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Removal to Federal Court Denied State Court Jurisdiction

The Missouri Court of Appeals held that a state circuit court lacked jurisdiction to rule on a summary judgment motion in a case that had been removed to federal court.

Missouri prisoner Edward Moore successfully sued Correctional Medical Services (CMS) for deliberate indifference to his serious dental needs. A jury awarded Moore $9,800 in compensatory damages. The verdict was affirmed on appeal, Moore v. Jackson, 16 Fed.Appx. 517 (8th Cir. 2001), and CMS "deposited monies with the district court to satisfy the judgment."

"Two months after the civil judgment was affirmed ... Missouri filed suit against Moore" in state court, seeking reimbursement of incarceration costs under the Missouri Incarceration Reimbursement Act (MIRA). Moore immediately removed the suit to federal court.

Despite the removal, on March 27, 2002, the state circuit court granted Missouri's summary judgment motion. It did not receive an order from the federal court until an April 14, 2002 order remanding the removed case.

As PLN has reported, Moore requested that the federal court enjoin Missouri from attaching the CMS damages under Hankins v. Finnel, 946 F2d 853 (8th Cir. 1992). The District Court denied the motion but the Eighth Circuit remanded for reconsideration. Moore v. Jackson, 70 Fed.Appx. 401 (8th Cir. 2003).

"Moore filed a motion in state court for a new trial, arguing that the summary judgment was a nullity because the circuit court did not have jurisdiction to proceed prior to" the April 19, 2002 remand. "On April 22, 2002, Moore filed a second notice to remove the case to federal court." Yet the state court continued to proceed as if non-removal had occurred. On May 30, 2002, the state court denied Moore's motion for a new trial and disbursed $6,266.16 of the CMS judgment to Missouri under MIRA.

The state appellate court reversed, finding that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the case while it was removed to federal court.
As such, the entry of summary judgment was invalid. The appeals court noted that it was "not characteristic for Moore to miss a filing deadline. Moore is a one-man litigation factory. Clearly Moore believed he was protected from any state court action until the mailing of the certified copy of the order to remand. We believe he was correct. The Missouri court had no power to proceed at all on March 29, 2002.
Therefore, the grant of summary judgment is void and must be vacated." See: Missouri ex rel. Nixon v. Moore, 108 S.W.3d 813 (Mo.App. W.D. 2003).

Following remand, the State "filed a second motion for summary judgment in the circuit court. Moore did not respond to the motion because no remand order had been received from the federal court on his second removal petition and, thus, he believed the circuit court had no jurisdiction to rule on summary judgment. On December 12, 2003, the circuit court granted the State's second summary judgment motion."

Moore again appealed the grant of summary judgment. In a March 15, 2005 order, the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, again determined that the circuit court was without jurisdiction to rule on the State's summary judgment motion because there had been no remand from the federal district court. Thus, the summary judgment order was vacated and the case remanded for further proceedings. See: Missouri ex rel. Nixon v. Moore, 159 S.W.3d 488 (Mo.App. W.D. 2005).

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Related legal case

Missouri ex rel. Nixon v. Moore