United States District Court, D. Maryland
RICHARD D. BENNETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Chasity Spears, Gabrielle Spears, and Nahla Spears
(collectively, the "Spears" or
"Plaintiffs") initially filed this sixteen-count
Complaint in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland
against MWR Investigations, Inc., TCB Pedestal Gardens, LLC,
Interstate Realty Management Company, Alexander Security
Consultants, LLC, and The Community Builders, Inc.
(collectively, the "Defendants"), stemming from the
Defendants' alleged failure to provide adequate security
at the Pedestal Gardens apartment complex located in
Baltimore, Maryland. Currently pending before this Court is
the Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand this case back to the
Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland. (ECF No. 14.) The
parties' submissions have been reviewed, and no hearing
is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018).
For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' Motion (ECF No.
14) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. Specifically, this
case will be REMANDED to the Circuit Court for Baltimore
City, Maryland, but Plaintiffs are not awarded attorney's
defendant in a state civil action may remove the case to
federal court only if the federal court can exercise original
jurisdiction over at least one of the asserted claims. 28
U.S.C. § 1441(a)-(c). Once an action is removed to
federal court, the plaintiff may file a motion to remand the
case to state court if there is a contention that
jurisdiction is defective. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). The
party seeking removal, and not the party seeking remand,
bears the burden of establishing jurisdiction in the federal
court. Johnson v. Advance America, 549 F.3d 932, 935
(4th Cir. 2008). On a motion to remand, this Court must
"strictly construe the removal statute and resolve all
doubts in favor of remanding the case to state court."
Richardson v. Phillip Morris, Inc., 950 F.Supp. 700,
701-02 (D. Md. 1997) (citation omitted). "If federal
jurisdiction is doubtful, a remand is necessary."
Mulcahey v. Columbia Organic Chems. Co., Inc., 29
F.3d 148, 151 (4th Cir. 1994); see also Dixon v. Cohurg
Dairy, Inc., 369 F.3d 811, 815-16 (4th Cir. 2004).
Plaintiffs' sixteen-count Complaint, originally filed in
the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland, alleges,
inter alia, violations of Maryland's Declaration
of Rights and state law tort and contract claims. (Compl.,
ECF No. 1-2 at 6-50.) The Defendants argue that this Court
has subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331
because the Plaintiffs allege the Defendants violated
Plaintiffs' rights under the United States Constitution.
(Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1.) Specifically, the Defendants
assert that Paragraph 31 of the Complaint references a
violation of the United States Constitution and Count III
incorporates this allegation and is ambiguously titled
"Constitutional Violations." (Defs.' Resp., ECF
well established that a plaintiff is "the master of [his
or her] claim; he or she may avoid federal jurisdiction by
exclusive reliance on state law." Caterpillar Inc.
v. Williams, 482 U.S. 36, 392, 107 S.Ct. 2425 (1987);
Custer v. Sweeney, 89 F.3d 1156, 1165
(4th Or. 1996) ("[T]he plaintiff is master of
his complaint[J and [this] generally permits plaintiffs to
'avoid federal jurisdiction by exclusive reliance on
state law.'"). Counts I and II of the Complaint
bring claims for violations of Maryland's Declaration of
Rights, not the United States Constitution, and Count III
then alleges a pattern or practice of "constitutional
violations."Considering that this Court must
"resolve all doubts in favor of remanding the case to
state court," Richardson, 950 F.Supp. at
701-02, and remand "if federal jurisdiction is
doubtful/' Mulcabey, 29 F.3d at 151, Plaintiffs
have chosen to allege only claims under Maryland law and this
Court does not have federal subject matter jurisdiction over
them. Accordingly, this case is REMANDED to the Circuit Court
for Baltimore City, Maryland.
the Plaintiffs' request for attorney's fees, a remand
order may require the payment of attorney's fees
"incurred as a result of the removal." 28 U.S.C.
§ 1447(c). Attorney's fees should only be awarded
under § 1447(c), however, "where the removing party
lacked an objectively reasonable basis for seeking removal.
Conversely, when an objectively reasonable basis exists, fees
should be denied." Martin v. Franklin Capital
Corp., 546 U.S. 132, 141 (2005). As this Court has
explained, "a plaintiff has every right to do all that
is possible, within the bounds of ethical constraints, to
ensure that his case remains in state court; a defendant has
an equally defensible privilege to do all it can, under like
constraints, to push or pull the action into federal
court." Sledz v. Flintkote Co., 209 F.Supp.2d
559, 564 (D. Md. 2002); Veldman's Medical Center
Pharmacy, Inc. v. CareFirst Inc, 959 F.Supp.2d 783, 798
(D. Md. 2013). “Whether to award costs and expenses is
in this Court's discretion, and there is no presumption
either for or against such an award." Cohn v.
Charles, 857 F.Supp.2d 544, 549-550 (D. Md. 2012).
Although this Court concludes that removal was improper,
there is no basis to find that Defendant was objectively
unreasonable in seeking removal. Accordingly, Plaintiffs'
Motion is DENIED with respect to the request for
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED this 20th day of December, 2018, that:
Plaintiffs' Motion (ECF No. 14) is GRANTED IN FART and
DENIED IN PART. Specifically, this case will be REMANDED to
the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland, but
Plaintiffs are not awarded attorney's fees.
case be and it hereby is remanded the Circuit Court for
Baltimore City, Maryland;
Clerk of Court forthwith transmit a certified copy of this
Order and the record in this case to the Clerk of the Circuit
Court for Baltimore City, Maryland;
Defendant MWR's Motions to Extend Time to File a
Responsive Pleading (ECF No. 7) and Motion to Dismiss (ECF
No. 12) shall remain pending for resolution by the state
court after remand;
Clerk of the Court transmit a copy of this Memorandum Order
to the Parties and Counsel of record; and
Clerk of this Court ...