Late-Stage Remand of State-Law Claims After Dismissal of Federal Claims Affirmed

Marida Silas brought state and federal claims, on behalf of her late husband, against the Sheriff of Broward County. The defendant removed the case to federal court, which dismissed the federal claims and set the remaining state-law claims for trial. Days before trial, the defendant moved to dismiss the remaining claims on the ground that the plaintiff had not been appointed as the personal representative of her husband’s estate. Without ruling on the motion to dismiss, and over the objection of both parties, the district court exercised its discretion under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c) to remand the state-law claims to state court. The district court found that the plaintiff had failed to act with diligence in securing her appointment as personal representative; that the trial could not proceed until that had been accomplished; and that the court’s caseload, including a “backlog of criminal trials,” made it likely that the trial would not occur in the near future. The Eleventh Circuit, in an opinion written by Judge William Pryor, affirmed the remand. Silas v. Sheriff of Broward County, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34528 (Dec. 14, 2022).

The Eleventh Circuit began its analysis by noting that the district court had supplemental jurisdiction over the state-law claims from the beginning of the case, because the state-law claims “ar[o]se out of a common nucleus of operative fact with a substantial federal claim.” That jurisdiction did not vanish with the dismissal of the federal claims, but under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c), the district court had discretion whether to continue to exercise its jurisdiction. And “concerns of federalism,” the Eleventh Circuit noted, “counsel in favor of dismissing state-law claims after the federal claims are dismissed.” Indeed, “a district court, exercising its already broad discretion, will rarely err by declining supplemental jurisdiction after the federal claims that supported its jurisdiction are dismissed.”

The defendant Sheriff argued that the remand was nevertheless an abuse of discretion because it occurred days before a scheduled trial date. But that trial date, the court noted, was going to have to be postponed indefinitely because of the plaintiff’s lack of standing pending her appointment as personal representative of her husband’s estate: “Facing uncertain delays and a clogged docket, the district court reasonably decided that this was not the unusual case in which it should exercise supplemental jurisdiction after all federal claims were dismissed.”  

Posted by: Valerie Sanders

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