The opinion of the court was delivered by: Babcock, C.J.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
These cases, removed here from Colorado courts and consolidated for the purpose of resolving the plaintiffs' motions to remand, present the narrow question whether claims arising out of neutral, state law of general applicability create a contested and substantial federal issue sufficient to establish jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 where, notwithstanding the existence of ecclesiastical recourse, secular norms govern the conduct of which the plaintiffs complain. For the reasons stated below, I find and conclude that no federal-question jurisdiction exists. The motions for remand, fully briefed and argued orally, are GRANTED.
The sundry complaints in these cases contain substantially similar allegations, which may briefly be summarized. Each of the plaintiffs, while a minor and vulnerable, allegedly suffered abuse from the defendant Harold Robert White, a former priest under the supervision of and employed by the defendant Archdiocese of Denver ("Archdiocese"). The Archdiocese, purportedly aware of Father White's alleged molestation of several young boys, nevertheless gave Father White eleven assignments in different parishes throughout Colorado between 1960 and 1993. Each plaintiff presses claims against the Archdiocese for negligence, negligent supervision, negligent retention, "vicarious liability," fraud by misrepresentation, and fraud by concealment, and against the Archdiocese and Father White for breach of fiduciary duty and civil conspiracy.
The defendants argue that the plaintiffs' claims challenge the boundary separating Church and State by engendering a legal standard for the Archdiocese's hiring, supervisory and retention practices for its clergy. I disagree.
The defendants, citing Ayon v. Gourley, 47 F. Supp. 2d 1246 (D. Colo. 1998), aff'd, 185 F.3d 873 (10th Cir.1999) (unpublished), argue that determination of liability in these cases would violate the First Amendment and that federal question jurisdiction therefore exists. It is now axiomatic that jurisdiction cannot be predicated upon a defense that raises a federal question, no matter that the issue might prove to be dispositive. Franchise Tax Bd. v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 14, 103 S.Ct. 2841, 77 L.Ed. 2d 420 (1983). This rule applies to invocations of both original jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and removal jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441 and 1446. Id. at 10 n.9. As the Tenth Circuit has explained,
For a case to arise under federal law, the federal question must be apparent on the face of a well-pleaded complaint, and Plaintiff's cause of action must be created by federal law or, if it is a state-law cause of action, its resolution must necessarily turn on a substantial question of federal law, and that federal law in turn must create a private cause of action. Rice v. Office of Servicemembers' Group Life Ins., 260 F.3d 1240, 1245 (10th Cir. 2001).
The claims for negligence may be considered in the aggregate. "An employer may be liable for harm to others for negligently employing an improper person for a task which may involve a risk to others." Moses v. Diocese of Colorado, 863 P.2d 310, 323-324 (Colo. 1993), cert. denied, 511 U.S. 1137, 114 S.Ct. 2153, 128 L.Ed. 2d 880 (1994). A claim for negligent hiring or supervision consists of the usual elements of negligence -- duty, breach, injury, causation -- and the establishment of an agency relationship between the employer and alleged employee.
Id. at 324. None of these elements involves any issues of federal law.
Misrepresentation consists of 1) a false representation of a material existing fact; 2) knowledge on the part of the one making the representation that it is false; 3) ignorance on the part of the one to whom the representation is made of the falsity; 4) the intention that the representation be acted upon; and 5) damage caused by the representation. Ballow v. Phico Ins. Co., 875 P.2d 1354, 1361 (Colo. 1993). A person commits fraudulent concealment when: 1) he conceals a material existing fact that in equity and good conscience he should disclose; 2) he knows that the fact is being concealed; 3) the relying party is ignorant of the concealment; 4) the concealing party intends that the concealment be acted upon; and 5) action in reliance on the concealment results in damages. Id. None of the elements of either cause of action involves a federal issue.
"A fiduciary is a person having a duty, created by his undertaking, to act primarily for the benefit of another in matters connected with the undertaking." Destefano v. Grabrian, 763 P.2d 275, 284 (Colo. 1988). "A person standing in a fiduciary relationship with another is subject to liability to the other for harm resulting from a breach of the duty imposed by the relationship." Id. Colorado courts look to the Restatement to determine the extent of fiduciary obligations, which include a duty to exercise reasonable care and skill. Id.; Restatement (Second) of Trusts §§ 170, 174 (1959). This duty, sometimes viewed within the analogous context of negligence, derives from state-law principles. See, e.g., Command Communs., Inc. v. Fritz Cos., 36 P.3d 182, 188-189 (Colo. App. 2001). The claims for breach of fiduciary duty, therefore, do not arise out of or implicate federal law.
Civil conspiracy consists of five elements. The plaintiff must demonstrate that: 1) two or more persons; 2) shared an object to be accomplished; 3) reached a meeting of the minds on the object or course of action; 4) committed one or more unlawful overt acts; and 5) damages resulted proximately. Nelson v. Elway, 908 P.2d 102, 106 (Colo. 1995), reh'g denied, (1996). Neither the demonstration of the existence of any conspiracy in this case nor the proving of acts or damages resulting from it will involve issues of federal law.
Citing Grable & Sons Metal Prods., Inc. v. Darue Eng'g & Mfg., 545 U.S. --, 125 S.Ct. 2363, 162 L.Ed. 2d 257 (2005), the defendants correctly point out that a state law claim might present on its face a federal issue creating federal question jurisdiction. Though this straw man provides no resistance, he guards no insight. Unlike the claim pressed in Grable, the elements of the claims presented here are amenable to establishment without reference to questions of federal law. Whether having their origins in state or ...