Bullock v. Napolitano, No. 10-1222

Decided: January 23, 2012

Willie Bullock brought a claim against the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, alleging violations of Title VII and related state law, in a North Carolina state court. The Secretary removed the case to federal court under 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1) as a suit against a federal officer in her official capacity, and then filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The district court granted the Secretary’s motion, finding that Title VII preempted Bullock’s state law claims and that, with respect to Title VII, the United States had not consented to be sued in state court. Because the state court lacked subject matter jurisdiction, so too did the federal court under the doctrine of derivative jurisdiction. Bullock appealed, and the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision. Judge Gregory dissented, noting that a private sector litigant may file a Title VII claim in state court and that 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16(c) allows a federal employee to file a civil action in the same manner as private sector employees. Judge Gregory reasoned that the state court had jurisdiction over Bullock’s Title VII claim and that therefore, the federal court properly assumed jurisdiction under the doctrine of derivative jurisdiction.

Full Opinion

-Sara I. Salehi

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