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Oklahoma v. Taylor

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

April 6, 2017

INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 5 OF TULSA COUNTY, OKLAHOMA, Plaintiff,
v.
PATRICK L. TAYLOR and MARSHALETA TAYLOR, husband and wife; FREDERIC DORWART, as Receiver for the Law Practice of Robert J. Nichols; BRIAN A. CURTHOYS; RALPH MACKEY; EDWARD G. LINDSEY; and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ex rel. Internal Revenue Service, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          GREGORY K. FRIZZELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         Before the court is the Motion for Remand to State Court filed by defendants Patrick L. Taylor and Marshaleta Taylor ("the Taylors") [Doc. #18].

         In 2007, plaintiff Independent School District No. 5 of Tulsa County, Oklahoma (also known as Jenks Public Schools, hereinafter "JPS") brought an action in state district court to condemn land belonging to the Taylors. At the conclusion of that proceeding, on October 3, 2014, the court awarded the Taylors attorney fees in the amount of $1, 055, 870.56.

         On November 15, 2016, JPS filed an Interpleader Petition in Tulsa County District Court, and interpled the funds into court. In its Petition, JPS named as defendants various parties asserting claims against the Taylors' lawyer, Robert J. Nichols, including the United States of America, ex. rel. Internal Revenue Service ("the United States"). A copy of the Summons issued to the United States bears a stamp indicating it was received by the United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Oklahoma on November 18, 2016.

         On December 15, 2016, at 6:16 p.m. Central Time, the Tax Division of the United States Department of Justice, on behalf of the United States, emailed a civil cover sheet and Notice of Removal to the Court Clerk. The following morning, the Court Clerk created a "case shell" to enable the United States to e-file the Notice of Removal in Case No. 16-CV-750. The United States e-filed the Notice of Removal in the court's electronic filing system on December 22, 2016.

         I. Legal Standard

         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. See Dutcher v. Matheson, 733 F.3d 980, 984 (10th Cir. 2013). To that end, removal statutes are strictly construed with all doubts resolved against removal. See Belcher v. Un. Parcel Serv., Inc., No. 09-CV-628-TCK-PJC, 2009 WL 4612169, at *2 (N.D. Okla. Dec. 10, 2009).

         II. Analysis

         a. Timeliness of Removal

         The Taylors first argue the United States' removal was untimely. The federal statute setting forth the procedure for removal of civil actions states in pertinent part:

The notice of removal of a civil action or proceeding shall be filed within 30 days after the receipt by the defendant, through service or otherwise, of a copy of the initial pleading setting forth the claim for relief upon which such action or proceeding is based, or within 30 days after the service of summons upon the defendant if such initial pleading has then been filed in court and is not required to be served on the defendant, whichever period is shorter.

28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(1).

         The Taylors argue the Notice of Removal was filed three days after the 30-day time limit. Specifically, they contend that because the United States Attorney received a copy of the Interpleader Petition on November 18, 2016, the Notice of Removal had to be filed on or before December 19, 2016.[1] The Taylors argue that, under this court's "CM/ECF Administrative Guide of Policies and Procedures, " emailing a document to the Court Clerk's office-as the United States did on the evening of December 15, 2016-does not constitute filing of the document. They contend the Notice of Removal was not filed as a matter of law until December 22, 2016.

         In response, the United States argues the 30-day period for removal did not begin to run because JPS failed to serve the Attorney General as required by 28 U.S.C. § 2410(b). Section 2410 applies to, inter alia, interpleader actions with respect to personal property on which the United States has or claims a lien. 28 U.S.C. ยง 2410(a)(5). In its Notice of Removal, the United ...


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