The State of Minnesota filed a lawsuit against major oil companies, alleging that the companies concealed the climate hazards associated with the production and use of their fossil-fuel products. The companies removed the cases to federal district court on a number of grounds, including the “federal officer removal” statute, which allows people sued in a state court for acts taken under the direction of a federal officer and under color of federal office to remove that case from state court to federal court. The companies asserted that this statute authorized removal of the case because certain contracts that they had with the federal government required them to take some of the actions for which Minnesota was suing them. After the district court held that none of the grounds for removal asserted by the oil companies was proper and remanded the case to state court, the companies appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
On appeal, Public Citizen filed a brief as amicus curiae supporting the State. The brief explains that commercial relationships such as those that the oil companies had with the federal government do not transform the companies into agents acting on behalf of federal officers and do not entitle them to remove cases brought against them in state court. In a decision issued in March 2023, the Eighth Circuit agreed with our argument that the requirements for federal officer were not satisfied. The court also rejected the companies’ other theories for removal and affirmed the district court’s order remanding the case to state court.