United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case is before the court on Plaintiff's Motion to Remand
(Doc. # 11) and Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 4).
The parties have fully briefed both the Motion to Remand
(Docs. # 11, 21, 27) and the Motion to Dismiss (Docs. # 4,
29, 30). For the reasons outlined below, the court concludes
the Motion to Remand (Doc. # 11) is due to be denied and the
Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 4) is due to be granted.
Background and Relevant Facts
William Jackson (“Jackson” or
“Plaintiff”) initiated this lawsuit against
Defendants U.S. Steel Corporation (“U.S. Steel”),
United States Steelworkers Union (“Union”),
Conway (“Conway”), Michael Fields
(“Fields”), Raymond D. League
(“League”), James P. Thomas
(“Thomas”), Nicole L. Demao
(“Demao”), Thomas Hanson (“Hanson”),
Karl G. Kocsis (“Kocsis”), Donald J. Payne
(“Payne”), and Christiana Johnston
(“Johnston” and collectively
“Defendants”) on October 13, 2017 in the Circuit
Court of Jefferson County, Alabama. (Doc. # 1-1). In the
Complaint, Plaintiff asserts seven state law claims against
Defendants: (1) defamation/libel (conspiracy), (2)
defamation/libel, (3) defamation per se/libel per se, (4)
wantonness, (5) negligence and gross negligence, (6) invasion
of privacy, and (7) intentional infliction of emotional
distress. (Doc. # 1-1). On November 22, 2017, Defendants
removed this action based on the complete preemption of
§ 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act
(“LMRA”). (Doc. # 1). Defendants next filed a
Motion to Dismiss on December 8, 2017. (Doc. # 4). On
December 19, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand. (Doc.
# 11). In the Notice of Removal, Defendants attempt to
provide background to Plaintiff's terse Complaint by
providing documents involved in Jackson's grievance and
arbitration proceedings. (Docs. # 1-3, 1-4, 1-5, 1-6). The
allegations in Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. # 1-1 at p.
2-13) and the factual allegations contained in
Defendants' Notice of Removal (Doc. # 1) and Opposition
to the Motion to Remand (Doc. # 21) are discussed below.
Facts Alleged in the Complaint
Steel employed Jackson for several years. (Doc. # 1-1 at p.
4). While employed, Jackson served as the Grievance Chairman
of a Grievance Committee on behalf of his local Union
members. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that Fields
“lied and claimed that William Jackson was engaging in
criminal action in his representation of union
employees.” (Id. at p. 2). He further alleges
that U.S. Steel and the Union hid Fields' slanderous
statements and conspired to defame Jackson. (Id.).
Plaintiff advances the general contention that Defendants
published a “false and defamatory email with the intent
to harm plaintiff's reputation so that the arbitrator
would be less likely to believe his claims and statements
during his arbitration.” (Id. at p. 3).
Somewhat more specifically, Jackson alleges that, from
October 11, 2015 through his arbitration date, Defendants
conspired to (and did) defame him by publishing the following
statements: “[Jackson] is using the position for his
benefits; He has wrongly used his position to influence a
company employee to usurp a position for his benefit; He
committed a crime in his representing of union members and
arguing that he and other grievance committeemen were
entitled to super seniority; and He should be in jail for his
criminal actions.” (Id. at p. 5, 6).
Additional Facts Alleged by Defendants
2015, U.S. Steel was going through lay-offs. (Docs. # 1-4 at
p. 7; 21 at p. 3). The Basic Labor Agreement
(“BLA”), which is the collective bargaining
agreement that governs the relationship between Plaintiff,
U.S. Steel, and the Union, contains a superseniority
provision that, in some instances, allows for an employee to
avoid being laid off by “bumping” into a new job
classification. (Docs. # 1-3 at p. 46-51; 21 at p. 3).
Jackson attempted to avoid being laid off by exercising this
superseniority provision; however, despite this attempt, he
was laid off. (Docs. # 1-4 at p. 7-8; 21 at p. 3).
October 30, 2015, Local Union No. 2122 (“Local
2122”) filed a grievance on Jackson's behalf.
(Docs. # 1-4 at p. 2-3; 21 at p. 3). While the grievance was
being processed, Jackson, in his capacity as Grievance Chair,
filed unfair labor practice charges against U.S. Steel with
the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”).
