A New Solution to an Old Problem: Section 1447(d) and Appellate Review of Remand Orders

James E. Pfander, Collateral Review of Remand Orders: Reasserting the Supervisory Role of the Supreme Court, 159 U. Pa. L. Rev. 493 (2011). Adam Steinman It may not be the most headline-grabbing issue on the Supreme Court's docket. But it has occupied more of the Court's attention during the past half-decade than abortion, affirmative action, the Commerce Clause, or the Second Amendment. It is 28 U.S.C § 1447(d)'s command that "[a]n order remanding a case to the State court from which it was removed is not reviewable on appeal or otherwise." This apparent ban on appellate review has generated an awkward line of cases, beginning with Thermtron Products v. Hermansdorfer in the 1970s, which struggle to determine when § 1447(d) "means what it says." In the Court's most recent decisions on the issue, several Justices have penned separate opinions voicing their frustration with current doctrine. Enter Jim Pfander and his recent article Collateral Review of Remand Orders: Reasserting the Supervisory Role of the Supreme Court. Pfander expertly diagnoses what is wrong with the jurisprudence surrounding § 1447(d) and, more importantly, offers a new solution to this long-standing puzzle. Here is the crux of the dilemma: the text of § 1447(d) forbids appellate review of a district court order remanding a case to state court. Period. Full stop. No exceptions. In Thermtron, however, the Court circumvented this ban on review by reading § 1447(d) as applying only to remands based on grounds specified in § 1447(c). The Thermtron exception is hard to justify as an interpretive matter given the text of § 1447(d). Perhaps more troublingly, it is functionally misguided. It means that § 1447(d) does forbid an appeal if the remand is based on a lack of federal subject-matter jurisdiction-a ground that is specified in § 1447(c)-even though the scope of federal subject-matter jurisdiction can be a very significant issue, both for the parties to a particular case and for our judicial system as a whole. Yet Thermtron permits review for issues of far less significance and impact-such as a district court's discretionary decision whether to remand state law claims after all federal claims have been resolved-because such remands are not governed by § 1447(c). The problem has been compounded, as Pfander points out, by the Supreme Court's holding in Quackenbush v. Allstate that a remand order was a "final decision" for purposes of 28 U.S.C. § 1291. While Thermtron contemplated that remand orders qualifying for its judicially-created exception to § 1447(d) would still have to meet the heightened showing required for a writ of mandamus, Quackenbush has been read to make such orders appealable as of right. Continue reading "A New Solution to an Old Problem: Section 1447(d) and Appellate Review of Remand Orders"

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