Federal Preemption, Removal Jurisdiction, and the Well-Pleaded Complaint Rule
Richard E. Levy
University of Kansas - School of Law
June 1, 1984
University of Chicago Law Review, Vol. 51, pp. 634, 1984
When a plaintiff sues in state court relying solely on state law, the defendant ordinarily may not remove the case to federal court on the basis of a federal defense. Under the well-pleaded complaint rule, neither a federal defense (nor the plaintiff’s anticipation of a federal defense in his complaint) suffices to vest original jurisdiction in a federal court. Courts have long struggled, however, over whether, and under what circumstances, removal could be based on a defendant's allegations of federal preemption. In Franchise Tax Board v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust, the Supreme Court for the first time directly addressed the preemption removal problem. It indicated that removal is proper if “a federal cause of action completely preempts a state cause of action [because] any complaint that comes within the scope of the federal cause of action necessarily ‘arises under’ federal law.”
Although Franchise Tax Board recognized that preemption removal is proper in some instances, the Court failed to explain how preemption removal fits into the overall framework of original federal jurisdiction and the well-pleaded complaint rule. Since the relationship between federal preemption and a plaintiff’s cause of action is frequently quite complex, the ambiguities of Franchise Tax Board may render its application to future cases difficult. In addition, the Court failed to discuss approaches to the preemption removal problem that had previously been taken by lower courts. As a result, the continuing validity of the “artful pleading doctrine,”' which permits removal where the plaintiff has manipulated his complaint to avoid presenting a federal question, is left unclear. Nor does Franchise Tax Board resolve whether preemption removal is ever proper when the preempting federal law does not create a superseding cause of action.
This comment seeks to answer these questions by exploring the implications of Franchise Tax Board for the interpretation of the well-pleaded complaint rule. It begins with a consideration of the well-pleaded complaint rule’s history and purposes, which reveals a recurrent ambiguity in the Court’s pronouncements as to whether the rule requires that a federal question be presented by the language of the complaint or whether a court can look beyond the face of the complaint to ascertain the underlying nature of the plaintiff’s cause of action. The comment then describes the approaches to preemption removal taken prior to Franchise Tax Board, and concludes that the lower courts’ difficulties with the preemption removal problem reflect the tension created by the ambiguity in the well-pleaded complaint rule. Finally, Part III examines Franchise Tax Board’s resolution of this tension. It suggests that the decision is consistent with an interpretation of the rule that focuses on the plaintiff's underlying cause of action, and considers the implications of that interpretation for the artful pleading doctrine and the requirement that preemption jurisdiction be based on a superseding federal cause of action.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 34Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: November 7, 2011
© 2013 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
This page was processed by apollo7 in 0.313 seconds