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W.D.La.: Employer’s Suit Seeking Declaratory Judgment That Employees Are Properly Deemed Exempt Dismissed; Subject Matter Jurisdiction Lacking, Because No Case Or Controversy
City of Monroe v. Otwell
The case was before the Court on the Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation, recommending that the case be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, because there was no case or controversy. The employer had filed the instant declaratory judgment complaint against 19 higher ranking members of the Monroe Police Department (the “Police Officer Defendants”). The City sought a judgment against the Police Officer Defendants pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201 declaring that they meet the executive and/or administrative exemptions from the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Finding that the case did not present a live case or controversy, the Court dismissed the case.
On June 17, 2009, the Court (sua sponte) questioned whether there was appropriate subject matter jurisdiction in this matter because the complaint contained no allegations to suggest that there is any current dispute between the City and the Police Officer Defendants. (June 17, 2009, Order [doc. # 12] ). The Court then afforded plaintiff 15 days to file a brief, together with appropriate, competent evidence, to establish the court’s jurisdiction to retain the matter. Id. The City was cautioned that if it failed to so comply, or if jurisdiction was found to be lacking, then dismissal would be recommended. Id. It appears from the text of the Order that the parties did not file briefs on the issue of subject matter jurisdiction.
Adopting the Magistrate’s reasoning (from the report and recommendation), finding it lacked subject matter jurisdiction, because there was no dispute between the parties, the Court discussed the applicable law:
“Federal courts are obliged to examine the basis for the exercise of federal subject matter jurisdiction. Smith v. Texas Children’s Hospital, 172 F.3d 923, 925 (5th Cir.1999). A lack of subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time. Giles v. Nylcare Health Plans, Inc., 172 F.3d 332, 336 (5th Cir.1999). Furthermore, a court must raise the issue sua sponte if it discovers that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Id.
‘A federal court may not issue a declaratory judgment unless there exists an actual case or controversy.” Columbia Cas. Co. v. Georgia & Florida RailNet, Inc., 542 F.3d 106, 110 (5th Cir.2008) (citation omitted). The burden is on the party seeking a declaratory judgment to establish the existence of an actual case or controversy, i.e. “a substantial controversy, between parties having adverse legal interests, of sufficient immediacy and reality to warrant the issuance of a declaratory judgment. See, Cardinal Chemical Co. v. Morton Intern., Inc., 508 U.S. 83, 113 S.Ct. 1967 (1993) (citation omitted); Vantage Trailers, Inc. v. Beall Corp., 567 F.3d 745, 2009 WL 1262388 (5th Cir. May 8, 2009) (citing MedImmune, Inc. v. Genentech, Inc., 549 U.S. 118, 127, 127 S.Ct. 764 (2007)). If the plaintiff fails to meet this burden, then the court lacks jurisdiction. Hosein v. Gonzales, 452 F.3d 401, 403 (5th Cir.2006).
Despite having been afforded an opportunity to so, the City has not endeavored to establish that its request for declaratory relief against the Police Officer Defendants presents an actual case or controversy sufficient to support subject matter jurisdiction. Accordingly, the undersigned is compelled to find that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to retain plaintiff’s remaining claim. See Hosein, supra. Of course, in the absence of subject matter jurisdiction, dismissal is required. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3).”
Thus, the Court dismissed the case for want of subject matter jurisdiction, without prejudice.
The New York Times reports that, “[l]ow-wage workers are routinely denied proper overtime pay and are often paid less than the minimum wage, according to a new study based on a survey of workers in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
The study, the most comprehensive examination of wage-law violations in a decade, also found that 68 percent of the workers interviewed had experienced at least one pay-related violation in the previous work week.”
To read the entire New York Times article based on the National Employment Law Project’s (NELP) study click here.