Court Sanctions Party For Improper Removal Of Action Seeking Confirmation Of Arbitration Award


The facts in Jackson v. Sleek Audio, LLC, et. al., Case No. 13-80725-CIV-Marra (S.D. Fla. March 17, 2014) stemmed from an arbitrators award against Curtis Jackson (“Jackson”) in his action against former business associates, Sleek Audio and others (“Sleek”). The arbitrator’s award included an award of attorney’s fees for which, Jackson contended, he lacked authority to award under the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. §1, et. seq. (“FAA”) and under Florida law.

Following the award by the arbitrator, Jackson brought an action in the Southern District of Florida seeking to vacate the arbitration award and also removed Sleek’s petition in the State Court seeking confirmation of the award. Jackson argued the arbitrator relied on the FAA’s preemption of Florida law in finding authority to award attorney’s fees and, thus, the issue of the FAA’s preemption formed the basis of the federal question jurisdiction. Sleek then moved to dismiss the action to vacate the award and to remand its own action seeking confirmation of the award. The parties agreed there was no diversity of citizenship and the federal court did not have jurisdiction under the FAA.

In its analysis of federal question jurisdiction, the Court first restated the principle that only complete preemption can convert state law claims into federal statutory claim in order to serve as a basis for federal question jurisdiction. In this case, the FAA did not completely preempt state law and thus could not form an independent basis for jurisdiction. The Jackson Court concluded that Jackson therefore did not have “an objectively reasonable basis for removal” and ordered Jackson to pay Sleek’s costs, including attorney’s fee, incurred in connection the removal proceedings.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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