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Wednesday, April 06, 2022

A wild hypothetical

So something that proved more complicated than expected.

In transitioning from Subject Matter Jurisdiction to Personal Jurisdiction, we discuss the underlying process of World Wide--Audi and VWA paid for WW and Seaway to successfully challenge PJ through state court and to SCOTUS, then removed when SCOTUS held there was no PJ and the state trial court dismissed the claims against them.

But then I posed the following to the CivPro ListServ and no one could figure out the answer: Suppose the trial court found lack of personal jurisdiction and dismissed the claims against WW and Seaway. The case is now removable. If Audi and VWA remove, how does Robinson appeal the dismissal of the other defendants? Can Robinson's intent to appeal render the case not removable, perhaps by filing a notice of appeal before the Audi and VWA can file the notice of removal? If the defendants get into federal court before Robinson can appeal, his options seem limited.

This hypo is limited because unlikely. The strategy Audi and VWA followed is unavailable in most cases because § 1446(c)(1) prohibits removal of a diversity action that becomes removable more than a year after filing; it takes more than a year to brief and argue a motion to dismiss and more than one layer of appellate review. That limitation did not exist in 1980, which is why Audi and VWA could remove more than 3 years after the suit was filed. So this scenario likely does not arise in either direction.

Still, it exposes an interesting gap in the statutory framework. And it forced some creative solutions. Robinson might ask the federal court to stay the proceedings so the state appeal can proceed (and to not attempt to enjoin the state court from proceeding with the case). Or Robinson might amend in federal court to re-add the dismissed defendants, then ask the federal court to certify the propriety of the PJ dismissal to the state supreme court.

I stumbled on a third possibility this morning--Audi and VWA remove, then Robinson seeks a writ of mandamus to the 1oth Circuit, asking for review of the PJ dismissal. That prior order is part of the removed case. Robinson can satisfy the requirements for mandamus. This is extraordinary case. He does not have other adequate means to obtain relief, because the PJ issue affects whether the case should be in federal court in the first place--if the state court erred, the case should not have been removed and Robinson should not have to litigate in federal court, something that cannot be adequately protected if he must await final judgment in federal court. Robinson also faces the risk that the court of appeals would affirm subject matter jurisdiction, even if it believes the state court erred on PJ, because there was jurisdiction at the time of trial.

However unlikely, a fun problem that might expose a weird hole in the statutory scheme.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 6, 2022 at 11:54 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink

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