The Saints, the Fans, the NFL, Removal, and Remand

A recent lawsuit filed by New Orleans Saints fans against the NFL and its commissioner provide a useful way to learn about federal court jurisdiction and removal and remand.  The lawsuit was originally filed in state court but the lawsuit is now in federal court.  How did that happen?

Saints Fans Sue 

In a lawsuit filed in Louisiana State Court, Badeaux et al v. Goodell et al, plaintiffs sued the National Football League and its commissioner after the game officials failed to call an obvious penalty on a Los Angeles Rams player in the final two minutes of the game.  Among other things, plaintiffs asked for money damages.

The Case was Filed in State Court but now is in Federal Court

Even though the case is now in federal court, it was originally filed in state court.  The case moved to federal court through a process called removal.  Removal is when all the defendants in a lawsuit take a case from state court and “remove” it to federal court.  That is, the defendants send a notification to the plaintiff and to the state court that the case is now going to be litigated in federal court. Defendants then file the case in federal court and the case will continue in federal court unless that court sends it back to the state court.

When Can Defendants Remove a State Court Case to Federal Court?

A defendant can remove a case to federal court if it originally could have been filed in federal court or if the case only belongs in federal court.  For example, if plaintiff and defendant are from different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,ooo, the federal court will have diversity jurisdiction.  Under these circumstances, a defendant may remove state court case to federal court (there is an exception if he is being sued in his “home” state – – the state where he is domiciled).

Why were Defendants Able to Remove this Case to Federal Court?

Defendants were able to remove the case to federal court pursuant to a statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d), known as the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”).  CAFA provides that the federal courts have jurisdiction over certain types of class actions.  A class action is where one or more plaintiffs sue on behalf of other plaintiffs.

Specifically, CAFA provides the federal courts with jurisdiction over class actions where:

  • plaintiffs file a class action in state court
  • there are at least 100 members of the class
  • there is minimal diversity – –  meaning that at least one plaintiff is a citizen of a state different from at least one defendant.

Because all these requirements were met, defendants were able to remove the case from state court to federal court.

The Fans Unsuccessfully Move to Remand the Case back to State Court

Plaintiffs argued that their case was not really a class action and moved to remand.  That is, they asked the federal court to return the case to state court because removal was improper.  They argued that CAFA did not apply.

The federal court rejected plaintiffs’ argument, holding that their case was, in fact, a class action and belonged in federal court pursuant to 28 USC § 1332(d).

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