(Docs. # 1-4 at p. 5-6; 21 at p. 4). The NLRB dismissed two
of these charges and deferred the remaining charges to
arbitration. (Id.). In January and February 2016,
Jackson's grievance went through a Step 2 meeting and a
Step 3 meeting, and, on February 19, 2016, the Union appealed
Jackson's grievance to arbitration. (Docs. # 1-4 at p. 3;
21 at p. 4). Ultimately, the arbitrator found the grievance
and the deferred NLRB charges meritless and issued a decision
denying both on June 8, 2016. (Docs. # 1-4; 21 at p. 4).
17, 2016, Jackson filed an unfair labor practice charge
against the Union with the NLRB, alleging that the Union
failed to properly represent him during arbitration. (Docs. #
1-5 at p. 7; 21 at p. 5). The NLRB Regional Director refused
to issue a complaint on this charge. (Doc. # 1-6 at p. 4).
Jackson appealed. (Id. at p. 2). On November 9,
2016, the General Counsel for the NLRB denied Jackson's
appeal and found that “there was insufficient evidence
to establish that the Union failed to properly represent
you.” (Id.). The General Counsel also found
that “there was insufficient evidence to substantiate
[Jackson's] claim” that the Union and U.S. Steel
“acted in cohort to get [him] removed from [his]
position” and that “there was insufficient
evidence to connect” allegedly defamatory emails
regarding Jackson to the arbitrator's decision to deny
Jackson's layoff grievance. (Id.).
Consideration of Defendants' Attached Documents
general rule is that a district court “must convert a
motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment if it
considers materials outside the complaint.” Day v.
Taylor, 400 F.3d 1272, 1275-76 (11th Cir. 2005) (citing
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)). However, a “court may consider a
document attached to a motion to dismiss without converting
the motion into one for summary judgment if the attached
document is (1) central to the plaintiff's claim and (2)
undisputed.” Id. at 1276. After careful
review, and for at least two reasons, the court concludes
both of these elements are met here.
Plaintiff's claims center on his allegation that
Defendants “published the false and defamatory email
with the intent to harm plaintiff's reputation so that
the arbitrator would be less likely to believe his claims and
statements during arbitration.” (Doc. # 1-1 at p. 3).
Defendants' attached documents are “at the very
heart of” Plaintiff's claims because they include
the arbitration decision and Plaintiff's subsequent
charge with the NLRB regarding this allegedly defamatory
email. See Taylor, 400 F.3d at 1276. Second,
Plaintiff does not dispute the authenticity of the
Defendants' attached documents, making these documents
undisputed. See Id. (noting that an attached
document is “undisputed” if “the
authenticity of the document is not challenged”). As
such, the court may consider these appendixes without
converting Defendants' Motion to Dismiss into a motion
for summary judgment. See Id. at 1275.
Motion to Remand
careful review, the court concludes Plaintiff's Motion to
Remand is due to be denied.
Standard of Review
long been recognized that federal courts are courts of
limited jurisdiction. Burns v. Windsor Ins. Co., 31
F.3d 1092, 1095 (11th Cir. 1994). Indeed, federal courts may
only exercise jurisdiction conferred upon them by Congress.
Quackenbush v. Allstate Ins. Co., 517 U.S. 706, 716
(1996). Anytime a “federal court acts outside its
statutory subject matter jurisdiction, it violates the
fundamental constitutional precept of limited federal
power.” Univ. of S. Ala. v. Am. Tobacco Co.,
168 F.3d 405, 409 (11th Cir. 1999) (quoting Victory
Carriers, Inc. v. Law, 404 U.S. 202, 212 (1971)).
any action filed in state court, over which a district court
would have original jurisdiction, “may be removed by
the defendant or defendants, to the district court of the
United States for the district and division embracing the
place where such action is pending.” 28 U.S.C. §
1441(a). The burden of establishing subject matter
jurisdiction for the purpose of a valid removal to this court
is squarely on the removing party. Friedman v. N.Y. Life
Ins. Co., 410 F.3d 1350, 1353 (11th Cir. 2005). Federal
courts strictly construe removal statutes and resolve all
doubts in favor of remand. Miedema v. Maytag Corp.,
450 F.3d 1322, 1328-30 (11th Cir. 2006).