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IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT FILED
U.S. COURT OF APPEALS
No. 10-12369 OCT 6, 2010
Non-Argument Calendar JOHN LEY
D.C. Docket No. 9:10-cv-80374-KAM
JEFFREY P. LAWSON,
KATHY ANN GARCIA-LAWSON,
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida
(October 6, 2010)
Before BLACK, PRYOR and MARTIN, Circuit Judges.
The plaintiff, Jeffrey P. Lawson, filed this divorce action in Florida state
court against Kathy Ann Garcia-Lawson. Garcia-Lawson, proceeding pro se,
removed the action to the Southern District of Florida under 28 U.S.C. § 1443.
The district court remanded the proceeding to state court concluding that removal
jurisdiction under § 1443 did not exist. Garcia-Lawson now appeals.
"As a general rule, we cannot review a district court's decision remanding a
case to state court." Hernandez v. Seminole Cnty., Fla., 334 F.3d 1233
(11th Cir. 2003); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1447(d) (providing that "[a]n order
remanding a case to the State court from which it was removed is not reviewable
on appeal or otherwise"). However, "[s]ection 1447(d) expressly excepts from its
coverage certain equal civil rights cases removed under 28 U.S.C. § 1443."
Hernandez, 334 F.3d at 1236 n.1 (quotation marks omitted); see also Cogdell v.
Wyeth, 366 F.3d 1245
, 1247 n.3 (11th Cir. 2004); Russell Corp. v. Am. Home
Assur. Co., 264 F.3d 1040
, 1044 n.2 (11th Cir. 2001); 28 U.S.C. § 1447(d) (stating
that "[a]n order remanding a case to the State court from which it was removed
pursuant to section 1443 of this title shall be reviewable by appeal or otherwise").
Title 28 U.S.C. § 1443(1) "permits a defendant in a civil state court action
to remove the action to federal district court if the action is against a person who is
denied or cannot enforce in the state courts a right under any law providing for
equal civil rights of citizens of the United States." Alabama v. Conley, 245 F.3d 2
1292, 1295 (11th Cir. 2001) (quotation marks omitted). A removal petition filed
under § 1443(1) must satisfy the two-part test set out by the Supreme Court in
Georgia v. Rachel, 384 U.S. 780
, 86 S.Ct. 1783 (1966). "First, the petitioner must
show that the right upon which the petitioner relies arises under a federal law
â€˜providing for specific civil rights stated in terms of racial equality.'" Conley, 245
F.3d at 1295 (quoting Rachel, 384 U.S. at 792, 86 S.Ct. at 1790)). "Second the
petitioner must show that he has been denied or cannot enforce that right in the
state courts." Id.
Garcia-Lawson contends that the district court had removal jurisdiction
under § 1443(1) over this divorce action because Florida's marriage laws violate
her federal civil rights under the First, Fifth, Seventh, Ninth, and Fourteenth
Amendments. The Supreme Court has explained that rights of "general
application available to all persons or citizens" fall outside the scope of § 1443(1).
Rachel, 384 U.S. at 1790, 86 S.Ct. at 792; see also Johnson v. Mississippi, 421 U.S. 213
, 219, 95 S.Ct. 1591, 1595 (1975) ("Claims that prosecution and
conviction will violate rights under constitutional or statutory provisions of
general applicability or under statutes not protecting against racial discrimination,
will not suffice."); Conley, 245 F.3d at 1295â€"96. Removal is only authorized
under § 1443(1) when the defendant is asserting rights "stated in terms of racial
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equality." Rachel, 384 U.S. at 792, 86 S.Ct. at 1790. None of the rights relied
upon by Garcia-Lawson satisfy that criteria. See City of Greenwood v. Peacock,
384 U.S. 808
, 825, 86 S.Ct. 1800, 1811 (1966) (explaining that "the broad
constitutional guarantees of the First Amendment" are not included within
§ 1443(1)); Conley, 245 F.3d at 1295â€"96 (concluding that defendant's reliance
"upon broad assertions under the Equal Protection Clause" was insufficient to
support a valid claim for removal under § 1443(1)); Sunflower Cnty. Colored
Baptist Ass'n v. Trustees of Indianola Mun. Separate Sch. Dist., 369 F.2d 795
(5th Cir. 1966)1 (stating that the "right to a fair trial and equal protection of the
laws" does not support a valid claim for removal under § 1443(1)). For these
reasons, the district court did not err by remanding Garcia-Lawson's case for lack
of removal jurisdiction under § 1443(1).
In Bonner v. City of Prichard, 661 F.2d 1206
, 1209 (11th Cir. 1981) (en banc), we
adopted as binding precedent all decisions of the former Fifth Circuit handed down before
October 1, 1981.
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