Pritchett v. Office Depot, Inc., 360 F. Supp. 2d 1176 (D. Colo. 2005)
Romia Pritchett filed an action against Office Depot, Inc. in Colorado state court in 2003, and a class was certified in 2004 by the state court. On March 1, 2005, Office Depot removed the suit to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005(CAFA), enacted on February 18, 2005.
The class met the general requirements of CAFA: there was diversity of citizenship, the class had more than 100 members and there was more than $5 million in controversy.
The plaintiffs moved to remand because the action was not filed before CAFA became law. The new law states that it does not apply to actions “commenced” before its passage.
Focusing on the meaning of “commenced,” the plaintiff class argued that the action “commenced” when the suit was first filed in state court, while Office Depot argued that the action “commenced” upon removal to federal court.
The federal district court granted the remand motion on multiple grounds, including: (1) “commence” typically means the initial filing of an action, not its removal to federal court; (2)earlier versions of CAFA which did not pass expressly made the legislation applicable to then-pending cases, the removal of this language reveals Congress’ desire that the law not apply retroactively; (3) statements made by the law’s Congressional sponsors support the Court’s conclusion that CAFA was not designed to be applied retroactively to pending cases; and (4) applying CAFA to pending state court class actions would result in a wave of removals and further overburden the federal judiciary. The court held CAFA should apply only to class actions filed after the law’s February 18, 2005 passage. The case also points up the importance of reliance on the Sponsors’ Statements, an early McGlinchey recommendation.