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Brooks v. South Carolina Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

June 13, 2019

Altony Brooks, a/k/a Anthony Brooks, Plaintiff,
v.
South Carolina Department of Corrections, Captain Christopher Williams, Captain Duffy, Lt. Church, Ofc. Rivera, Nurse Amy Enlue, Major Early, Sgt. Tuchor, Lt. Root, Ofc. Mitchum, South Carolina Budget and Control Board, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          BRISTOW MARCHANT, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         The Plaintiff, Altony Brooks, also known as Anthony Brooks, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is an inmate at the Broad River Correctional Institution, part of the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC).

         Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of the pro se Complaint pursuant to the procedural provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and § 1915A, the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub.L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), and in light of the following precedents: Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25 (1992), Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319 (1989), Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972), Nasim v. Warden, Maryland House of Corr., 64 F.3d 951 (4th Cir. 1995), and Todd v. Baskerville, 712 F.2d 70 (4th Cir. 1983). Pro se complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys, Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978), and a federal district court is charged with liberally construing a pro se complaint to allow for the development of a potentially meritorious case. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007)); Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980).

         However, even when considered pursuant to this liberal standard, for the reasons set forth herein below this case is subject to summary dismissal. The requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a claim cognizable in a federal district court. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) [outlining pleading requirements under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure].

         Discussion

          Plaintiff appears to have filed a copy of a complaint he filed in Greenville County, South Carolina (Case Number 2016-CP-23-04303) and related documents as the Complaint in this action. See ECF No. 1-3.[1] Review of the docket of the state court case reveals that summary judgment was granted to the defendants on September 17, 2018, Plaintiff appealed the action to the Court of Appeals for South Carolina, and a remittitur was issued on February 14, 2019. See Greenville County Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Index, https://www2.greenvillecounty.org/SCJD/Pub licIndex/CaseDetails.aspx?County=23&CourtAgency=23002&Casenum=2016CP2304303&Case Type=V&HKey=1158211610551658353731027710910611687115116727667109488785729998 104521081225785102689799897843484377.[2]

         Plaintiff cannot, through the filing of this lawsuit, effectively seek review of judgments entered in his state court case, as lower federal courts do not hear “appeals” from state court actions. See Plyler v. Moore, 129 F.3d 728, 731 (4th Cir. 1997). [noting that “jurisdiction to review such decisions lies exclusively with superior state courts and ultimately the United States Supreme Court”]. The Rooker-Feldman doctrine precludes this Court from considering Plaintiff's claims, as the United States Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction over appeals from state-court judgments. See 28 U.S.C. § 1257(a); District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 482 (1983); Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 416 (1923). As a corollary to this rule, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine prohibits “a party losing in state court ... from seeking what in substance would be an appellate review of the state judgment in a United States district court, based on the losing party's claim that the state judgment itself violates the loser's federal rights.” Johnson v. De Grandy, 512 U.S. 997, 1005-06 (1994). “The Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars lower federal courts from considering not only issues raised and decided in state courts, but also issues that are ‘inextricably intertwined' with the issues that are before the state court.” Washington v. Wilmore, 407 F.3d 274, 279 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Feldman, 460 U.S. at 486). As the Fourth Circuit has explained, “if the state-court loser seeks redress in the federal district court for the injury caused by the state-court decision, his federal claim is, by definition, ‘inextricably intertwined' with the state-court decision, and is therefore outside the jurisdiction of the federal district court.” Davani v. Va. Dep't of Transp., 434 F.3d 712, 719 (4th Cir. 2006).

         In the present case, the Plaintiff challenges the same lawsuit filed in state court and the actions of the state court. Because the Plaintiff does not allege any injury independent of what flows from the result of this state-court action, these claims must be dismissed pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. If the Plaintiff wishes to challenge the validity of the state court's orders, he must do so in the South Carolina state courts.

         Nor may Plaintiff remove the civil action filed in state court to this Court.[3] “A complaint is not the appropriate vehicle for removing a case from state court to federal court, ” Barnard v. Plastics Reclaim Co., No. 8:08-714-HMH-BHH, 2008 WL 2076686 (D.S.C. May 9, 2008), and moreover a state court action may be removed to federal court only by a defendant. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441(a)[4] and 1446(a)[5]; see also Alexander v. Tulsa Public Schools, 133 Fed.Appx. 581, 582 (10th Cir. 2005)[citing other appellate court opinions holding that a plaintiff cannot remove his or her own state-court action to federal court]. As other courts have noted, the plain language of § 1441 indicates that the right of removal is vested exclusively in a defendant. See Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 104-109 (1941)[concluding that Congress intended to limit removal under section 71 of the Judicial Code (now 28 U.S.C. § 1441) to defendants only and that a suit in which a counterclaim is filed is not removable by a plaintiff]; Palisades Collections LLC v. Shorts, 552 F.3d 327, 333 (4th Cir. 2008)[“In crafting §1441(a) . . . . Congress made the choice to refer only to ‘the defendant or the defendants,' a choice we must respect.”]; Yonkers Racing Corp. v. City of Yonkers, 858 F.2d 855, 863 (2d Cir. 1988) [“Quite simply, a party who is in the position of a plaintiff cannot remove”]; In re Walker, 375 F.2d 678, 678 (9th Cir. 1967) (per curiam)[“No right exists in favor of a person who, as plaintiff, has filed an action in the state court, to cause the removal of such action to a federal court.”].

         Recommendation

         Based on the foregoing, it is recommended that the Court dismiss Plaintiffs Complaint without prejudice and without issuance and service of process.[6] Plaintiffs attention is also directed to the important notice on the next page.

         Notice of Right to File Objections to Report and Recommendation

         The parties are advised that they may file specific written objections to this Report and Recommendation with the District Judge. Objections must specifically identify the portions of the Report and Recommendation to which objections are made and the basis for such objections. “[I]n the absence of a timely filed objection, a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must ‘only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.'” Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's note).

         Specific written objections must be filed within fourteen (14) days of the date of service of this Report and Recommendation. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(a), (d). Filing by mail pursuant to Federal ...


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