Divided Panel Denies Petition to Appeal Sua Sponte Remand to State Court

In Ruhlen v. Holiday Haven Homeowners, Inc., 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 6184 (11th Cir. Mar. 9, 2022), a divided panel of the Eleventh Circuit held that the court lacked appellate jurisdiction to review a district court’s sua sponte remand to state court for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.

The underlying dispute concerned the presence or absence of jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”) over a case raising claims brought in a “‘representative capacity under Rule 1.222 of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure and Section 723.075’ of the Florida Statutes.” The district court remanded the case to state court for lack of jurisdiction after the plaintiffs amended their complaint to eliminate federal-law claims. The defendants filed a petition for permission to appeal, arguing that the district court had jurisdiction over the dispute pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1453(b) and 1332(d)(1)(B), which together permit removal of “any civil action filed under rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or similar State statute or rule of judicial procedure authorizing an action to be brought by 1 or more representative persons as a class action.”

The Eleventh Circuit denied the petition. The panel majority, comprising Judge Newsom and Judge Branch, held that the appellate jurisdiction conferred by 28 U.S.C. § 1453(c)(1), which permits an appeal “from an order of a district court granting or denying a motion to remand a class action to the State court from which it was removed,” did not apply, because the district court had remanded the case sua sponte. Judge Rosenbaum, dissenting, would have granted the petition, noting that an action taken “sua sponte” is described as an action taken by the court “on its own motion”; that the Ninth Circuit has held that § 1453(c)(1) confers jurisdiction to review sua sponte remand orders; and that “the Seventh and Eighth Circuits have implicitly held that sua sponte remand orders in cases removed under CAFA are reviewable under § 1453(c)(1).”

Posted by Valerie Sanders.

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