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Weddle v. Charleston County Sheriff's Office

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

May 2, 2014

Linda Beth Weddle, Plaintiff,
v.
Charleston County Sheriff's Office, Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

BRUCE HOWE HENDRICKS, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Linda Beth Weddle ("Plaintiff" or "Weddle") originally filed this action in the Charleston County Court of Common Pleas. (See Dkt. No. 1-1.) On August 12, 2013, Defendant Charleston County Sheriff's Office ("Defendant" or "CCSO") filed a Notice of Removal, stating,

This action is of a civil nature and involves issues of Federal Question over which the District Court of the United States has original jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441 and 1443. Specifically, removal is based upon Federal Question Jurisdiction and excessive force as alleged in Plaintiff's Complaint....

(Dkt. No. 1 at 1.) This matter is before the Court upon Plaintiff's Motion to Remand, which has been assigned to the undersigned to submit findings and recommendations to the District Court. (Dkt. No. 9.)[1]

BACKGROUND

The issue before the Court is whether federal question jurisdiction exists. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331. In her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that the Defendant "is a political subdivision of the State of South Carolina and is subject to suit pursuant to the South Carolina Tort Claims Act, S.C. Code Ann. § 15-78-10, et seq. " (Compl. ¶ 2.) Plaintiff alleges that she and a neighbor had a long-running dispute about the Plaintiff's placement of some shrubs in the right-of-way between their properties, and after receiving a nuisance violation in February of 2007, "a local judge ordered Plaintiff to keep the shrubs trimmed, to which Plaintiff complied." (Id. ¶¶ 7-8.) According to Plaintiff, she received a notice from the City of North Charleston that the public works department was going to remove the shrubs, but on June 24, 2010, after appearing before the North Charleston City Council, Plaintiff "received assurances from a city official[] that the public works department would not remove the shrubs, but rather, would come out and trim them." (Id. ¶¶ 9-11.) Plaintiff further alleges as follows:

12. On... July 19, 2010, the Plaintiff and her husband... heard pounding on their front door along with repeated doorbell rings.
13. Plaintiff opened the front door and saw two (2) male City of North Charleston police officers who asked her to come outside. Plaintiff and her husband went outside where they discovered heavy machinery and equipment and a public works crew in their front yard and in the nearby street.
14. One of the officers told Plaintiff that the public works department had given her since June 18, 2010 to trim or remove the shrubbery she had planted in the right-of-way next to her property and that since she had not done so, the crew was present to remove all of the shrubbery along with a tree that was purportedly infested with termites. The officer then threatened to arrest Plaintiff if she entered the work area set up by the public works department or otherwise interfered with the removal of the shrubs and tree.

(Id. ¶¶ 12-14.)

According to Plaintiff, she "requested that the police officers and work crew refrain from removing the shrubs and trees until she could contact city officials to resolve the matter, " but the work proceeded, and the officers left. (Id. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff states that during the removal process, "a public works foreman, Mike Sanders, " informed Plaintiff that the work crew was also going to remove a palm tree from the right-of-way near her property." (Id. ¶ 17.) Although Plaintiff "pleaded with Sanders to refrain from removing the tree until she could get it professionally removed and transplanted to another area, " Sanders refused; Plaintiff "then called the police and asked them to come out and stop the work crew from removing the tree." (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that as she was speaking to dispatch, the work crew began removing the palm tree, and she hung up the phone and asked the work crew to refrain from removing the tree until the police arrived. (Id. ¶ 18.) Plaintiff further alleges as follows:

As Plaintiff approached the work crew, Sanders instructed an employee to take a picture of her on his camera phone. Sanders then phoned the police, and subsequently, the same officers who had been present earlier in the day arrived and arrested Plaintiff for disorderly conduct.

(Id. ¶ 19.)

Plaintiff states in her Complaint that she was "handcuffed behind her back" and was "transported to the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center, which is operated and controlled by ...


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