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Robinson v. Pintez

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia, Clarksburg

September 10, 2019

ALAJUAN ROBINSON and REGGIE ROBINSON EL, Plaintiffs,
v.
SGT. PINTEZ, of Monongalia County Sheriff's Dept., SGT. J.D. MORGAN, of Monongalia County Sheriff's Dept., and JOHN DOE Tow Truck Driver, WaterFront Towing, LLC, in their individual and official capacities, Defendants.

         MEMORANDUM ORDER ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION CONCERNING MOTION FOR REMAND [DKT. NO. 53], REJECTING IN PART AND ADOPTING IN PART THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION CONCERNING MOTION TO DISMISS [DKT. NO. 38], DENYING MOTION FOR REMAND [DKT. NO. 50], GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS [DKT. NO. 8], AND STRIKING THE CASE FROM THE DOCKET

          THOMAS S. KLEEH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pro se Plaintiffs, Alajuan Robinson and Reggie Robinson El (“Plaintiffs”), filed a “Civil-Human Rights Complaint with a Demand for Jury Trial” (“Complaint”) in the Circuit Court of Monongalia County, West Virginia on July 16, 2018 [Dkt. No. 1-1]. On August 7, 2018, Defendants, Sgt. Pintez and Sgt. J.D. Morgan (“Defendants”), filed a notice of removal stating that because the action was brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the United States District Court had original jurisdiction over the case and supplemental jurisdiction over any state law allegations. [Dkt. No. 1].

         As Plaintiffs are pro se, the matter is before Magistrate Judge Michael J. Aloi pursuant to the August 8, 2018, Order of Referral [Dkt. No. 3] entered by Senior United States District Judge Irene M. Keeley.[1] On August 14, 2018, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss [Dkt. No. 8], to which Plaintiffs responded on September 6, 2018 [Dkt. No. 18] after the issuance of a Roseboro Notice on August 23, 2018 [Dkt. No. 14]. On December 26, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a Notice of Filing Motion for Remand and Motion for Remand [Dkt. No. 50], to which Defendants responded in opposition on January 7, 2019 [Dkt. No. 51]. The magistrate judge issued a separate Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) for the Motion to Dismiss [Dkt. No. 38], and Motion for Remand [Dkt. No. 53]. Plaintiffs filed objections to each R&R [Dkt. Nos. 40 and 56], and the matters are now ripe for adjudication.

         I. Standard of Review

         The magistrate judge makes only a recommendation to this Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility for making a final determination remains with the Court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). This Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of an R&R to which specific objection is made. Additionally, the Court may “accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         II. Motion for Remand

         Defendants removed Plaintiffs' action to this Court on August 7, 2018, because Plaintiffs' claims were brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 [Dkt. No. 1]. Defendants assert that the Court has original jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' constitutional claims and supplemental jurisdiction over any state law claims [Id.]. On December 26, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a Notice of Filing Motion for Remand and Motion for Remand [Dkt. No. 50] making six arguments for the case to be returned to Monongalia Circuit Court. As summarized in the R&R [Dkt. No. 53], the arguments for remand include: 1) the United States District Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction; 2) the Notice of Removal is defective; 3) a legal presumption against removal exists which has not been overcome; 4) the Monongalia County Circuit Court is capable of handling the state and federal claims raised by Plaintiffs; 5) no diversity jurisdiction exists; and 6) Defendants cannot enforce a right within the jurisdiction[2] [Dkt. No. 50 at 1-2]. The R&R recommends that the motion for remand be denied [Dkt. No. 53 at 1], and the Court agrees.

         a. Legal Standard

         The removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1441, allows a state court defendant to remove a case to a federal district court if the state court action could have originally been filed there. See Darcangelo v. Verizon Commc'ns, Inc., 292 F.3d 181, 186 (4th Cir. 2002). Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and a district court is charged with ensuring that all cases before it are properly subject to such jurisdiction. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life In. Co. of America, 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994); In re Bulldog Trucking, Inc., 147 F.3d 347, 352 (4th Cir. 1998). The burden is on the removing defendant to establish subject matter jurisdiction. Mulcahey v. Columbia Organic Chemicals Co., Inc., 29 F.3d 148, 151 (4th Cir. 1994).

         Generally, a case can be filed in a federal district court only if there is diversity of citizenship under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, or if there is federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. “The presence or absence of federal-question jurisdiction is governed by the ‘well-pleaded complaint rule,' which provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented on the face of the plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint. The rule makes the plaintiff the master of the claim; he or she may avoid federal jurisdiction by exclusive reliance on state law.” Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987)(internal citation omitted); see Harless v. CSX Hotels, Inc., 389 F.3d 444, 450 (4th Cir. 2004).

         b. Discussion

         Here, the Complaint alleges causes of action under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the United States Constitution and Article II, Section 10 of the West Virginia Constitution in relation to a police traffic stop that occurred on June 13, 2017, in Morgantown, West Virginia [Dkt. No. 53 at 1-2]. The Complaint states in its first paragraph that it is an action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 [Dkt. No. 1-1]. While state courts have concurrent jurisdiction over claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Hutchinson v. City of Huntington, 479 S.E.2d 649 ( W.Va. 1996), that fact alone is insufficient to prohibit removal. Plaintiffs' pleading alleges claims over which this Court has both original and supplemental jurisdiction.

         c. Conclusion

         The Court agrees with the magistrate judge's recommendation and FINDS that there is federal question jurisdiction based on the face of the Complaint. Because the state law claim, alleging a violation of Article III, Section 10 of the West Virginia Constitution, stems from the same conduct described in Plaintiffs' federal constitutional claims, the Court FINDS that it has supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claim under 28 U.S.C. § 1367. The Court ADOPTS the R&R [Dkt. No. 53] as to the Plaintiffs' Motion for Remand [Dkt. No. 50], and the motion is DENIED.

         III. Motion to Dismiss[3]

         In the R&R addressing Defendants' motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the magistrate judge recommends that the Court dismiss the specific monetary amount pled by Plaintiffs in the Complaint, the duplicate Fourth Amendment claim in the second cause of action, and the § 1983 claims with regard to Defendants Pintez and Morgan in their official capacities [Dkt. No. 38 at 1]. The R&R further recommends that the motion to dismiss be denied with regard to the § 1983 claims brought against Defendants Pintez and Morgan in their individual capacities.[4]

         a. ...


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