Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc. v. Henson

PETITIONER: Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc.
RESPONDENT: Henson
LOCATION: Lawrence County Courthouse

DOCKET NO.: 01-757
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

CITATION: 537 US 28 (2002)
ARGUED: Oct 15, 2002
DECIDED: Nov 05, 2002

ADVOCATES:
David J. Bederman - Argued the cause for the respondent
David J. Bederman - argued the cause and filed a brief for respondent
Henry B. Alsobrook, Jr. - Argued the cause for the petitioners
Jonathan Harrison - for the Product Liability Advisory Council, Inc., as amicus curiae urging reversal
Robert N. Weiner - for the Product Liability Advisory Council, Inc., as amicus curiae urging reversal

Facts of the case

Hurley Henson filed suit in Louisiana state court against Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc., asserting various tort claims related to the manufacture and sale of a chlordimeform-based insecticide. When Henson successfully intervened in a similar action, Price v. Ciba-Geigy Corp., in federal district court, the Louisiana court stayed his state court claim. Although the ensuing settlement in Price stipulated that his state-court action be dismissed with prejudice, the Louisiana state court allowed Henson to proceed. Syngenta then removed the action to the federal District Court under the All Writs Act. The District Court dismissed the former state-court action as barred by the Price settlement. Vacating the dismissal, the Court of Appeals wrote that the All Writs Act could not properly support removal of the state-court action.

Question

Does the All Writs Act give a federal district court the authority to remove a state-court case in order to prevent the frustration of orders the federal court has previously issued?

Media for Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc. v. Henson

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 15, 2002 in Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc. v. Henson

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - November 05, 2002 in Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc. v. Henson

William H. Rehnquist:

I have the opinion of the Court to announce in No. 01-757, Syngenta Crop Protection versus Henson.

In this case, respondent, Henson filed a tort suit against the petitioner, Syngenta Crop Protection in State Court in Louisiana.

The State Court judge stayed his suit when Henson intervened in a similar suit against Syngenta in Federal Court in Alabama and participated in a nationwide settlement.

The settlement appeared to provide that Henson would dismiss his Louisiana suit but when he returned to Louisiana, he told the State Court judge that the settlement did not require dismissal and the judge allowed the suit to proceed.

So, Syngenta promptly sought to remove Henson's Louisiana suit from State to Federal Court relying on the general removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1441.

Section 1441 authorizes the removal of actions over which the Federal Courts have original jurisdiction.

Syngenta claimed there was original jurisdiction based on the All Writs Act and the supplemental jurisdiction statute.

The Federal Court transferred the case to the same Alabama Court that had entered the earlier settlement and the Alabama District Court dismissed Henson's suit as barred by the settlement.

Henson appealed and the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reverse concluding that the action was not properly removed.

In an opinion filed with the Clerk of the Court today, we affirm this decision.

The All Writs Act authorizes courts to issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdiction.

This is a fairly broad statement but as we explained in Pennsylvania Bureau of Corrections, where another statute specifically addresses the particular issue at hand, it is that authority and not the All Writs Act that controls.

Removal of a lawsuit from state to federal court is permitted only where authorized by statute.

Here, Henson relied on the general removal statute Section 1441.

But that statute permits removal only of actions over which the Federal Courts have original jurisdiction.

Henson claimed original jurisdiction first based on the All Writs Act but as we explained in Clinton versus Goldsmith, all that does is authorize writs in aid of a court's jurisdiction; it does not grant Federal Courts any jurisdiction in its own rigth.

Henson also relied on the doctrine of ancillary jurisdiction, but that doctrine allows a court to exercise jurisdiction over claims that are ancillary to claims over which it already has jurisdiction.

Ancillary jurisdiction, whether alone or in combination with the All Writs Act, cannot help Henson satisfy the statutory requirements for removal.

The opinion of the Court is unanimous.

Justice Stevens has filed a concurring opinion.