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Federal Bar Update: Removal and venue changes are on the horizon

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Federal Bar UpdateMost key procedural changes in federal practice derive from rule amendments and case law. Rarely (and probably thankfully) do we expect Congress to be in the mix. With the recent passage of the Federal Courts Jurisdiction and Venue Clarification Act of 2011, however, key statutory changes to removal and venue are on the horizon.

History

In 2005, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee authored the predecessor to this new legislation. After several years of bouncing through committee, in 2010, the Judicial Conference actively vetted the bill with interested stakeholders, including the American Bar Association, the Federal Bar Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and legal scholars. In 2011, the bill worked its way through Congress, was passed by the Senate in November and signed by the president on Dec. 7. The Act takes effect on Jan. 6, 30 days after enactment, and shall apply to any action commenced on or after that date. The legislative history describes the purpose of these changes to “bring more clarity to the operation of Federal jurisdictional statutes” while facilitating the appropriate court where actions should be brought. The history recites, “Judges believe the current rules force them to waste time determining jurisdictional issues at the expense of adjudicating underlying litigation.”

Removal changes

The Act amends the removal statutes in many respects, including:

• upon removal of an action that has federal claims combined with claims that are not within the court’s supplemental jurisdiction, the District Court shall sever and remand those non-federal, non-supplemental claims;

• all defendants who have been served must join in or consent to removal (codifying current practice);

• each defendant has 30 days after “receipt by or service on that defendant of the initial pleading or summons”; 

• if defendants are served at different times, and a later-served defendant files a notice of removal, any earlier-served defendant may consent to the removal even though it did not previously initiate or consent to removal;

• the Act still has a one-year cap on diversity removals unless the District Court finds that the plaintiff acted in bad faith to prevent removal, and if the court finds that plaintiff failed to disclose the amount in controversy to avoid removal, that is bad faith; and 

• the Act speaks to how to treat the amount in controversy on removal, including for jurisdictions (like Indiana) where in some types of cases the amount of damages cannot be set forth in the state court complaint, the notice of removal can set forth the amount in controversy.

Venue changes

The Act also amends venue provisions:

• the Act creates a new provision, 28 USC Section 1390 describing venue generally; and

• Section 1391 is re-written, collapsing (a) (diversity) and (b) (federal question) into a new (b) that has the same three standards.

Where to find the statute

Practitioners will have difficulty finding a clean version of the amended statutes. The Act is complicated and technical, deleting some provisions, adding others, and of course not providing a “clean” final version of the rewritten Code sections. Practitioners should be very careful to ensure that the statutory sections referred to from Jan. 6 forward are accurate and up to date. In the meantime, anyone desiring a copy of the Act can email the undersigned for a pdf copy.•

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John Maley – jmaley@btlaw.com – is a partner with Barnes & Thornburg LLP, practicing federal and state litigation, employment matters and appeals. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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