United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO
KAYS, CHIEF JUDGE
case arises from Plaintiff Felicia Hannon-Johnson's
(“Plaintiff”) allegation that her employer,
Defendant Kansas City Area Transportation Authority
(“KCATA”), discriminated against her on the basis
of a disability, in violation of the Missouri Human Rights
Act (“MHRA”), Mo. Rev. Stat. § 213.010,
et seq. Plaintiff originally brought suit in the
Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri, and KCATA removed
the lawsuit to federal court, invoking the Court's
federal question jurisdiction.
before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (Doc.
33). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion
KCATA is a bi-state public transit entity operating in the
Kansas City metropolitan area. It was created in 1965
pursuant to a Congressionally-approved compact between
Missouri and Kansas (the
“Compact”). See Act of Sept. 21, 1966,
Pub. L. 89-599, 80 Stat. 826 (consenting to KCATA compact);
Kan. Stat. Ann. § 12-2524, art. III; Mo. Rev. Stat.
§ 238.010, art. III. The Compact grants KCATA certain
enumerated powers, along with the authority “[t]o
perform all other necessary and incidental functions [not
enumerated in the Compact]; and to exercise such additional
powers as shall be conferred on it by the Legislature of
either State concurred in by the Legislature of the other and
by Act of Congress.” Kan. Stat. Ann. § 12-2524,
art. III, § 11; Mo. Rev. Stat. § 238.010, art. III,
April 2005 to March 2016, KCATA employed Plaintiff as a bus
driver and customer service representative. Am. Compl.
¶¶ 12-14, 42. Plaintiff was terminated in March
2016. Plaintiff now alleges KCATA violated the MHRA by
failing to provide her with reasonable accommodations for a
back, leg, ankle, and foot disability stemming from an
on-the-job accident. See, e.g., id.
¶¶ 15-16, 18-21, 28, 30-32. She also asserts her
termination was in retaliation for filing charges of
discrimination against KCATA. See, e.g.,
id. ¶¶ 34-43.
originally filed this lawsuit in Missouri state court. On
November 11, 2016, KCATA removed this matter to federal
action may be removed by the defendant where the case falls
within the district court's original jurisdiction. 28
U.S.C. § 1441(a). If the case does not fall within these
jurisdictional bounds, the district court must remand the
case to the state court from which it was removed.
Id. § 1447(c). The removing party has the
burden of establishing jurisdiction by a preponderance of the
evidence, Hartis v. Chicago Title Ins. Co., 656 F.3d
778, 781-82 (8th Cir. 2009), 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).
district court has “original jurisdiction of all civil
actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of
the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331. To determine
whether the action arises under federal law, a court employs
the “well-pleaded complaint” rule, which
“provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a
federal question is presented on the face of the
plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint.”
Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392
(1987). But, an exception to this rule exists where
“the plaintiff's right to relief necessarily
depends on resolution of a substantial question of federal
law.” Great Lakes Gas Transmission Ltd. P'ship
v. Essar Steel Minn. LLC, 843 F.3d 325, 329 (8th Cir.
2016) (quoting Williams v. Ragnone, 147 F.3d 700,
702 (8th Cir. 1998)). When determining whether this exception
applies, a court must ask, “[D]oes [the] state-law
claim necessarily raise a stated federal issue, actually
disputed and substantial, which a federal forum may entertain
without disturbing any congressionally approved balance of
federal and state judicial responsibilities[?]”
Grable Sons Metal Prods., Inc. v. Darue Eng'g
Mfg., 545 U.S. 308, 314 (2005). “That is, federal
jurisdiction over a state law claim will lie if a federal
issue is: (1) necessarily raised, (2) actually disputed, (3)
substantial, and (4) capable of resolution in federal court
without disrupting the federal-state balance approved by
Congress.” Gunn v. Minton, 133 S.Ct. 1059,
contends federal jurisdiction exists because Plaintiff's
claims necessitate interpretation of the Compact, which
became federal law after it was approved by Congress. It
argues that, under the Compact, KCATA cannot be subject to
Missouri's employment discrimination laws. Plaintiff did
not file a reply brief or otherwise respond to this argument.
Construction of the Compact presents a federal
initial matter, there is no dispute that the construction of
the Compact presents a federal question. See Cuyler v.
Adams, 449 U.S. 433, 438 (1981) (“Because
congressional consent transforms an interstate compact
[within the Compact Clause] into a law of the United States,
we have held that the construction of an interstate agreement
sanctioned by Congress . . . presents a federal
question.”). But, the “mere presence of a federal
issue in a state cause of action does not automatically
confer federal jurisdiction.” Merrell Dow Pharms.
Inc. v. Thompson, 478 U.S. 804, 813 (1986). Accordingly,
the Court must perform a Grable inquiry to determine
the “centrality” of the federal issue and,
ultimately, its jurisdiction over this matter. See Empire