue.
another bedrock jurisdictional principle forecloses this
contention. "The presence or absence of federal-question
jurisdiction is governed by 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."
Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392
(1987); see also Franchise Tax Bd. of State of Cal. v.
Constr. Laborers Vacation Tr. for S. Cal., 463 U.S. 1,
10 (1983) ("For better or worse, under the present
statutory scheme as it has existed since 1887, a defendant
may not remove a case to federal court unless the
plaintiff's complaint establishes that the case
'arises under' federal law." (emphasis in
original)). An important corollary to that rule-one that
resolves this case-is that "a case may not be
removed to federal court on the basis of a federal defense .
. . even if the defense is anticipated in the plaintiffs
complaint, and even if both parties concede that the federal
defense is the only question truly at issue."
Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 393 (emphasis in original).
FedEx attempts to invoke the Court's federal-question
jurisdiction by claiming that the state statute under which
ABC brings its claims is unconstitutional. But "[b]y
unimpeachable authority, a suit brought upon a state statute
does not arise under an act of Congress or the Constitution
of the United States because prohibited thereby."
Gully v. First Nat'l Bank in Meridian, 299 U.S.
109, 116(1936). FedEx's belief that it should prevail
because the Florida law violates the U.S. Constitution does
not unlock the door to the federal courthouse. The state
court is more than capable of handling FedEx's federal
defense. See Adventure Outdoors, Inc. v. Bloomberg,
552 F.3d 1290, 1301 (11th Cir. 2008) ("We are mindful
that state courts are generally presumed competent to
interpret and apply federal law." (quoting Mikulski
v. Centerior Energy Corp., 501 F.3d 555, 560 (6th Cir.
ABC seeks, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c), to recover
the costs and fees it incurred as a result of FedEx's
removal. "Absent unusual circumstances, courts may award
attorney's fees under § 1447(c) only where the
removing party lacked an objectively reasonable basis for
seeking removal." Martin v. Franklin Capital
Corp., 546 U.S. 132, 141 (2005); see also Legg v.
Wyeth, 428 F.3d 1317, 1322 (11th Cir. 2005) ("Costs
are assessed in a case of improvident removal."
(internal quotation marks omitted)). While FedEx failed to
demonstrate that this Court has jurisdiction, it did not lack
a reasonable basis for removing the case. ABC is thus not
entitled to the fees and costs it incurred as a result of
it is ORDERED as follows:
ABC's "Motion for Remand" (Doc. 21) is
GRANTED. This case is remanded to the
Circuit Court, Ninth Judicial Circuit, in and for Orange
County, Florida, No. 2018-CA-11214-0, ABC Liquors, Inc.
v. Federal Express Corp., et al.
Clerk of the Court is directed to close this case.