United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Aiken Division
ORDER AND OPINION
Sharon Seabrooks (“Plaintiff”) filed this action
against Defendant Aiken County (“Defendant” or
“Aiken County”) alleging a claim under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 for violation of her due process rights as
guaranteed by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the
United States Constitution. She also alleges state law claims
for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy, breach
of contract, quantum meruit, equitable estoppel, violation of
the South Carolina Payment of Wages Act, SC Code Ann.
§§ 41-10-10 to -110 (2016), and defamation. This
matter is before the court on Defendant’s Motion to
Dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(5) and Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6) (ECF No. 3).
accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule
73.02(B)(2)(g) D.S.C., the matter was referred to United
States Magistrate Judge Thomas E. Rogers, III for pretrial
handling. On May 31, 2016, the Magistrate Judge issued a
Report and Recommendation (“Report”) in which he
recommended that the court grant Defendant’s Motion to
Dismiss. (ECF No. 13.) For the reasons set forth herein, the
court GRANTS IN PART Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss.
Relevant Factual and Procedural Background
was hired as a Jury Clerk on or about March 26, 2012. (ECF
No. 1-1 at 4 ¶ 5.) Plaintiff took the oath as a deputy
clerk on or about March 30, 2012. (Id. at 5 ¶
9.) The Clerk of Court has authority to hire, dismiss, and
supervise her employees, including Plaintiff. (Id.
at 5 ¶ 9) Upon announcement by the Assistant to the
Clerk of Court that she would be resigning, Plaintiff applied
for and was awarded the position. (Id. at 5
¶¶ 8-11.) Plaintiff did not receive a pay increase
as a result of the change in jobs from Jury Clerk to
Assistant to the Clerk of Court. (Id. at 5, 11, 12
¶¶ 13, 54, 61-62.) However, she moved into the
office of the previous Assistant to the Clerk of Court and
was given the tasks and responsibilities associated with that
position. (Id. at 5 ¶ 15.)
about April 16, 2013, when Plaintiff received a new badge for
entry into the courthouse, it did not reflect the title
Assistant to the Clerk of Court. (Id. at 6 ¶
22.) When Plaintiff asked about the discrepancy in title, she
was told by Human Resources that the Clerk of Court, Liz
Godard, had not submitted paperwork informing the County of a
change in title. (Id. at 6 ¶ 23.) The next
morning Plaintiff asked to meet with the Clerk of Court and
the Civil Division Supervisor, Anita Koepfle, to discuss what
she had been told by Human Resources. (Id. at 6
then returned to Human Resources and inquired about filing a
grievance in response to Godard’s actions.
(Id. at 6 ¶ 25.) She obtained a grievance
package to complete, and filed the grievance on May 6, 2013.
(Id. at 6 ¶ 26-27.) On May 13, 2013, the Clerk
of Court dismissed Plaintiff due to insubordination.
(Id. at 7 ¶ 32.)
originally filed this action in the Court of Common Pleas,
Aiken County, South Carolina, on May 22, 2015. (ECF No. 1.)
However, that Summons and Complaint was not served and an
Amended Summons and Complaint were filed on September 17,
2015. (ECF No. 1-1.) The Amended Summons and Complaint were
served on Robin Broome, an assistant for the Human Resources
office for Aiken County. (ECF No. 3-3 at 1 ¶¶ 2-3.)
Process server Winifred Rodgers averred that she was told
that Broome was authorized to accept service of process.
removed the action to this court on October 15, 2015, and
filed the present Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 1, 3.) On
November 2, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition to
Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 7.) The
Magistrate Judge issued the Report on May 31, 2016,
recommending that the court grant Defendant’s Motion to
Dismiss. (ECF No. 13 at 5.) Defendant filed Objections to the
Report on June 16, 2016. (ECF No. 14.) Plaintiff filed
Objections to the Report on July 5, 2016. (ECF No. 19.)
Defendant subsequently filed a Reply to Plaintiff’s
Objections to the Report on July 22, 2016. (ECF No. 20.)
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this court.
The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The
responsibility to make a final determination remains with
this court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261,
270-71 (1976). The court reviews de novo only those
portions of the Magistrate Judge’s Report and
Recommendation to which specific objections are made, and the
court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the
Magistrate Judge's recommendation or recommit the matter
with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(5) provides for the dismissal
of an action for insufficient service of process. When
service of process is attempted prior to removal of the
action to the District Court, the state rules for service of
process govern. See Redding v. Sun Printing, Inc.,
No. 5:12-cv-2113-JMC, 2013 WL 2149685, at *1 n.1 (D.S.C. May
16, 2013); accord Davis v. Tyson Foods, Inc., No.
3:14-cv-0720-GCM, 2015 WL 4638301, at *1 (W.D. N.C. Aug. 4,
2015) (“When service of process is attempted before
removal to federal court, the state’s service of
process rules govern whether the attempt was
sufficient.”). For Aiken County, the County
Administrator fills the role of chief executive officer
because Aiken County operates under the council-administrator
form of government. S.C. Code § 4-9-630(1) (2016)
(administrator is “to serve as the chief administrative
officer of the county government”); Antley v.
Shepherd, 532 S.E.2d 294, 297 (S.C. Ct. App. 2000)
(“Aiken County functions under the
Council-Administrator form of government.”).
12(b)(6) motion examines whether Plaintiff has stated a claim
upon which relief can be granted. The United States Supreme
Court has made clear that, under Fed.R.Civ.P. 8, the
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to state a claim that is plausible on its face. See
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). The
reviewing court need only accept as true the
complaint’s factual allegations, not its legal
conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678;
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
on its decision in Twombly, the United States
Supreme Court stated in Iqbal:
[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require
“detailed factual allegations, ” but it demands
more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me
accusation. A pleading that offers “labels and
conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.” Nor does a
complaint suffice if it tenders “naked
assertion[s]” devoid of “further factual
enhancement.” To survive a motion to dismiss, a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.” A claim has facial ...