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State v. Geo Group Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

December 13, 2017

STATE OF WASHINGTON, Plaintiff,
v.
THE GEO GROUP, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING WITHOUT PREJUDICE PLAINTIFF STATE OF WASHINGTON'S MOTION TO REMAND

          ROBERT J. BRYAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff State of Washington's Motion to Remand. Dkt. 15. The Court has considered Defendant The GEO Group, Inc.'s Response, the State's Reply, the Notice of Removal, the Complaint, and the remainder of the file herein. Dkts. 1, 23, 28.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case originates from a complaint first filed in Pierce County. Dkt. 7, State of Wash. v. The GEO Group, Inc., Case No. 17-2-11422-2 (Pierce Co. Superior Court, 20 Sept. 2017). GEO removed to the Western District of Washington, citing three grounds for removal: (1) the federal officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. §1442, alleging a causal nexus between GEO's actions and the directives of a federal officer, and that GEO has a colorable preemption defense; (2) the general removal statute, 28 USC §1331, because the case “involves issues of federal law and federal interests that ‘aris[e] under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States'”; and (3) diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. §1332(a). Dkt. 1 at 8, 9.

         The issue raised by the State's motion to remand is whether this Court has subject matter jurisdiction. As discussed below, the State's motion should be denied without prejudice. The Court has subject matter jurisdiction because the case at present implicates the federal officer removal statute, §1442. Having identified a basis for its subject matter jurisdiction, the Court declines to address §1331 and §1332(a).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard for federal officer removal under 28 U.S.C. §1442.

         The federal officer removal statute provides:

(a) A civil action ... that is commenced in a State court and that is against or directed to [the following] may be removed by them to the district court of the United States . . . wherein it is pending[:] . . . (1) The United States or any agency thereof or any officer (or any person acting under that officer) of the United States or of any agency thereof, in an official or individual capacity, for or relating to any act under color of such office ....

28 U.S.C. §1442 (emphasis added). “The purpose of the federal officer removal statute is to ensure a federal forum in any case where a federal official is entitled to raise a defense arising out of his duties.” Goncalves By & Through Goncalves v. Rady Children's Hosp. San Diego, 865 F.3d 1237, 1243-44 (9th Cir. 2017), quoting Arizona v. Manypenny, 451 U.S. 232, 241 (1981). The party seeking removal under §1442(a)(1) bears the burden to show:

(a) it is a ‘person' within the meaning of the statute; (b) there is a causal nexus between its actions, taken pursuant to a federal officer's directions, and plaintiff's claims; and (c) it can assert a colorable federal defense.

Id., quoting Durham v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 445 F.3d 1247, 1251 (9th Cir. 2006) (internal quotations and citations omitted). Section 1442 should be interpreted “broadly in favor of removal[, ]” so that “the policy favoring removal [is] not []frustrated by a narrow, grudging interpretation[.]” Id. at 1244, citing Arizona, 451 U.S. at 242 (internal quotations omitted).

         In this case, the parties do not dispute GEO's showing as to the first element, that GEO is a “person” as contemplated by the statute. The State challenges GEO's showing as to the second and third elements, arguing that there is no causal nexus and that GEO lacks a colorable federal defense.

         B. C ...


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