This morning the United States Supreme Court decided Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co. v. Owens, No. 13-719, slip op. (U.S. Dec. 15, 2014), holding that removal under the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”) requires no evidentiary submission regarding the amount in controversy beyond that alleged in the notice of removal. The statute “tracks” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8’s “short and plain” pleading requirement. Slip op. at 5-6. Nothing more in the way of evidence is required as a prerequisite to removal. “[W]hen a defendant seeks federal-court adjudication, the defendant’s amount-in-controversy allegation should be accepted when not contested by the plaintiff or questioned by the court..” Id. at 5. Only a “plausible allegation” is necessary. Id. at 7. If the amount in controversy is contested, then a hearing is held with the defendant having the burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence. Id. at 6. That happens, of course, after removal – not as a prerequisite to it. Id. at 7.
We might not have done a breaking news post about Dart, except for this: In a statement that will be very useful in future CAFA removals, the Court broadly rejected any presumption in favor of remand in CAFA cases – and did not endorse such a presumption in any removal situation:
The vote was ostensibly 5-4, but the split decision concerned procedural matters – whether it was appropriate to decide the case (slip op. at 7-14) – rather than disagreement over CAFA requirements. We’ll leave that argument to Supreme Court wonks.
On the issue we care about, none of the justices expressed disagreement with the majority’s analysis.