United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
Gregory F. Van Tatenhove United States District Judge
Michael Daniels filed suit against his former employer, South
Kentucky Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation, for wrongful
termination. The Cooperative removed this case to federal
court because Count II of Mr. Daniels' complaint invokes
the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Mr.
Daniels moved to remand this case on the grounds that his
claims are rooted in Kentucky law and federal question
jurisdiction is not implicated. The Court agrees. For the
following reasons, Mr. Daniels' Motion to Remand [R. 6.]
Michael Daniels initiated this suit in Wayne Circuit Court.
[R. 1-1.] Defendant South Kentucky Rural Electric Cooperative
Corporation (the Cooperative) filed its Notice of Removal
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 on August 9, 2019 arguing
this Court had Federal Question jurisdiction. Mr. Daniels
makes three claims against his former employer. In Count I,
Mr. Daniels alleges a violation of K.R.S § 344.010,
et seq., stemming from his termination. [R. 1-1 at
¶¶ 6-10.] In Count III, Mr. Daniels accuses
Defendant of an unlawful agreement with another party to
terminate him. Id. at ¶¶ 16-21. At issue
is Count II, which charges the following:
11. Plaintiff incorporates each and every allegation set
forth in Paragraphs 1-10 of this Complaint as if fully stated
12. The termination of the Plaintiff was contrary to a
fundamental and well-defined public policy, namely his rights
guaranteed under the First Amendment of the United States
13. The termination of the Plaintiff was a retaliatory action
which stemmed from disagreements between the Plaintiff and
Defendant, whereby Plaintiff used his right to freedom of
speech in defending himself, leading to the Defendant
retaliatorily terminating the Plaintiff and doing so under
the guise of violations of company policies and procedures.
14. The Plaintiff suffered an adverse employment action as a
result of the actions of the Defendant.
15. As a direct and proximate result of the aforementioned
conduct, Plaintiff has suffered great emotional distress
and/or embarrassment and/or humiliation and/or mental anguish
and wage loss and lost benefits.
[R. 1-1 at ¶¶ 11-15.] The Cooperative contends that
Mr. Daniels' reference to the First Amendment means that
his claim in Count II is based on federal law. [R. 8 at 3.]
The Cooperative further argues jurisdiction is proper here
because “it is necessary to resolve whether or not his
First Amendment Rights . . . were violated.”
Id. To the contrary, Mr. Daniels says his complaint
is “rooted in state law, ” and argues that mere
mention of a federal statute or Constitutional amendment is
insufficient to confer federal question jurisdiction. [R. 7
at 2.] Mr. Daniels is correct.
defendant may remove a civil action brought in state court to
federal court only if the action is one over which the
federal court could have exercised original jurisdiction.
See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441, 1446. Congress has
opened the doors of the federal courts to “all civil
actions arising under the Constitution, laws or treaties of
the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331. To determine
whether a claim “arises under” federal law so as
to provide jurisdiction under these statutory provisions,
courts employ the “well-pleaded complaint” rule.
Roddy v. Grand Trunk W. R.R., Inc., 395 F.3d 318,
322 (6th Cir. 2005) (citing Loftis v. United Parcel
Serv., Inc., 342 F.3d 509, 514 (6th Cir. 2003)). Under
this rule, “[f]ederal jurisdiction exists only when a
federal question is presented on the face of the
plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint.”
Id. (citing Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams,
482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987)). Because ...