United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
STEPHEN N. LIMBAUGH, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case comes before the Court on plaintiff's motion to
remand this action to the Circuit Court in St. Louis City,
Missouri (#13). Plaintiff argues that this Court does not
have jurisdiction over the action and that defendants'
removal was improper. The matter has been fully briefed and
is ready for disposition. For the following reasons, the
motion will be granted.
Roxanne Wells-Williams is a citizen of Missouri. Defendant
Bi-State Development Agency d/b/a Metro Transit
(“Bi-State”) is an entity created in 1949 by an
interstate compact entered into by Missouri and Illinois, and
approved by the United States Congress, pursuant to the
Compact Clause of the United States Constitution. U.S. Const.
art. I, § 10, cl. 3.; Mo. Rev. Stat. § 70.370
(1998); 45 Ill. Comp. Stat. 100/1 (2008). KMOV TV, Inc.
v. Bi-State Dev. Agency of the Missouri-Illinois Metro.
Dist., 625 F.Supp.2d 808, 809 (E.D. Mo. 2008). The
Compact created Bi-State, defined a regional Bi-State
Development District, and established a basic administrative
structure for its governance. Id. Bi-State's
purpose is “to provide a unified mass transportation
system” for the bi-state region. Id. (quoting
Bartlett v. Bi-State Devel. Agency, 827 S.W.2d 267,
269 (Mo. App. 1992)).
was an employee of Bi-State on August 23, 2015 when she was
allegedly injured within the scope of her employment (#5).
Plaintiff alleges that following her injury, she was
unlawfully and wrongfully terminated. Plaintiff claims she
was (1) unlawfully terminated under § 213.055 RSMo, (2)
wrongfully terminated after making a workers'
compensation claim under § 287.780 RSMo, (3) defamed by
defendants, and (4) conspired against by the defendants after
she exercised her compensation rights under Missouri's
workers' compensation laws.
removed this action, claiming that this Court had original
jurisdiction over the lawsuit pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1331. Defendants argue that this court has
original jurisdiction over this lawsuit because
“Plaintiff's claims require the court to interpret
the interstate compact in order to determine the
applicability of Missouri statutes to the bi-state
agency” (#1). The matter before the Court is
plaintiff's motion to remand the action to the Missouri
courts (#13). Plaintiff argues that this Court does not have
original jurisdiction because none of her claims arise under
statutes are strictly construed, In Re Business Men's
Assur. Co. of America, 992 F.2d 181, 183 (8th Cir.
1993), and any doubts about the propriety of removal are to
be resolved in favor of remand. Central Iowa Power Indep.
Transmission Sys. Operator, Inc., 561 F.3d 904, 912 (8th
Cir. 2009). “The party invoking federal jurisdiction
and seeking removal has the burden of establishing
jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence.”
Collier v. Bi-State Dev. Agency of Missouri-Illinois
Metro. Dist., No. 4:14-CV-1263 JCH, 2014 WL 5343357, at
*1 (E.D. Mo. Oct. 20, 2014) (citing Hartis v. Chicago
Title Ins. Co., 656 F.3d 778, 781-82 (8th Cir. 2009)).
In this case, the defendants carry that burden.
action brought in state court may be removed to a proper
district court if that district court has original
jurisdiction over the lawsuit. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a).
Id. at *2. In other words, removal of a lawsuit from
state court is proper if the plaintiff could have originally
brought the lawsuit in federal court. Coalition for Safe
Transit, Inc. v. Bi-State Development Agency, 778
F.Supp. 464, 466 (E.D. Mo. 1991). The parties do not allege,
and there are no facts to support, the existence of diversity
of citizenship jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
Thus, the only possible basis of federal subject matter
jurisdiction in this action is federal question jurisdiction,
which grants district courts “original jurisdiction of
all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or
treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S. § 1331.
determine whether a claim “arises under” federal
law, “[t]he general rule ---known as the
‘well-pleaded complaint rule' --- is that a
complaint must state on its face a federal cause of action in
order for the action to be removable on the basis of
federal-question jurisdiction.” Amalgamated Transit
Union Div. v. Bi-State Dev. Agency of Missouri-Illinois
Metro. Dist., No. 4:15-CV-00455 AGF, 2015 WL 3645513, at
*2 (E.D. Mo. June 10, 2015) (quoting Griffioen v. Cedar
Rapids & Iowa City Ry. Co., 785 F.3d 1182, 1188 (8th
Cir. 2015)). A claim may arise under federal law when
“vindication of a right under state law necessarily
turn[s] on some construction of federal law.
Collier, 2014 WL 5343357, at *2 (quoting Merrell
Dow. Pharm. Inc. v. Thompson, 478 U.S. 804, 808 (1996)).
The well-pleaded complaint rule “makes the plaintiff
the master of the claim; he or she may avoid federal
jurisdiction by exclusive reliance on state law.”
Brust v. ACF Industries, L.L.C., No. 11-4839, 2011
WL 6756921, at *2 (D.N.J. Dec. 21, 2011) (quoting
Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392
(1987)). The basis for federal question jurisdiction must
arise “within the four corners of the
complaint.” Id. (internal citations
omitted) (emphasis added).
the “well-pleaded complaint rule” requires that
federal question jurisdiction will only be found within the
complaint, typically, “the existence of a federal
defense . . . does not create federal-question
jurisdiction.” Griffioen, 785 F.3d at 1188
(internal citations omitted). It is settled law that “a
case may not be removed to federal court on the
basis of a federal defense . . . even if the defense is
anticipated in the plaintiff's complaint, and even if
both parties concede that the federal defense is the only
question truly at issue.” Caterpillar, Inc.,
482 U.S. at 393 (internal citations omitted) (emphasis in
original). Additionally, “[t]he mere fact that a court
necessarily must interpret federal law or federal regulations
to determine the merits of a claim is insufficient to confer
federal jurisdiction.” Coalition for Safe
Transit, 778 F.Supp. at 467 (quoting J.A. Jones
Const. Co. v. City of New York, 753 F.Supp. 497, 501
(S.D.N.Y. 1990)) (additional citations omitted).
Interpretation of Interstate Compacts
created by interstate compacts observe a unique legal status
as they “are creations of three discrete sovereigns:
two States and the federal Government.” KMOV
TV, 625 F.Supp.2d at 811 (quoting Hess v. Port
Authority of Trans-Hudson Corp., 513 U.S. 30, 41
(1994)). One commentator has observed that “[c]ompact
agencies and entities are said to exist in a no-man's
land. They lie somewhere in the space between independent and
dependent, sovereign and subject, state and federal.”
Matthew S. Tripolitsiotis, Bridge over Troubled Waters:
The Application of State Law to Compact Clause Entities,
23 Yale L. & Pol'y Rev. 163, 167 (2005). Bi-state
entities are “not subject to the unilateral control of
any one of the states that compose the federal system.”
Hess, 513 U.S. at 42.
the states enter into an interstate compact that is approved
by Congress, the compact is treated as federal law.
Cuyler v. Adams, 449 U.S. 433, 438 (1981) (internal
citations omitted). “Because congressional consent
transforms an interstate compact within this Clause into a
law of the United States, we have held that the
construction of an interstate agreement sanctioned
by Congress under the Compact Clause presents a federal
question.” Id. (emphasis added). Thus, the