Tortora v. City of Shelton Board of Fire Commissioners
Inclusion of the phrases "due process" and "federal law" in a complaint may be insufficient to establish federal-question jurisdiction. The plaintiff fire marshal, James Tortora, sued the City of Shelton Board of Fire Commissioners and individual defendants, alleging that they conspired to harass him. The defendants moved the suit to District Court, and Tortora filed a motion to remand to state court. A party that removes a suit to District Court possesses the burden to prove that the District Court has jurisdiction. A federal question exists when the plaintiff's cause of action is based on the U.S. Constitution and federal law. The plaintiff objected that his complaint did not allege a cause of action that arises under federal law. The court found that the plaintiff's complaint alleged state-law causes of action, such as defamation, false-light publicity, tortious interference with a business relationship, intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy. Mere use of the phrase "due process" will not open the doors to the U.S. District Court. The complaint's references to federal law were insufficient to establish federal-question jurisdiction. "Tortora's vague references to federal law and due process," wrote the court, "do not give rise to federal-question jurisdiction." The court granted the plaintiff's motion to remand to state court.