Cabbagestalk v. McFadden et al
ORDER RULING ON REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION: The Court ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation (Dkt. No. 29 ), GRANTS Plaintiff's motion to remand (Dkt. No. 12 ), and DENIES AS MOOT Defendants' motion to dismiss (ECF No. 5 ). The Court REMANDS this matter to the Richland County Court of Common Pleas. AND IT IS SO ORDERED. Signed by Honorable Richard M Gergel on 3/24/2017. (mcot, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
Civil Action No. S:16-374S-RMG
Warden 1. McFadden, et al.,
ORDER AND OPINION
This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate
Judge, recommending this matter be remanded to state court. For the reasons set forth below, the
Court adopts the Report and Recommendation and remands this matter to state court.
Plaintiff filed a complaint labeled "tort claim" in the Richland County Court of Common
Pleas on September 10,2015. Plaintiff essentially alleges unhealthy conditions of confinement,
lack of library availability, and problems with the prison disciplinary system. Plaintiff cites to
South Carolina statutes such as S.C. Code § 16-3-93 and uses terms such as "negligence" often,
but also uses terms like "cruel and unusual punishment" and "access to court" and "due process"
and "42 U.S.C. 2000 cc RL.U.I.P.A." in connection with his claims based on library availability
and loss of personal property.
Defendants assert they were served with the state complaint on October 28, 20 16 (over one
year after it was filed). On November 28, 2016, Defendants filed a timely notice of removal (Dkt.
No.1), on the basis that the complaint asserts "claims and issues of federal law," referencing
Plaintiffs citations to the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000
("RLUIPA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc, and Plaintiff's use of the terms "cruel and unusual
punishment." On December 5,2016, they filed a motion to dismiss (Dkt. No.5.) On December
20, 2016, Plaintiff filed a timely motion to remand in which he stated he intended only to allege
state-law claims (Dkt. No. 12), which he again confirmed on March 6, 2017 (Dkt. No. 27).
Defendants did not respond to the motion to remand. On March 9, 2017, the Magistrate Judge
recommended granting the motion to remand. (Dkt. No. 29.) Defendants have filed no objections.
"Federal courts are presumptively without jurisdiction over civil actions, and the burden of
establishing the contrary rests firmly on the party asserting jurisdiction." Kokkonen v. Guardian
Life Ins. Co. ofAm., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). Federal removal jurisdiction exists if the action is
one "of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction." 28 U.S.C.
§ 1441(a). Removability is determined as of the time of removal, Higgins v. E.I. DuPont de
Nemours & Co., 863 F.2d 1162, 1166 (4th Cir. 1988), and the removing party has the burden of
establishing that removal jurisdiction is proper, In re Blackwater Sec. Consulting, LLC, 460 F.3d
576, 583 (4th Cir. 2006). "Because removal jurisdiction raises significant federalism concerns,
[courts] must strictly construe removal jurisdiction." Mulcahey v. Columbia Organic Chems. Co.,
29 F.3d 148, 151 (4th Cir. 1994).
The Magistrate Judge recommends remand of this matter to state court because it is unclear
whether the pro se litigant actually pleaded federal claims, and "[ d]oubts about the propriety of
removal are to be resolved in favor of remanding the case to state court." See Cohn v. Charles,
857 F. Supp. 2d 544, 547 (D. Md. 2012). Although Plaintiff-somewhat incoherently-cites a
federal statute and uses phrases such as "due process," pro se pleadings are liberally construed,
and here liberal construction means respecting Plaintiffs oft-stated desire to litigate his grievances
as state-law claims in state court. (See Dkt. Nos. 12, 13, 16, 19, 27.) Plaintiff is master of his
complaint, and "[w]here a plaintiff chooses to assert only state law claims, recharacterizing it as a
federal claim is generally prohibited." McBrearty v. Ky. Comty., Tech. College Sys., Civ. No. 06
197-KSF, 2006 WL 2583375, at *6 (E.D. Ky. Sept.7, 2006). The Court agrees with the Magistrate
Judge that, given Plaintiffs' disclaimer of any intent to pursue a federal claim, neither his minimal
use of the terms "access to court," "due process," and "cruel and unusual punishment," nor his
confused mention of the RLIUP A statute, are sufficient to require him to litigate in federal court
over his objection. That is especially true where Defendants have neither opposed the motion to
remand nor objected to the recommendation that the motion be granted.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation (Dkt. No.
29), GRANTS Plaintiffs motion to remand (Dkt. No. 12), and DENIES AS MOOT Defendants'
motion to dismiss (Dkt. No.5). The Court REMANDS this matter to the Richland County Court
of Common Pleas.
AND IT IS SO ORDERED.
United States District Court Judge
March (, ~~ 2017
Charleston, South Carolina
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