Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bye, Circuit Judge.
Submitted: January 11, 2011
Before BOWMAN, BYE, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.
Plaintiffs, a group of union-sponsored health benefit plans, brought suit in Minnesota state court alleging various generic drug pricing claims against Defendants, who represent leading retail pharmacy chains. Plaintiffs also requested certification of a class of all purchasers of, or third-party payment sources for, generic prescription drugs dispensed by Defendants in Minnesota since July 28, 2003. On August 21, 2009, Defendants removed the case to federal court, asserting diversity jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 ("CAFA"), 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(4). On November 24, 2009, the district court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint without prejudice. The next day, Plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint, and shortly thereafter, they moved to remand the case to state court based on CAFA's local controversy provision. On July 19, 2010, the district court granted Plaintiffs' motion and remanded the case to state court after it determined it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the matter. On appeal, Defendants contend CAFA's local controversy provision does not divest the court of subject matter jurisdiction, and because Plaintiffs moved to remand the matter more than thirty days after removal, the remand motion should have been denied as untimely pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). We reverse and remand to the district court for further proceedings.
We review the district court's interpretation of CAFA de novo. Westerfeld v. Indep. Processing, LLC, 621 F.3d 819, 822 (8th Cir. 2010). Defendants first argue the district court erred in concluding it lacked subject matter jurisdiction due to CAFA's local controversy provision, which provides "[a] district court shall decline to exercise jurisdiction" if certain conditions are met. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(4). We agree. In analyzing the language of the statute in light of the purposes Congress sought to serve, see Westerfeld, 621 F.3d at 824, the plain text demonstrates the district court has broad subject matter jurisdiction in CAFA actions when the amount in controversy exceeds $5,000,000 in the aggregate, minimal diversity exists among the parties, and there are at least 100 members in the class. Id. at 822 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d).
There is no dispute the jurisdictional requirements were satisfied in the instant case. The local controversy provision, which is set apart from the above jurisdictional requirements in the statute, inherently recognizes the district court has subject matter jurisdiction by directing the court to "decline to exercise" such jurisdiction when certain requirements are met. See, e.g. Serrano v. 180 Connect, Inc., 478 F.3d 1018, 1023 (9th Cir. 2007) ("§§ 1332(d)(4)(A) and (B) require federal courts -- although they have jurisdiction under § 1332(d)(2) -- to 'decline to exercise jurisdiction' when the criteria set forth in those provisions are met.") (emphasis in original). Thus, the local controversy provision operates as an abstention doctrine, which does not divest the district court of subject matter jurisdiction.
Our conclusion that the local controversy provision does not deprive courts of subject matter jurisdiction accords with prior case law addressing other abstention doctrines. For instance, in In re Otter Tail Power Co., 116 F.3d 1207, 1216 n.8 (8th Cir. 1997), we noted, "the district court's dismissal of this matter for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is antithetical to a decision to abstain, which implicitly acknowledges the existence of jurisdiction." See also Wallace v. La. Citizens Prop. Ins. Corp., 444 F.3d 697, 701 (5th Cir. 2006) (discussing how the abstention provision at issue "does not deprive federal courts of subject matter jurisdiction, but rather, acts as a limitation upon the exercise of jurisdiction granted" elsewhere in the statute).
In conjunction with the above discussion, Defendants next argue the district court erred in granting Plaintiffs' motion to remand because the remand motion was made more than thirty days after the case was removed to federal court. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c), "[a] motion to remand the case on the basis of any defect other than lack of subject matter jurisdiction must be made within 30 days after the filing of the notice of removal . . . ." Having determined the local controversy provision is akin to an abstention doctrine, which is not jurisdictional in nature, we must examine whether it constitutes "any defect other than subject matter jurisdiction," such that Plaintiffs' remand motion was untimely because it was not brought within thirty days after removal.
To answer this question, we again start with the plain text of the statute. Section 1447(c) and its related provisions do not define what constitutes a "defect." "The sixth edition of Black's Law Dictionary, which was the current version when the statute was amended, defines 'defect' as '[t]he want or absence of some legal requisite; deficiency; imperfection; insufficiency." Kamm v. ITEX Corp., 568 F.3d 752, 755 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Black's Law Dictionary 418 (6th ed. 1990)). Based on this commonly-understood definition of "defect," Plaintiffs urge us to construe the term narrowly, such that section 1332(d)(4) does not constitute a "defect." See Thomas R. Hrdlick, Appellate Review of Remand Orders in Removed Cases: Are They Losing a Certain Appeal?, 82 Marq. L. Rev. 535, 572 (1999) ("On its face, the term reasonably implies either the lack of something necessary or the presence of something objectionable."). Conversely, Defendants urge a broad reading of "defect," pointing to the statute's full phrase "defect other than subject matter jurisdiction," which suggests that subject matter jurisdiction itself is a "defect" under the language of the statute.
Due to the ambiguous statutory text, we find it beneficial to examine the history of section 1447(c). Prior to 1988, the statute read as follows:
If at any time before final judgment it appears that the case was removed improvidently and without jurisdiction, the district court shall remand the case, and may order the payment of just costs.
Holmstrom v. Peterson, 492 F.3d 833, 836 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Thermtron Prods., Inc. v. Hermansdorfer, 423 U.S. 336, 342 (1976)). Despite the broad language, courts construed the statute "to mean removals that were defective in terms of the statutory conditions that Congress had placed on removal," whereas removals based on abstention, among other doctrines, were held to be outside the scope of the statute. Id. In 1988, section 1447(c) was amended to provide:
A motion to remand the case on the basis of any defect in removal procedure must be made within 30 days after the filing of the notice of removal under section 1446(a). If at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded.
Id. (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) (1994)). "The 1988 amendments sought to confirm the courts' narrow reading of § 1447(c) by replacing the term 'improvidently' with 'defect in the removal procedure,'" and thus doctrines such as abstention continued to be interpreted as being outside the statute's bounds. Id. at 837. However, in the seminal case of Snapper, Inc. v. Redan, 171 F.3d 1249, 1257-58 (11th Cir. 1999), the Eleventh Circuit discussed how the 1988 formulation proved difficult for courts to apply in the context of rules not traditionally categorized as procedural, such as the forum defendant rule, which appeared ...