United States District Court, D. Maryland
K. Bredar, United States District Judge
the court for preliminary screening is Joseph Purvey's
“petition” and motions for leave to proceed in
forma pauperis. ECF Nos. 1-3. Although filed on a 28 U.S.C.
§ 2241 form for filing a habeas corpus petition, Purvey
raises no challenge to his custody, conviction, or sentence.
Instead, he seeks to file a complaint against the Circuit
Court for Baltimore City in which he seemingly disputes
contempt and protective order rulings issued by two Baltimore
City Circuit Court judges. He seeks a federal court order to
arrest an individual (presumably the mother of his daughter)
and to alter the terms of a child custody
decree. ECF No. 1, p. 7. His cause of action shall
be construed as a civil rights action, filed pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Purvey's motions for leave to proceed
in forma pauperis shall be granted. His complaint, shall,
however, be summarily dismissed.
28 U.S.C. § 1915, an indigent litigant may commence an
action in federal court without prepaying the filing fee. To
protect against possible abuses of this privilege, the
statute allows a district court to dismiss the case before
service of process upon a finding that the action has no
factual or legal basis. See 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). Indeed, this Court must conduct a
preliminarily review of Complaint allegations before service
of process and dismiss them if satisfied that the Complaint
has no factual or legal basis. See 28 U.S.C. §
Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319 (1989), the United
States Supreme Court held that a district court may dismiss
the complaint of a pro se litigant under 28 U.S.C. §
1915 when the complaint includes only a “fanciful
factual allegation” and lacks “an arguable basis
either in law or in fact.” Id. at 325;
see Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32-33
(1992) (“[A] court may dismiss a claim as factually
frivolous only if the facts alleged are ‘clearly
baseless, ' a category encompassing allegations that are
‘fanciful, ' ‘fantastic, ' and
‘delusional.' As those words suggest, a finding of
factual frivolousness is appropriate when the facts alleged
rise to the level of the irrational or the wholly incredible,
whether or not there are judicially noticeable facts
available to contradict them. An in forma pauperis
complaint may not be dismissed, however, simply because the
court finds the plaintiff's allegations unlikely.”)
(citations to Neitzke omitted).
explained that the statute “accords judges not only the
authority to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably
meritless legal theory, but also the unusual power to pierce
the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and
dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly
baseless.” Id. at 327. Indeed, § 1915 was
amended after Neitzke and Denton, such that
now the statute mandates that a district court
“shall dismiss” a case upon a finding that the
Complaint “fails to state a claim on which relief may
be granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).
complaints of self-represented litigants are held to a less
stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys,
Gordon v. LeekeI574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978),
and a federal district court is charged with liberally
construing a complaint filed by a self-represented litigant
to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case.
See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007). When a
federal court is evaluating a self-represented Complaint, the
Plaintiff's allegations are assumed to be true.
Erickson, 551 U.S. at 93 (citing Bell Atlantic
Corporation v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007)).
Liberal construction does not mean that a Court can ignore a
clear failure in the pleading to allege facts that set forth
a claim cognizable in a federal district court. See
Weller v. Department of Social Services, 901 F.2d 387
(4th Cir. 1990); see also Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009) (outlining pleading
requirements under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure for “all civil actions”).
as this court can discern, Purvey is challenging state court
decisions issued in a domestic relations matter in state
court. This involves matters of family law. Such
issues have traditionally been reserved to the state or
municipal court systems with their expertise and professional
support staff. See Moore v. Sims, 442 U.S. 415, 435
(1979). Under the domestic relations exception to federal
jurisdiction, federal courts generally abstain from review of
such cases. See Ankenbrandt v. Richards, 504 U.S.
689, 701-05 (1992). It may be appropriate for the federal
courts to decline to hear a case involving elements of the
domestic relationship, even when divorce, alimony, or child
custody is not strictly at issue:
“This would be so when a case presents difficult
questions of state law bearing on policy problems of
substantial public import whose importance transcends the
result in the case then at bar. Such might well be the case
if a federal suit were filed prior to effectuation of a
divorce, alimony, or child custody decree, and the suit
depended on a determination of the status of the
Id. at 705-706 (quoting Colorado River Water
Conservation District v. United States, 424 U.S. 800,
conclusion is supported by sound policy considerations.
Issuance of decrees of this type not infrequently involves
retention of jurisdiction by the state court and deployment
of social workers to monitor compliance. As a matter of
judicial economy, state courts are eminently more suited to
work of this type than are federal courts, which lack the
close association with state and local government
organizations dedicated to handling issues that arise out of
conflicts over child custody and support decrees. Moreover,
as a matter of judicial expertise, it makes far more sense to
retain the rule that federal courts lack power over these
cases because of the special proficiency developed by state
tribunals over the past century and a half in handling issues
that arise in the granting of such decrees. The court will
not intrude on such custody and visitation decisions.
to the extent that Purvey wishes to file a civil rights
complaint that seeks criminal charges against the mother of
his daughter, this court has no authority to initiate
criminal charges. The decision whether or not to prosecute,
and for what offense, rests with the prosecution.
See, e.g., Borderkircher v. Hayes,
434 U.S. 357, 364 (1978). The Supreme Court said in Linda
R.S. v. Richard D., 410 U.S. 614, 619 (1973):
“[I]n American jurisprudence at least, a private
citizen lacks a judicially cognizable interest in the
prosecution or nonprosecution of another.” See also
Banks v. Buchanan, 336 F. App'x 122, 123 (3d Cir.
2009); Sargeant v. Dixon, 130 F.3d 1067, 1069 (D.C.
Cir. 1997); Sibley v. Obama, 866 F.Supp.2d 17, 22
(D.D.C. 2012). If Purvey seeks to pursue criminal charges, he
must bring his allegations to the attention of law
enforcement authorities, not this court.
court finds that the complaint raises no factual or legal
basis upon which to take review over such a dispute. The
matter shall be dismissed. A separate Order follows.