UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
May 20, 1952
MOODY et al.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEINFELD
The plaintiff moves for an order to remand this action to the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Bronx County, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447 upon the ground that the removing defendant's petition was not timely filed or served.
The disposition of the motion turns on whether new Title 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b), governing the procedure for removal, makes it mandatory that the removal petition be filed within twenty days after service of the summons.
The action was commenced by the service of a summons and complaint
upon the defendant on March 18th, 1952. On April 4th, the attorney for the Plaintiff by written stipulation extended to May 1st the defendant's time to answer or make any motion with respect to the complaint. On April 18th, more than twenty days after the service of the summons and complaint, the defendant filed and served his petition for removal, whereupon the present motion was made.
The 1948 revision of the Judicial Code made various changes in removal procedure and requirements. Section 1446(b) of Title 18, governing removal procedure, as originally enacted as part of the revision, provided that the petition was to be filed 'within twenty days after commencement of action or service of process, whichever (was) later.' it was amended by the Act of 1949
so that presently the petition must be filed 'within twenty 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 twenty 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.' This provision is substantially different from the removal section as it existed prior to the 1948 and 1949 amendments which required that a petition be filed at 'any time before the defendant is required by the laws of the State or the rule of the State court in which such suit is brought to answer or plead'.
The basic issue is whether the twenty day period now stipulated in Section 1446(b) may be varied by the consent of the attorneys or an order of Court, extending the time of the defendant to answer.
The Courts were not entirely in agreement in ruling on this question under the prior removal section. A number held that the time to file a removal petition could not be extended beyond the original date to answer or plead as required under state law or rule.
Other Courts, including our Court of Appeals, and apparently in a minority, held that an extension of time to answer or plead automatically extended the time to file a petition for removal.
Under the latter rulings it was left to the discretion of the parties by stipulation to determine the last day for a defendant to remove an action from the state to the federal court.
In this posture of division of authorities the removal procedure was recast by Congress, effective September 1st, 1948, further amended in 1949, and a specific period of twenty days, uniform throughout the entire country, was fixed for the filing of petitions. The change disregarded such varying periods to answer or plead as might exist under different state laws or rules.
The language of the present section destroys the rationale upon which the minority view was based. The former section required the filing of the petition 'before the defendant is required * * * to answer'. Thus, it rested within the power of the parties to control the date of answer by stipulations of extension.
The statute refers to the time when the answer must be filed, and this time may be fixed by statute, rule of court, or stipulation of the parties. The provisions are procedural, and the statute does not refer to any particular period of time or number of days, but to the actual filing of the answer, and, if the petition for removal is filed before or at that time, it is filed within the time required by the statute.' Bankers Securities Corp. v. Insurance Equities Corp., supra, 85 F.2d at page 858.
Since the statute is no longer framed in terms of time to answer, but prescribes a specific time period, this argument is no longer valid.
While the legislative history of the 1948 amendment reveals little with respect to any specific purpose in setting the twenty day period,
it may be assumed that Congress was aware of the conflict of rulings under the old section and that it intended to achieve uniformity on a nation-wide basis as to the period within which petitions for removal were to filed.
The use of a determinant of twenty days and the elimination of the reference to state laws and rules which permitted flexibility of time within which to file, appears to underscore such an objective. Viewed in this light, it would appear that the twenty day period may not be varied by voluntary action on the part of counsel- in effect that its requirement is mandatory. In my view this holding is consonant with the general overall objective in recasting the provisions relating to removal procedure.
The motion to remand is granted.
Settle order on notice.