Federal appellate jurisdiction in abstention cases
25 February 2021
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1447(d), “An order remanding a case to the State court from which it was removed is not reviewable on appeal or otherwise ....” Let’s say that plaintiff sues defendant in Louisiana state court, the defendant removes the case to federal court, and the plaintiff moves for remand. The district court finds that it has subject-matter jurisdiction, but it grants the remand anyway by applying an abstention doctrine (in this instance, Burford). The defendant appeals. Does the U.S. Fifth Circuit have appellate jurisdiction to review the abstention-based remand?
According to a decision released yesterday, the answer to the appellate-jurisdiction question is “yes.” Grace Ranch, LLC v. BP America Production Co., No. 20-30224, at 10–14 (5th Cir. Feb. 24, 2021). The Fifth Circuit concluded that the barring of review under § 1447(d) applies only to removals described in § 1447(c), namely remands for defects in the removal procedure or for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Since a remand based on abstention fits neither category, it can be reviewed.
p.s. 26 Feb. 2021: The Fifth Circuit released an updated version of its opinion today. To download a copy of the revised opinion, follow this link. The discussion of appellate jurisdiction starts on page 11.