Singleton v. Office of Personnel Management et al
ORDER: ORDERED that Civil Action No. 16-16364 is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. Signed by Magistrate Judge Karen Wells Roby on 1/23/2017.(Reference: 16-16364)(cml)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
GLINDA MARIE SINGLETON
OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT,
KAREN WELLS ROBY
Before the Court is a Notice of Removal (R. Doc. 1) filed by the pro se pauper Plaintiff
Glinda Marie Singleton (“Plaintiff”) attempting to remove her suit filed in the 32nd Judicial
District Court. In accordance with Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and the consent of the parties, this
matter has been referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for all further proceedings and entry
of judgment. Upon review, the Court has determined that the Notice of Removal is frivolous. As
such, for the following reasons, the instant case, Civil Action No. 16-16364, is DISMISSED
The Plaintiff filed her notice of removal on November 14, 2016, which was docketed in
this District Court as Singleton v. Office of Personnel Management, Civ. No. 16-16364. (R. Doc.
1). The Notice of Removal purports to remove from the 32nd Judicial District Court for Terrebonne
Parish the Plaintiff’s suit she filed against: the Office of Personnel Management; Jeh Johnson,
Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security; Pauline Campbell, Director of Equal Rights
at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”); Willisa Donald, Director of the Office
of Equal Rights; John White, Director at National Finance Center, Department of Agriculture; and
Washington D.C.. R. Doc. 1-1, p. 2. In her original complaint filed in state court, the Plaintiff filed
suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a) alleging racial and
gender based discrimination while she was employed with FEMA. Id. She alleges that she faced
racial and sexual harassment during her employment and that nothing was done to remedy the
situation. Id. After receiving her notice of her right to sue, the Plaintiff filed the suit in the state
court seeking an injunction ordering the City to provide sufficient remedial relief to make her
whole, adopt and modify existing policies governing racial and sexual harassment, to provide
adequate training to employees regarding racial and sexual harassment, and to take other
appropriate measures to overcome effects of discrimination. Id. at p. 3. She also seeks an award of
compensatory damages. Id. at p. 4. On November 29, 2016, the Court granted leave to the Plaintiff
to proceed in forma pauperis. R. Doc. 4.
Prior to the Plaintiff’s filing a Notice of Removal, on October 6, 2016, Defendants FEMA,
the Department of Homeland Security, the Office of Personnel Management, and the National
Finance Center filed a notice of removal, removing the Plaintiff’s same state court action from the
32nd Judicial District Court. Singleton v. Office of Personnel Management, Civ. No. 16-15333, R.
Doc. 1. This case was docketed separately from the following notice of removal, although both
cases attempted to remove the same underlying state court case. On November 30, 2016, both
cases were consolidated. R. Doc. 7. On January 5, 2017, the case was referred to the Magistrate
Judge by consent of the parties under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). R. Doc. 8.
At this time, the Court has conducted a review of the Plaintiff’s notice of removal. Because
the Plaintiff’s removal is improper and because the underlying state court case has already been
removed, the undersigned orders dismissal without prejudice for the reasons discussed supra.
Standard of Review
“[A] District Court may dismiss without prejudice a pro se litigant's complaint if it is
frivolous or malicious.” Harris v. United States Dept. of Justice, 680 F.2d 1109, 1111 (5th Cir.
1982) (citing Mitchell v. Beaubouef, 581 F.2d 412, 416 (5th Cir. 1978)). As the Fifth Circuit in
The two stage procedure that has been adopted in this Circuit for processing
prisoner pro se complaints filed in forma pauperis has full application in the present
context for it gives adequate protection to those not represented by attorneys and
comports with the explicit provisions of 28 U.S.C. [§] 1915. The District Court first
decides whether the litigant meets the economic requirements to proceed in forma
pauperis. Then, pursuant to [§] 1915[(e)(2)], the Court may dismiss the complaint
if, upon giving it the liberal reading traditionally granted pro se complaints, it
determines that it is unmeritorious, frivolous or malicious.
680 F.2d at 1111 (internal citations omitted); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); see also Phillips v
. City of Dallas, 2015 WL 233336, at *4 (N.D. Tex. Jan. 14, 2015) (noting that “a district court
may summarily dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis if it concludes that the action” is
frivolous, malicious or fails to state a claim).
The Court has broad discretion in determining the frivolous nature of the complaint. See
Cay v. Estelle, 789 F.2d 318 (5th Cir. 1986), modified on other grounds, Booker v. Koonce, 2 F.3d
114 (5th Cir. 1993). However, the Court may not sua sponte dismiss an action merely because of
questionable legal theories or unlikely factual allegations in the complaint.
