Department of Finance of Sussex County v. Clifford E. Polk Heirs et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Richard G. Andrews on 12/1/2017. (nms)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE OF
SUSSEX COUNTY, a political
Subdivision of the State of Delaware,
CLIFFORD E. POLK HEIRS, et al.,
: Civil Action No. 17-1448-RGA
: Superior Court of the State of
: Delaware in and for Sussex County
: Case No. S17T-07-004
GEORGE K. TRAMMELL, Ill,
George K. Trammell, Ill, Seaford, Delaware. Proposed Intervenor.
December } , 2017
George K. Trammell, Ill, filed a notice of removal on October 16, 2017, of
Department of Finance of Sussex County v. Clifford E. Polk Heirs, Delaware State Court
C.A. No. S17T-07-004. (D.I. 2 & 2-1 ). Trammell appears prose and has been granted
leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (D.I. 4). For the reasons discussed below, the
Court will summarily remand the case to the Superior Court of the State of Delaware in
and for Sussex County.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Trammell removed this case, citing 28 U.S. C § 1443( 1) and § 1446, and states
that he cannot enforce his equal rights in the Delaware State Courts. (D.I. 2). Trammell
identifies himself as a defendant, intervenor collateral heir. He alleges that he has been
totally disenfranchised by Delaware Superior Court judges. Trammell attached to the
notice of removal various exhibits, including: response to George K. Trammell, Ill's
motion to intervene, quash, dismiss and stay filed in C.A. No. S1 ?T-07-004; certificate
of service to Mr. Todd Lawson, Sheriff Robert T. Lee, and Sussex County
Administration Building; Sussex County Council tax bills and real estate tax statement;
praecipe for monition, monition, and notice of delinquent taxes filed in C.A. No. S17T07-004 on July 18, 2017; September 9, 2013 judgment by admission summary
possession filed in the Justice of the Peace Court of the State of Delaware in and for
Sussex County Court No. 17, C.A. No. JP17-13-004242; 42 U.S.C. § 2000h-2; August
8, 2017 order entered in the United State Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in
Trammell v. Governor of Delaware, No. 17-2588; last will and testament of Maria Polk;
and register of wills receipt dated March 2, 2011. (D.I. 2-1 & 2-2).
The Court takes judicial notice that Plaintiff Department of Finance of Sussex
County commenced the monition action on July 17, 2017 against Clifford E. Polk heirs,
Joann Carroll, Eulalia Derrickson, and Corine Hollanworth, for unpaid property taxes for
the years 2010 through 2015. (D.I. 2-1 at 11, 13). Trammel was not named as a
defendant. On August 15, 2017, Trammell filed a verified peremptory petition for writ of
prohibition in the Delaware Supreme Court, No. 323, 2017, asking the Delaware
Supreme Court to issue a writ of prohibition to the Superior Court to prevent a sheriff's
sale of real property located in Seaford, Delaware, in which Trammell claims an interest.
See C.A. No. S17T-07-004 at BL-15. On September 25, 2017, the Delaware Supreme
Court dismissed the petition. Matter of Trammel, 2017 WL 4250022 (Del. Sept. 25,
2017). The Supreme Court noted that while Trammell identified himself as an
"intervenor'' in the monition proceedings, he had not filed a motion to intervene in the
action and must file a motion to intervene in Superior Court if he intended to intervene in
the monition action. Id.
Trammell filed a motion to intervene on September 28, 2017. See C.A. No.
S17T-07-004 at BL-10. The motion was denied on October 16, 2017, by an order filed
the same date at 3:08 p.m. Id. at BL-31. The same day, Plaintiff filed his notice of
removal in this Court twenty-two minutes later, at 3:30 p.m. (D.I. 2). On November 20,
2017, a writ was returned in C.A. No. S17T-07-004 indicating that the property at issue
was sold on October 17, 2017 to the highest bidder. C.A. No. S17T-07-004 at BL-32.
Legal Standard. The exercise of removal jurisdiction is governed by 28 U.S.C.
§ 1441(a), which states that, in order to remove a civil action from state court to federal
court, a district court must have original jurisdiction. Typically, original jurisdiction would
exist based on either a federal question or diversity of citizenship. The removal statutes
are strictly construed, and require remand to state court if any doubt exists over whether
removal was proper. Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 104 (1941).
A court will remand a removed case "if at any time before final judgment it
appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction." 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).
The party seeking removal bears the burden to establish federal jurisdiction. Steel
Valley Auth. v. Union Switch & Signal Div. Am. Standard, Inc., 809 F.2d 1006, 1010 (3d
Cir. 1987); Zaren v. Genesis Energy, L.P., 195 F. Supp. 2d 598, 602 (D. Del. 2002). In
determining whether remand based on improper removal is appropriate, the court "must
focus on the plaintiff's complaint at the time the petition for removal was filed," and
assume all factual allegations therein are true. Steel Valley Auth., 809 F.2d at 1010.
Upon a determination that a federal court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the District
Court is obligated to remand, sua sponte, to the state court from which it was removed.
See Scott v. New York Admin. for Children's Services, 678 F. App'x 56 (3d Cir. 2017).
Discussion. The removal is procedurally defective. Trammell does not have
standing to remove this case. He is not a defendant nor an intervenor in the State
action. Indeed, his motion to intervene was denied by the Superior Court prior to the
time he filed the notice of removal in this Court. Because Trammell is not a "defendant"
within the meaning of§ 1441(a), he is not entitled to remove this action. See Gross v.
Deberardinis, 722 F. Supp. 2d 532, 534 (D. Del. 2010).
In addition, Trammell failed to comply with the requisites for removal. While he
did provide some documents, he did not provide for the Court's review copies of all
process, pleadings, or orders from the State proceedings. See 28 U.S.C. § 1446(a).
Nor did Trammell file a copy of the notice of removal with the State court as is required
Trammell does not have standing in the state court case and failed to comply
with the requisites for removal. This renders the removal procedurally defective. The
Court therefore does not need to consider whether it would have original jurisdiction.
Therefore, the Court will summarily remand the case to the Superior Court of the State
of Delaware in and for Sussex County.
For the above reasons, the Court will summarily remand the case to the Superior
Court of the State of Delaware in and for Sussex County.
An appropriate order will be entered.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?