The Forum-Defendant Rule, the Mischief Rule, and Snap Removal

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Samuel Bray’s The Mischief Rule reconceptualizes and revitalizes that venerable canon of statutory interpretation. Bray’s new approach to the mischief rule offers a textual solution to an ongoing civil procedure puzzle—forum defendants and “snap removal.” The forum-defendant rule provides that a diversity case is not removable from state to federal court when a properly joined and served defendant is a citizen of the forum state. Snap removal occurs when a defendant removes before the forum defendant has been properly served, “snapping” the case into federal court. Three courts of appeals and a majority of district courts have endorsed this practice, concluding that it is consistent with the unambiguous text of 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b)(2) and does not produce an absurd result, despite contravening congressional intent that such cases remain in state court. Bray’s reconstruction of the mischief rule offers a textual solution—by focusing on the mischief Congress targeted with the “properly served” language of § 1441(b)(2), courts can broadly interpret existing statutory text to prohibit snap removal as a clever evasion of the forum-defendant rule.