A short one, an unpublished and unsigned opinion from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, Warner v. City of Marathon, No. 16-10086 (Dec. 8, 2017).
As the title of this post indicates, the claims made by the plaintiff included a regulatory takings claim. The facts and details of their claims are in the opinion if you want to read them, but for our purposes today, they aren't really important. It's enough to note that the plaintiffs brought their takings claim in Florida state court. A prudent move, given Williamson County requires a property owner to first seek and be denied compensation through available state court procedures before the federal takings claim becomes ripe.
The City of Marathon removed the case to federal court, as it can do under City of Chicago v. International College of Surgeons, 522 U.S. 156 (1997). That case gives the governmental defendant in these kind of cases an asymmetrical ability to remove to federal court under "arising under" jurisdiction a case brought in state court, even though Williamson County in most cases doesn't allow the plaintiff to bring the same case in federal court originally.
The district court in Warner dismissed the takings claim as unripe under Williamson County. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed.
Wait a minute, the property owner argued, we did what the Supreme Court told us we had to do in Williamson County: we brought our takings case in Florida's courts, asking for compensation through available state procedures. The city removed us to federal court.
And here's where it gets strange. Despite that argument, the panel concluded the case wasn't ripe because the plaintiffs had not secured a denial of their compensation claim by the state court:
The plaintiffs also did not allege in their complaint that they availed themselves of this remedy and were denied relief. Instead, the plaintiffs seem to assert on appeal that the takings claim presented in their complaint is their just compensation claim. Notwithstanding the possibility that they were attempting to assert an inverse condemnation claim in Florida state court before the case was removed to federal court, we cannot review the claim until the plaintiffs have been denied relief by a Florida court.
Slip op. at 10.
Read that again if it didn't sink in the first time. The plaintiffs filed in state court, seeking just compensation. The city removed the case to federal court, then argued the case wasn't ripe because the plaintiffs had not been denied compensation by the state court. And the only reason they weren't denied compensation by the state court? The city removed to federal court. Which concluded that the plaintiffs claim are not ripe because they did not secure a state court denial of their claim, an action prevented by the removal of the case.
The panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of the takings claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction (i.e., without prejudice), which, if we were looking at this opinion charitably, effectively serves as a remand order of the City's removal. Even if so, the case still highlights the foolishness that Williamson County has spawned, because if the plaintiffs were to go back to state court (where they were originally) and refile a new suit against the city, what is to prevent the city from removing it again? Lather, rinse, repeat.
The better approach, we think, would have been for the Eleventh Circuit to follow the lead of the Sixth Circuit in this case, holding the defendant liable for removing a takings case, and then arguing it should be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction under Williamson County's available state procedures prong.