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Walton v. Rendlen

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

July 10, 2014

ELBERT A. WALTON, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
CHARLES E. RENDLEN, III, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

E. RICHARD WEBBER, Sr., District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Elbert A. Walton, Jr.'s First Amended Motion to Remand Case to State Court [ECF No. 6].

I. BACKGROUND

In April 2014, Plaintiff, Elbert A. Walton, Jr., filed his First Amended Petition for Damages in the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court of the City of Saint Louis, Missouri. In the First Amended Petition, Walton, an attorney practicing law in the State of Missouri, asserts claims of tortious interference with contracts and business expectancies against the Honorable Charles E. Rendlen, III, a bankruptcy judge presiding in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

Walton's specific claims arise out of his legal representation of attorney James Robinson, Robinson's law firm, Critique Services, LLC (Critique), and two Critique employees, Beverly Diltz and Renee Mayweather, in a suit against them by their former client, Latoya Steward. Walton alleges, during the course of this lawsuit, Judge Rendlen, who was presiding over the suit, issued monetary sanctions against Robinson in a related bankruptcy case.[1] He further contends the parties engaged in settlement negotiations, in part to resolve the sanctions imposed against Robinson.[2] Walton alleges, during these negotiations, Judge Rendlen, acting sua sponte, instructed a member of his staff to deliver a message to the Chapter 7 Trustee, acting as mediator. According to Walton, this message stated

that in order for the sanctions that had been issued by the court to be withdrawn that as a part of the terms of the settlement that must be agreed upon by the parties, Robinson had to terminate Walton as his counsel and could not retain Walton to provide legal services on any cases in which Robinson was a party in the future.[3]

ECF No. 6-1 at ¶ 18. Walton contends Judge Rendlen's actions constituted retaliation for moving to recuse Judge Rendlen in the related bankruptcy case. Walton further claims, as a result of the alleged communication, Robinson, Critique, Diltz, and Mayweather terminated his employment as their counsel.

On May 2, 2014, Judge Rendlen filed a Notice of Removal pursuant to the federal officer removal provision set forth by 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(3). Currently before the Court is Walton's Amended Motion to Remand.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1442,

(a) A civil action or criminal prosecution that is commenced in a State court and that is against or directed to any of the following may be removed by them to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place wherein it is pending:
...
(3) Any officer of the courts of the United States, for or relating to any act under color of office or in the performance of his duties[.]

"It is the general rule that an action may be removed from state court to federal court only if a federal district court would have original jurisdiction over the claim in suit." Jefferson County, Ala. v. Acker, 527 U.S. 423, 430 (1999). The well-pleaded complaint rule dictates a federal question must be evident from the face of the complaint. Id. at 430-31. However, "[s]uits against federal officers are exceptional in this regard." Id. at 431. That is, "suits against federal officers may be removed despite the nonfederal cast of the complaint; the federal-question element is met if the defense depends on federal law." Id. The federal officer removal statute "reflects a congressional policy that federal officers, and indeed the Federal Government itself, require the protection of a federal forum." Kircher v. Putnam Funds Trust, 547 U.S. 633, 644 n.12 (2006) (internal quotations omitted). Thus, "[a]n officer's federal defense need be only colorable to assure the federal court that it has jurisdiction to adjudicate the case[.]" Id. To qualify ...


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