Neutralizing the Stratagem of 'Snap Removal': A Proposed Amendment to the Judicial Code
Federal Courts Law Review, Vol. 9, Issue 3, p. 103, Summer 2016
9 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2016 Last revised: 20 Oct 2016
Date Written: August 10, 2016
The “Removal Jurisdiction Clarification Act” is a narrowly tailored legislative proposal designed to resolve a widespread conflict in the federal district courts over the proper interpretation of the statutory “forum-defendant” rule.
The forum-defendant rule prohibits removal of a diversity case “if any of the parties in interest properly joined and served as defendants is a citizen of the [forum state].” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b)(2) (emphasis added). Some courts, following the “plain language” of the statute, hold that defendants can avoid the constraints of the rule by removing diversity cases to federal court when a citizen of the forum state has been joined as a defendant but has not yet been served. This stratagem has been referred to as “snap removal.” Other courts reject the stratagem. They take a “purposive” approach, typically reasoning that following the plain language “produces a result that is at clear odds with congressional intent.”
Resolution of the conflict can come only from Congress. The preferable resolution is to neutralize the stratagem of snap removal by requiring district courts to remand cases to the appropriate state court if, after removal, the plaintiff timely serves one or more forum defendants and a timely motion to remand follows. That is the approach taken by the proposed legislation. The legislation also would confirm that the forum-defendant rule is not jurisdictional, endorsing the position taken by all but one of the circuits that have considered the question.
Keywords: civil procedure, Removal Jurisdiction Clarification Act, forum-defendant rule, purposive approach, Snap removal, judicial code, legislative reform, diversity cases, plain language, congressional intent, statutory interpretation, jurisdiction, federal district courts, forum selection, forum shopping
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