A claim is frivolous only when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke
v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319 (1989); Talib v. Gilley, 138 F.3d 211, 213 (5th Cir. 1998). A claim lacks
an arguable basis in law if it is based on an undisputably meritless legal theory, such as if the
complaint alleges the violation of a legal interest which clearly does not exist. Harper v. Showers,
174 F.3d 716, 718 (5th Cir. 1999). It lacks an arguable factual basis only if the facts alleged are
"clearly baseless," a category encompassing fanciful, fantastic, and delusional allegations. Denton
v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32-33 (1992); Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327-28. Therefore, the Court must
determine whether the plaintiffs' claims are based on an undisputably meritless legal theory or
clearly baseless factual allegations. Reeves v. Collins, 27 F.3d 174, 176 (5th Cir. 1994); see
Jackson v. Vannoy, 49 F.3d 175, 176-77 (5th Cir. 1995); Moore v. Mabus, 976 F.2d 268, 269 (5th
Before the Court is a veritable Gideon’s Knot. On October 6, 2016, a number of the
Defendants removed the Plaintiff’s underlying state court claim. Singleton v. Office of Personnel
Management, Civ. No. 15-15333, R. Doc. 1. Subsequently, possibly out of confusion inherent in
the legal complexities of Federal Procedure, the Plaintiff also filed a Notice of Removal in the
instant case. R. Doc. 1. This series of events creates a seemingly challenging puzzle for the Court
to consider: competing removals of the same underlying state court case. Thankfully, however, the
law provides an answer.
First, the Plaintiff’s attempted removal is frivolous. “The principles of comity and
federalism mandate strict construction of removal statutes in order to minimize encroachment on
the sovereignty of state courts.” Callou Corp. v. Berthelot, No. 13-5437, 2014 WL 2882929, at *1
(E.D. La. June 25, 2014) (citing Gutierrez v. Flores, 543 F.3d 248,251 (5th Cir. 2008)). As such,
given the plain language of the removal statute, only a defendant may remove an action from state
court. Daigle v. Assumption Parish Police Jury, No. 14-1437, 2014 WL 6836130, at *1 (E.D. La.
Dec. 2, 2014) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a)). Therefore, a Plaintiff who choose to bring her action
in state court may not subsequently remove that action. See Jerry Family of Sark v. Fed. Home
Mortg. Corp., 161 F. App’x 367, 2005 WL 3560824, at *1 (5th Cir. Dec. 30, 2005); see also
McKenzie v. United States, 678 F.2d 571, 574 (5th Cir. 1982) (“[O]nly a defendant, never a
plaintiff, may remove a civil action from state to federal court”); c.f. In re Crystal PowerCo., LTD.,
641 F.3d 82, 85 n. 10 (5th Cir.2011) (“[W]hen a party voluntarily enters state-court litigation as a
plaintiff, the subsequent filing of a counter-claim or cross-claim against it does not allow that party
to invoke the right of removal conferred only on true defendants.”). Finally, “while federal courts
grant considerable leeway to pro se pleadings, they must still follow the applicable law and
procedural rules in presenting their case.” Jerry Family of Sark, 2005 WL 3560824, at *1. As such,
it is clear that the Plaintiff had no right or authority to remove her case from the state court where
she chose to file.
What is less clear to the Court is the proper action to take after finding that the Plaintiff has
no right to remove the case given that the Defendants have also filed a notice of removal, docketed
in a separate case. Typically, a finding that the Plaintiff has improperly attempted to remove a case
results in the Court remanding the case back to the state court. See Callou Corp., 2014 WL
2882929, at *1; Daigle, 2014 WL 6836130, at *1. However, a remand here strikes the undersigned
as improper because the result would mean that the same underlying litigation would be both in
the state court as well as in the federal court. Such a result would create needless confusion and
duplicitous action that does not serve the interests of judicial economy.
Rather, guided by the law concerning duplicitous litigation, the Court believes that
dismissing the instant case without prejudice to the Plaintiff’s claims is the proper course of action
that looses the Giedeon’s Knot. A plaintiff has “‘no right to maintain two separate actions
involving the same subject matter at the same time in the same court and against the same
defendant[s].’” Oliney v. Gardner, 771 F.2d 856, 859 (5th Cir.1985) (quoting Walton v. Eaton
Corp., 563 F.2d 66, 70 (3d Cir.1977)). As such, “[w]hen a plaintiff files a second complaint
alleging the same cause of action as a prior, pending, related action, the second complaint may be
dismissed.” Id. See also, Hockerson–Halberstadt, Inc. v. Nike, Inc., Civ. A. Nos. 91–1720, 91–
3939, 1991 WL 255677, at *1 (Nov. 27, 1991) (Mentz, J.). (finding that “the interests of judicial
efficiency would be served by dismissing without prejudice the first suit, and proceeding to trial
on the second suit.”). Indeed, the Fifth Circuit has approved the dismissal without prejudice of
duplicative complaints by pauper plaintiffs because such duplicative litigation is malicious.
Pittman v. Moore, 980 F.2d 994, 994-95 (5th Cir. 1993) (“In forma pauperis plaintiffs have no
preferred status as litigants in respect to the procedures with which they must comply. A district
court would be fully justified in dismissing a non-pauper complaint that is duplicative of prior
federal court litigation then being pursued by the same plaintiff.”).
As such, the Court will dismiss the plaintiff’s case without prejudice. The Plaintiff has no
right to remove her state court action or to pursue a duplicative case concerning the same facts,
claims, and parties as the case properly removed by the Defendants in Singleton v. Office of
Personnel Management, Civ. No. 15-15333. Dismissing the case without prejudice would best
serve judicial economy in this instance without prejudice to the plaintiff.
IT IS ORDERED that Civil Action No. 16-16364 is DISMISSED WITHOUT
New Orleans, Louisiana, this 23rd day of January 2017.
KAREN WELLS ROBY
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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