United States District Court, D. Maryland
XINIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
20, 2016, the Clerk received for filing the above-captioned
self-represented 28 U.S.C. § 1332 diversity of
citizenship complaint from Jeannot Lekoba a resident of
College Park, Maryland. Lekoba sues Michel Bouity, a resident
of Towson, Maryland. The complaint is accompanied by a motion
for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. ECF No. 2. Because he
appears indigent, Lekoba’s indigency motion shall be
statement of facts supporting the complaint Lekoba simply
states “Mister Michel Bouity is wrongly accusing me of
stealing a credit card.” ECF No. 1, p. 6. The relief
section of the form complaint has been left blank.
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915,  the courts are required to screen a
plaintiff's complaint when in forma pauperis status has
been granted. The statute permits district courts to
independently assess the merits of in forma pauperis
complaints, and “to exclude suits that have no arguable
basis in law or fact.” See Nasim v. Warden, 64
F.3d 951, 954 (4th Cir. 1995); see also Crowley Cutlery
Co. v. United States, 849 F.2d 273, 277 (7th Cir. 1988)
(federal district judge has authority to dismiss a frivolous
suit on his own initiative). This screening authority
differentiates in forma pauperis suits from ordinary
civil suits. Nasim, 64 F.3d at 953-954; see also
Eriline Co. S.A. v. Johnson, 440 F.3d 648, 656 (4th Cir.
2006). Pursuant to this statute, numerous courts have
performed a preliminary screening of non-prisoner complaints.
See Fogle v. Blake, 227 Fed.Appx. 542, *1 (8th Cir.
July 10, 2007) (affirming district court's pre-service
dismissal of non-prisoner’s § 1983 complaint
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); Michau v.
Charleston Cnty., S.C., 434 F.3d 725, 727 (4th Cir.
2006) (applying 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) to preliminary
screen a non-prisoner complaint); Evans v. Albaugh,
2013 WL 5375781 (N. D. W.Va. 2013) (28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)
authorizes dismissal of complaints filed in forma pauperis).
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), the court must dismiss a
plaintiff's complaint if it fails to state a claim on
which relief may be granted. Although a pro se
plaintiff's pleadings are liberally construed, the
complaint must contain factual allegations sufficient
“to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level” and that “state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007). This
“plausibility standard requires [plaintiff] to
demonstrate more than a sheer possibility that a defendant
has acted unlawfully.” Francis v. Giacomelli,
588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks
omitted). Indeed, plaintiff must articulate facts that, when
accepted as true, demonstrate he has stated a claim entitling
him to relief. Id.
may consider subject matter jurisdiction as part of its
initial review of the complaint. See Lovern v.
Edwards, 190 F.3d 648, 654 (4th Cir. 1999) (holding that
“[d]etermining the question of subject matter
jurisdiction at the outset of the litigation is often the
most efficient procedure”). In general, if subject
matter jurisdiction is lacking in an action before a court,
the case must be dismissed. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
12(h)(3) (“If the court determines at any time that it
lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the
action.”). Consequently a federal court must determine
with certainty whether it has subject matter jurisdiction
over a case pending before it. If necessary, the court has an
obligation to consider its subject matter jurisdiction
sua sponte. See Joseph v. Leavitt, 465 F.3d 87, 89
(2d Cir. 2006). “[Q]uestions of subject-matter
jurisdiction may be raised at any point during the
proceedings and may (or, more precisely, must) be raised
sua sponte by the court.” Brickwood
Contractors, Inc. v. Datanet Engineering, Inc., 369 F.3d
385, 390 (4th Cir. 2004).
courts have original jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1331 “of all civil actions arising under the
Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.”
See 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Under the “well-pleaded
complaint doctrine, ” federal jurisdiction exists only
when a federal question is presented on the face of
Plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint. See
Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987).
The Fourth Circuit has observed that “[t]here is no
‘single, precise definition’ of what it means for
an action to ‘arise under’ federal law.”
Verizon Md., Inc. v. Global NAPS, Inc., 377 F.3d
355, 362 (4th Cir. 2004) (quoting Merrell Dow Pharm. Inc.
v. Thompson, 478 U.S. 804, 808 (1986)). Indeed:
The Supreme Court has recognized § 1331 jurisdiction in
a variety of cases, such as (1) when a federal right or
immunity forms an essential element of the plaintiff's
claim; (2) when a plaintiff's right to relief depends
upon the construction or application of federal law, and the
federal nature of the claim rests upon a reasonable
foundation; (3) when federal law creates the cause of action;
and (4) when the plaintiff's right to relief necessarily
depends on resolution of a substantial question of federal
Id. (internal citations and quotations omitted).
claims that he has been “wrongly” accused of
stealing a credit card, in violation of the False Claims Act
(“FCA”). The FCA provides a cause of action for
fraud committed against the United States. See Harrison
v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 784
(4th Cir. 1999). Thus, Lekoba fails to assert a cause of
action under the FCA sufficient to confer federal question
jurisdiction upon this court.
claim appears grounded in state law. A federal district court
does not sit to review every claim related to alleged
fraudulent or tortious conduct involving non-federal parties.
Instead, it only has authority to review such state-law
claims filed pursuant to a federal district court's
diversity of citizenship jurisdiction. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332, diversity jurisdiction exists when the parties
reside in different states and the amount in controversy
exceeds $75, 000. When a party seeks to invoke diversity
jurisdiction under § 1332, he or she bears the burden of
demonstrating that the grounds for diversity exist and that
diversity is complete. See Advani Enterprises, Inc. v.
Underwriters at Lloyds, 140 F.3d 157, 160 (2d Cir.
parties reside in Maryland. Therefore, the complaint does not
satisfy diversity of citizenship requirements and the case
must be dismissed without prejudice for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction. A ...