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United States ex rel. Knight v. Johnson

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

November 3, 2016

United States of America ex rel. Bobby Knight, Plaintiff,
v.
Jeh Charles Johnson, Department of Homeland Security Secretary, et al ., Defendants.

          ORDER

          DAVID C.NORTON, UNTIED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court upon a “Notice of Removal” filed by Bobby Knight (“Knight”). (Dkt. No. 89.) The filing is postmarked on October 10, 2016, and stamped “received” by the Clerk's Office on October 14, 2016. (See Dkt. No. 89-2.)[1] In this filing, Knight attempts to remove a proceeding pending before the Contractor's Licensing Board of the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. (See generally Dkt. No. 89.) More specifically, Knight attempts to remove Case No. 2015-5, IN THE MATTER OF: CONSTRUCTION GROUP LLC, License No. CLG. 103920, and N. Bobby Knight, License No. CQG. 14035, from the South Carolina Contractor's Licensing Board of the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation to the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina. For the reasons set forth herein, Knight's attempted removal is improper, and the matter is remanded to the South Carolina Contractor's Licensing Board of the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Knight initially filed this action solely as a qui tam action. (See generally Dkt. No. 1.) Subsequent to a hearing on October 9, 2015, Magistrate Judge Mary Gordon Baker recommended-on January 5, 2016-that the instant action be dismissed without prejudice because Knight cannot proceed pro se on such a claim. (See Dkt. No. 27.) On January 4, 2016, the day before this Report and Recommendation was issued, Knight filed an Amended Complaint. (Dkt. No. 26.)

         In addition to his qui tam claim, Knight's Amended Complaint appeared to contain claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), and 31 U.S.C. § 3730(h). (See generally Dkt. No. 26.) These additional claims arose out of a “Disciplinary Action” by the “South Carolina Contractor's Board” against Knight. (See Dkt. No. 26 at 3 of 8.) Knight alleged this “Disciplinary Action” against him was in retaliation for his qui tam action. (Id. at 3-4 of 8.) In his Amended Complaint, Knight stated,

Since filing of the QUI TAM and the events which were ripe for [I]ts filing, the South Carolina Contractor's Board has now begun a Disciplinary Action, based upon an “anonymous complaint” against Plaintiff Knight and has been ordered to appear on January 21, 2016 before the Contractor's Board . . . .

(Dkt. No. 26 at 3 of 8.)

         Knight attached two documents to his Amended Complaint: (a) a “Notice of Complaint” dated January 9, 2015, and (b) a letter dated October 28, 2015, from the South Carolina Contractor's Licensing Board to Knight. (Dkt. No. 26-1.) The “Notice of Complaint” indicates that Mr. Roger Lowe filed a complaint against Construction Group, LLC (Knight's limited liability company). (Dkt. No. 26-1.) The Notice states, inter alia,

Listed are the particulars of a complaint filed against you for failing to disclose judgments on your 2014 renewal application. Please submit a written response addressing each of the items in the complaint within ten (10) days from receipt of this letter. . . .
1. Section 40-11-110(A-4) fraud or deceit in obtaining a license or certification . . .
The results of my investigation will be submitted to an Investigative Review Committee (IRC) for review to determine if you have violated any of the provisions of the license law with regard to building code or standards violations. If you have satisfactorily addressed and/or repaired the items that represent violations, prior to my inspection or filing of the IRC report, that fact will be taken into consideration by the IRC as long as proper documentation is received by this office.
(Dkt. No. 26-1 at 2 of 2.)
The October 28, 2015 letter from the South Carolina Contractor's Licensing Board to Knight states, inter alia, Your renewal application received on October 21, 2015 has been tentatively renewed pending final approval from the board due to answers given on your renewal application. Therefore, please be advised that you have been scheduled to appear before the South Carolina Contractor's Licensing Board at its next meeting scheduled on Thursday, January 21, 2016 at 10:00 A.M., Room 105, Kingstree Building, 110 Centerview Drive, Synergy Business Park, Columbia, SC 29210.
You may present any documents and character witnesses that you deem appropriate to support your request for licensure. . . . Please remember that you have the burden of proof that you have met the licensure requirements.

(Dkt. No. 26-1 at 1 of 2.)

         Knight was given an extension of time to file objections to Judge Baker's Report and Recommendation dated January 5, 2016, such that his objections were due by April 1, 2016. (See Dkt. No. 35; see also Dkt. No. 31.) Instead of filing objections, [2] on March 22, 2016, Knight filed a Motion to Stay and Motion to Amend. (Dkt. No. 38.) Knight's Motion to Stay and Motion to Amend were referred to Magistrate Judge Mary Gordon Baker. (Dkt. No. 41.)

         In an Order dated October 27, 2016, Judge Baker granted Knight's Motion to Amend; ordered that his Second Amended Complaint be docketed by the Clerk; and unsealed the case. (Dkt. No. 92; Dkt. No. 94.) In that same filing, Judge Baker recommend granting the United States' Motion to Dismiss “Count VI” of the Second Amended ...


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