The U.S. Supreme Court has heard argument in a class action alleging that Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co. failed to pay royalties to owners of interest in oil wells. Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co. LLC v. Owens, No. 13-719 (U.S., argued October 7, 2014). A royalty owner brought the suit in Kansas state court, and Dart filed a notice of removal to a federal district court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), claiming that the amount in controversy is more than $8.2 million. The court granted the plaintiffs’ motion to remand, finding that Dart did not provide enough evidence to support the removal, and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling.
Dart sought U.S. Supreme Court review and argued that other circuit courts have decided that a notice of removal to federal court need only satisfy a notice-pleading standard—that is, a “short and plain statement of the grounds for removal.” During argument, the justices apparently appeared to side with Dart—“actually, most of us agree with you on the merits,” Justice Elena Kagan reportedly told Dart—but they asked more questions about whether they have jurisdiction over the case. “We can’t override [the Tenth Circuit’s] judgment not to take it unless there is something unlawful about that judgment,” Justice Antonin Scalia reportedly said. See Law360, October 7, 2014.