United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
SOROKIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
reasons that follow, the Court ALLOWS Plaintiff Jane
Doe's Motion to Remand this case to Suffolk County
Superior Court (Doc. 6).
December 8, 2016, Plaintiff Jane Doe filed a Complaint in
Suffolk County Superior Court against Defendants Boston
University (BU) and various BU employees. Doc. 1-3.
Plaintiff, who was sexually assaulted while residing in BU
housing on October 18, 2015, essentially alleges BU - and, in
certain counts, various employee Defendants - violated her
rights by failing to provide safe housing, and failing to
provide adequate redress for the assault under state and
federal civil rights laws. See id. at 4-7. Plaintiff
sues for (1) negligence; (2) breach of contract; (3)
violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 214, § 1C; (4)
violation of the Massachusetts Equal Rights Act (MERA); and
(5) violation of the Massachusetts Constitution's Equal
Protection Clause. Id.
January 31, 2017, Defendants moved to dismiss various counts
and Defendants. Doc. 1 at 3. On February 24, 2017, Defendants
received Plaintiff's opposition to the motion.
Id. In opposing dismissal of her MERA claim,
Plaintiff stated: “Although this is not a lawsuit
directly under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972
(which prohibits gender discrimination in any education
program, like BU, that receives federal funding), Plaintiff
will address several ways in which BU violated Title IX in
order to establish its claims under the MERA.” Doc. 1-4
at 39-40 n.2; see also id. at 42 (arguing that
BU's sexual harassment policy violates the MERA
“[b]ecause” its standard for determining
“whether a Title IX offense occurred” is
excessively “onerous” and thus “denies
persons who suffer sex-based harms the ‘full and
equal' protection of Title IX”). Moreover,
Plaintiff argued that Defendants violated the Massachusetts
Constitution's Equal Protection Clause by failing to take
“steps to redress the harm suffered by Jane Doe . . .
for sex-based harm, ” as was their “obligation .
. . under civil rights laws.” Id. at 49.
March 27, 2017, Defendants filed a Notice of Removal to this
Court, asserting that Plaintiff's MERA and Equal
Protection claims “actually arise under federal law,
” and that the Court should exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over Counts One through Three. Doc. 1 at 4-5;
see also 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (authorizing federal
district courts to exercise original jurisdiction in
“all civil actions arising under the Constitution,
laws, or treaties of the United States”).
April 24, 2017, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion to Remand,
arguing that Defendants' removal of this action was
untimely and that the Court lacks jurisdiction over her MERA
and Equal Protection claims. Doc. 6. The Court agrees it
lacks jurisdiction and, thus, need not address the timeliness
of Defendants' removal.
argues that the Court lacks jurisdiction because she has not
pleaded “any federal cause of action.” Doc. 6 at
2. Defendants argue that the Court has jurisdiction because
(1) Plaintiff's MERA and Equal Protection claims
“rest on violations of Title IX, ” (2) the issues
in this case are substantial, and (3) there would be no
disruption of the federal-state balance of power if the Court
exercised jurisdiction. See Doc. 7 at 9.
a claim finds its origins in state rather than federal law,
” the Supreme Court has identified a “special and
small category of cases in which [§ 1331] arising under
jurisdiction still lies.” Gunn v. Minton, 133
S.Ct. 1059, 1064 (2013) (citation and internal quotation
marks omitted). “[F]ederal jurisdiction over a state
law claim will lie if a federal issue is: (1) necessarily
raised, (2) actually disputed, (3) substantial, and (4)
capable of resolution in federal court without disrupting the
federal-state balance approved by Congress.”
Id. at 1065. Here, as in Gunn, the first
two prongs of this test are satisfied. Plaintiff has admitted
she will “address several ways in which BU violated
Title IX in order to establish [her] claims under
the MERA.” Doc. 1-4 at 39-40 n.2 (emphasis added).
Moreover, she has argued that BU's sexual harassment
policy violates the MERA “[b]ecause” its
standard for determining “whether a Title IX offense
occurred” is excessively “onerous.”
Id. at 42 (emphasis added). These statements are
sufficient to find that the MERA claim, at least, necessarily
raises an actually disputed federal issue.
the third requirement, substantiality, is not satisfied. To
satisfy this prong, the “federal question must be not
only important to the parties, but important to the federal
system” as a whole. Municipality of Mayaguez v.
Corporacion Para el Desarrollo del Oeste, Inc., 726 F.3d
8, 14 (1st Cir. 2013). Courts have found this requirement
satisfied where (1) “the outcome of the claim could
turn on a new interpretation of a federal statute or
regulation which will govern a large number of cases, ”
as opposed to being “fact-bound and
situation-specific”; or (2) the Federal Government
“has a direct interest in the availability of a federal
forum to vindicate its own administrative action.”
Id. (citations and internal quotation marks
omitted). Neither of those circumstances is present in this
case. Even assuming this case could turn on a new
interpretation of Title IX, that interpretation would not
“govern a large number of cases” so as to affect
the federal system as a whole; on the contrary, because this
case is about the adequacy of BU's policies as
implemented (or not), its outcome will be largely, if not
wholly, fact-bound. Cf. Gunn, 133 S.Ct. at 1068
(“In this case, although the state courts must answer a
question of patent law to resolve [the plaintiff's]
claim, their answer will have no broader effects.”).
Furthermore, in this case there is no action by the Federal
Government at issue - meaning, of course, that the Government
has no “direct interest” in
“vindicat[ing]” such an action. Finally, the
Court rejects Defendants' argument that the federal issue
here is substantial because Title IX “is a complex area
of law, over which federal courts have greater
expertise.” Doc. 7 at 9. The Supreme Court rejected a
nearly identical argument - albeit in the context of patent
law, not Title IX - for finding substantiality in
Gunn. See 133 S.Ct. at 1068.
“the absence of a substantial federal issue, ”
the fourth requirement, which is “concerned with the
appropriate balance of federal and state judicial
responsibilities, ” is “also not met.”
foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (Doc. 6)
is ALLOWED and this case is REMANDED ...