Los Angeles, CA – California officials late last week acted to transfer to federal court a lawsuit challenging the state’s failure to ensure adequate access to care under Medi-Cal, which has affected all Medi-Cal participants, a majority of whom are Latino.

MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), CREEC (Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center) and the law firm of Feinberg, Jackson, Worthman & Wasow LLP filed the suit, Jimenez Perea v. Dooley, on July 12 on behalf of several individuals seeking to represent a class of all Medi-Cal participants, including a man who has cerebral palsy and is semi-paraplegic, as well as St. John’s Well Child & Family Center, the Community Division of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW), and National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON).

California’s action to transfer the case out of state court apparently rests on a contention that the case raises claims under federal law.

Please attribute the following statement in response to the state’s action to Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel for MALDEF:

“California has taken an unusual step in transferring the case from state court to federal court. Our lawsuit raises claims under well-established California law. Therefore, we will be filing a motion to remand the case to state court, where it belongs.

The state’s response, however, is unusual for other troubling reasons. State court judges have the authority to hear and decide any necessary ancillary questions of federal law. The state’s action in Jimenez Perea therefore bespeaks a lack of faith in state court, where judges are elected by the people or appointed by the governor. Removal is an implicit message of no-confidence in state judges. It is unusual for the state of California or its officials to remove or transfer a case to federal court.

It is unclear why the state was inclined to take this unusual step in response to a challenge to Medi-Cal’s compliance with the state’s own legal mandates, but plaintiffs’ counsel are confident that the removal will ultimately merely delay the action. Remand is the proper step in this case, and counsel expect to prevail in having the case sent back to state court where it was properly filed.”