U.S. Supreme Court Clarifies Requirements for Removing Class Actions to Federal Court

U.S. Supreme Court Alert

Client Alert


Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co. v. Owens, No. 13-719, a case involving the procedural requirements for removing a class action from state to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). At issue was whether a defendant must attach to its notice of removal evidence establishing the $5 million amount-in-controversy requirement for class actions based on diversity of citizenship, or whether the defendant can simply allege the requisite amount in good faith.

Bradley attorneys authored an amicus brief on behalf of DRI—The Voice of the Defense Bar, supporting the petitioner’s position that the removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1446(a), does not require defendants to attach evidence of the amount in controversy to a notice of removal. DRI also specifically asked the Court to disavow a purported “strong presumption” against removal that many lower federal courts have adopted, contending that there was no legal basis for such a judicial presumption.

Justice Ginsburg, writing for the majority, agreed that 28 U.S.C. § 1446(a) does not require a notice of removal to contain evidentiary submissions. The Court adopted a plain-text interpretation of the statute, noting that Section 1446(a) tracks the familiar pleading standard found in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), which requires only a “short and plain statement,” not detailed pleadings. The Court held that evidence supporting removability is only required when the amount in controversy is contested by the plaintiff or questioned by the court.

The Court also disavowed any presumption against removal in the CAFA context. The Court expressly stated that “no antiremoval presumption attends cases invoking CAFA, which Congress enacted to facilitate adjudication of certain class actions in federal court.”

Justice Scalia, joined by three other justices, dissented, reasoning that he would have dismissed the appeal as improvidently granted for jurisdictional reasons unrelated to the merits of the case.

The Court’s decision is a significant victory for Bradley’s client DRI and its members because it makes clear that a defendant’s notice of removal need not contain evidentiary submissions. As Bradley’s amicus brief for DRI explained, allowing the lower court’s contrary interpretation to stand would have required defendants to prove jurisdictional allegations in virtually every case, regardless of whether the allegations were challenged, a result that would have been both wasteful and incredibly burdensome for defendants.

Bradley attorneys Scott Burnett Smith, Edmund Sauer, and Ashley Burkett authored the amicus brief for DRI in Dart Cherokee.