Bishop's Bequest Single Family Assoc Inc. et al v. Heyward
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Peter J. Messitte on 2/12/2014. (c/m to def 2/14/14 rs) (rss, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
BISHOP’S BEQUEST SINGLE
FAMILY ASSOC. INC., et. al.
CHARLES C. HEYWARD1
Civil No. PJM 13-3814
Charles C. Heyward, who was sued by Bishop’s Bequest Single Family Association, Inc.
(“Bishop’s Bequest”) in the District Court for Prince George’s County, removed the case to this
Court. Prior to the removal, Heyward had filed in the state court a Motion to Vacate/Set Aside
Judgment, Fraud on the Court and Motion for Sanction (Paper No. 3), which apparently had not
been acted upon by the state court before the case arrived in this Court. In this Court, Bishop’s
Bequest has filed a Motion to Strike Defendant’s Response to Standing Order Concerning
Removal (Paper No. 7). For the reasons that follow, both Motions are deemed MOOT and the
Court sua sponte REMANDS the case in its entirety to the District Court for Prince George’s
Although Heyward has failed to provide the Court with a full copy of the Complaint, as
required by 28 U.S.C. §1446(a), the Court has pieced together what appears to be the gist of the
Complaint from various documents filed in the case.
Heyward has reversed his status as a Defendant sued in state court to that of Plaintiff suing in federal court. This is
totally improper. Heyward remains a Defendant here, and the correct caption of the case is as the Court has styled it
According to the single page of the Complaint filed with the Court, Heyward is or was a
member of a homeowners association governed by a recorded Declaration of Covenants and
Bylaws. He allegedly failed or refused to pay duly levied assessments pursuant to the
Declaration, whereupon Bishop’s Bequest filed suit in the District Court for Prince George’s
County, asserting that Heyward was indebted to Bishop’s Bequest, pursuant to the Declaration
and the Maryland Contract Lien Act. The state court docket for the case indicates that judgment
was entered in favor of Bishop’s Bequest.
In his Notice of Removal Heyward asserts that this Court has diversity jurisdiction in that
he is a citizen of Maryland and that Bishop’s Bequest is headquartered in Prince George’s
County, Maryland. He further submits that his own counterclaim of $100,000 satisfies the
amount of controversy requirement. His counterclaim, however, has not been filed with the
Court. In the civil cover sheet accompanying his filing here, Heyward also asserts that there is
federal question jurisdiction pursuant to a “violation of False Claims Act, Fraud, violation of the
Fair Debt Collection Act”.
In his Motion to Vacate/Set Aside Judgment, Heyward asks the Court to set aside the
state court judgment basically on the grounds that it was obtained by fraud. Bishop’s Bequest’s
Motion to Strike argues that the Court should strike Heyward’s filing because he has not stated a
colorable reason for federal jurisdiction over this case.
The right to remove a case from state to federal court derives from 28 U.S.C. § 1441. In
light of federalism concerns, the removal statute is strictly construed. Mulcahey v. Columbia
Organic Chem. Co., Inc., 29 F.3d 148, 151 (4th Cir.1994) (citing Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v.
Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 108–09 (1941)). “If federal jurisdiction is doubtful, a remand [to state
court] is necessary.” Id. “The party seeking removal bears the burden of demonstrating that
removal jurisdiction is proper.” In re Blackwater Sec. Consulting, LLC, 460 F.3d 576, 583 (4th
“If at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded.” 21 U.S.C. § 1447(c). “[B]ecause the lack of subject
matter jurisdiction may be noticed by the district court sua sponte or by any party, the court may
enter a remand order sua sponte.” Ellenburg v. Spartan Motors Chassis, Inc., 519 F.3d 192, 196
(4th Cir. 2008). “[A]n irregularity in removal of a case to federal court is to be considered
‘jurisdictional’ only if the case could not initially have been filed in federal court.” Korea Exch.
Bank, New York Branch v. Trackwise Sales Corp., 66 F.3d 46, 50 (3d Cir. 1995).
The only basis for jurisdiction by this Court over a breach of contract claim would be
diversity jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. §1332. Both Bishop’s Bequest and Heyward are residents
of Maryland; accordingly, there is no diversity jurisdiction here.
Although Heyward tries to assert, at least in his civil cover sheet, that federal question
jurisdiction is available, see 28 U.S.C. §§1331, 1441, the Court finds no count that alleges any
federal law claims. The Complaint against Heyward alleged only breach of contract and state
law claims. He may not remove based on a counterclaim asserting a federal cause of action. See
Holmes Group, Inc. v. Vornado Air Circulation Sys., Inc., 535 U.S. 826, 831 (2002).
Most importantly, Heyward attempts to remove this case in order to appeal the judgment
of the District Court for Prince George’s County. An appeal from a state court judgment is not
grounds for removal to federal court. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441; Maryland Rule 7-103 (listing the
types of cases that may be appealed from district court to a circuit court in Maryland).2
It has not escaped the Court’s attention that, in seeking removal of his case to this Court, Heyward was apparently
trying to stave off garnishment proceedings underway in state court.
For the foregoing reasons, Heyward’s Motion to Vacate/Set Aside Judgment, Fraud on
the Court and Motion for Sanction (Paper No. 3) is MOOT, Bishop’s Bequest’s Motion to Strike
Defendant’s Response to Standing Order Concerning Removal (Paper No. 7) is MOOT, and this
case shall be REMANDED in its entirety to the District Court for Prince George’s County.
A separate Order will ISSUE.
PETER J. MESSITTE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
February 12, 2014
It also bears noting that Heyward has sought to proceed in federal court without having to pay fees or costs.
The Court has granted his request so as not to delay dispatch of the case from this Court. This should not, however,
be taken as any indication, in any other circumstance, that the Court acknowledges Heyward’s claimed inability to
pay costs or fees.
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