AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF FLORIDA, INC., Plaintiff - Appellant,
CITY OF SARASOTA, MICHAEL JACKSON, Defendants - Appellees. MICHAEL BARFIELD, Plaintiff,
from the United States District Court for the Middle District
of Florida D.C. Docket No. 8:14-cv-01606-SDM-TGW
JORDAN and JULIE CARNES, Circuit Judges, and SCHLESINGER,
JORDAN, Circuit Judge:
subject-matter jurisdiction over this removed case depends on
whether Michael Jackson, a state law enforcement officer,
created, submitted, and/or maintained certain records sought
by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida in his
capacity as a deputized federal officer. The ACLU twice asked
for jurisdictional discovery on Mr. Jackson's status, but
both requests were denied. The district court instead issued
its own interrogatories to Mr. Jackson.
the jurisdictional facts in this case are genuinely in
dispute and there was no undue delay by the ACLU, the
district court erred in denying the motions for discovery. We
ACLU sued Mr. Jackson and the City of Sarasota in Florida
state court to compel the production of 34 applications by
Mr. Jackson for state-court orders authorizing the use of
cell phone tracking devices, which the ACLU asserted were
public records created and maintained by a Florida municipal
officer and subject to production under Florida Statute
§ 119.07. The state court dismissed the ACLU's
state-law mandamus petition without prejudice after lawyers
for the United States asserted, at a non-evidentiary status
conference, that Mr. Jackson had created, submitted, and/or
maintained the requested documents in his capacity as a
Special Deputy U.S. Marshal. See D.E. 1-2 at 67. As
one of the grounds for dismissal, the state court accepted
the government's representation that the 34 applications
(and the corresponding orders) had been created, submitted,
and/or maintained by a federal officer.
the ACLU appealed, the United States, on behalf of
"Special Deputy [U.S.] Marshal" Jackson, removed
the case to federal district court under 28 U.S.C. §
1442(a)(1) (providing for federal officer removal).
See D.E. 1 at 1-2. The ACLU moved to remand a few
days later, disputing the government's assertion that Mr.
Jackson had been acting as a federal officer when he
submitted the applications. It also asked the district court
for jurisdictional discovery to ascertain the capacity in
which Mr. Jackson had created, submitted, and/or maintained
the documents sought.
magistrate judge denied the request for discovery, and the
district court propounded its own interrogatories to Mr.
Jackson, asking him to identify the capacity in which he had
applied for two of the orders. Mr. Jackson responded that all
of the applications he submitted for cell tracking devices
were at the direction of the U.S. Marshals Service.
See D.E. 43 at 1-2. He provided specifics on only
two of the requested applications, and admitted signing one
as "Detective Michael P. Jackson, Sarasota Police
Department, " and referring to himself in that
application as a detective with the City. See id. at
mostly on these answers, the district concluded that it had
subject-matter jurisdiction because the government had
established that Mr. Jackson had acted as a federal officer.
See D.E. 44 at 5. Following this ruling, the
district court denied another request by the ACLU for
jurisdictional discovery and entered final judgment,
concluding that the ACLU's state-law petition could not
compel the production of documents held by a federal officer.
See D.E. 61. This appeal followed.
subject-matter jurisdiction over this case depends on whether
Mr. Jackson created, submitted, and/or maintained the 34
applications and orders in his capacity as a detective for
the City of Sarasota Police Department or as a cross-sworn
Special Deputy U.S. Marshal. Given the parties' factual
dispute, the issue is whether the district court erred by
twice denying the ACLU's request for jurisdictional
generally review a district court's adjudication of a
motion for jurisdictional discovery for abuse of discretion.
See, e.g., Butler v. Sukhoi Co., 579 F.3d
1307, 1314 (11th Cir. 2009). But we have also cautioned that
"jurisdictional discovery is not entirely
discretionary." Eaton v. Dorchester Dev., Inc.,
692 F.2d 727, 729 (11th Cir. 1982). When it comes to
discovery of jurisdictional facts genuinely in dispute, the
broad discretion district courts ordinarily enjoy over
discovery runs up against two countervailing forces.
first is that, because of the "fundamental
constitutional precept of limited federal power, " a
district court "should inquire into whether it has
[subject-matter] jurisdiction at the earliest possible stage
in the proceedings." Univ. of S. Alabama v. Am.
Tobacco Co., 168 F.3d 405, 409-10 (11th Cir. 1999)
(citation omitted). In an action like this one, removed from
state court, we have said that a district court's
"first" task is to "determine whether it has
original jurisdiction over the plaintiff's claims."
Id. This means that a district court confronted with
a factual challenge to its jurisdiction cannot ignore a
genuine factual dispute simply because it arises at the
pleading stage. Rather, it has an "obligation at any
time to inquire into jurisdiction, " Fitzgerald v.