United States District Court, D. Maryland
K. Bredar United States District Judge
Arnita Maria Grant, a resident of Baltimore, Maryland, filed
a complaint with a motion to proceed in forma pauperis on
March 16, 2017. Grant asserts she is entitled to money
damages because Maryland Assistant Attorney General Ari
Kodeck is pursuing a claim against her through the
State's Central Collections Unit for payment of a false
medical bill. ECF 1. Because she appears to be indigent,
Grant's motion shall be granted. For the reasons stated
below, the complaint must be dismissed.
filed her complaint under the authority of 28 U.S.C. §
1915(a)(1), which permits an indigent litigant to commence an
action in this court without prepaying the filing fee. To
guard against possible abuses of this privilege, the statute
requires dismissal of any claim that is frivolous or
malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be
granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (ii). This
court is mindful, however, of its obligation to liberally
construe self-represented pleadings, such as Grant's
complaint. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007). In evaluating such a complaint, the factual
allegations are assumed to be true. Id. at 93
(citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007)). Nonetheless, liberal construction
does not mean that a district court can ignore a clear
failure in the pleading to allege facts that set forth a
cognizable claim. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990); see also
Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th
Cir. 1985) (stating a district court may not “conjure
up questions never squarely presented.”). In making
this determination, A[t]he district court need not look
beyond the complaint's allegations . . . . It must hold
the pro se complaint to less stringent standards than
pleadings drafted by attorneys and must read the complaint
liberally.'' White v. White, 886 F.2d 721,
722-23 (4th Cir. 1989).
affording Grant's claim the most liberal construction,
the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted. First, this court does not have original
subject-matter jurisdiction over court collections
proceedings initiated by the State government in State court.
the relief sought in this case is in the nature of mandamus
relief against an Assistant Attorney General for the State of
Maryland and Maryland's Central Collections
Unit.This court does not have jurisdiction over
State employees in an action for writ of mandamus. Gurley
v. Superior Court of Mecklenburg County, 411 F.2d 586,
587 (4th Cir. 1969), see also 28 U.S.C. § 1361
(establishing federal court mandamus jurisdiction over
officer or employees of the United States).
Grant has two active cases against her filed by Kodeck on
behalf of the Central Collections Unit. In State of
Maryland Central Collection v. Grant, Case No.
0804000182892015 (D. Ct. Balt. Cty.), Kodeck, on behalf of
the State, is seeking $19, 095.74 against Grant. A request
for order of dismissal filed on January 13, 2017, is pending.
In State of Maryland Central Collection v. Grant,
Case No. 080400182902015 (D. Ct. Balt. Cty.), Kodeck, on
behalf of the State, is seeking $314. A request for order of
dismissal also filed on January 17, 2017, is pending in that
case. A third case filed by Kodeck against Grant in the
District Court for Baltimore County, Case No.
080400189832015, resulted in a confessed judgment of $736.70
and a writ of garnishment against Grant's then-employer.
Grant in turn sued the Central Collections Unit of Maryland
in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City on February 6, 2017,
in Case No. 24C17000542. Other than the filing of a
Complaint, no further developments are noted on that case
primary allegation here is that one or more of the lawsuits
filed against her by the State of Maryland is improper. Two
of the three state court actions remain pending, and one has
resulted in the entry of judgment against her. The judgment
has not been appealed. Appellate review in the concluded case
- or in any of the yet-unresolved state court matters - is
not available in this court. ''Under the
Rooker-Feldman [abstention] doctrine, a >party
losing in state court is barred from seeking what in
substance would be appellate review of the state judgment in
a United States district court.'' American
Reliable Insurance v. Stillwell, 336 F.3d 311, 316 (4th
Cir. 2003) (quoting Johnson v. De Grandy, 512 U.S.
997, 1005-06 (1994)). The Rooker-Feldman doctrine is
jurisdictional and, as such, this court is free to raise it
sua sponte. See Jordahl v. Democratic Party of
Va., 122 F.3d 192, 197 n.5 (4th Cir. 1997).
extent that Grant wishes to raise a common-law tort claim in
the federal court, she may not do so, as this court has
limited original jurisdiction and does not sit to review
every claim related to alleged tortious or fraudulent conduct
involving non-federal parties. It only has authority to
review such claims filed by parties who establish diversity
party seeks to invoke diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332, 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. 1998). The
requirement of complete diversity of citizenship mandates
that each plaintiff meet the diversity requirements as to
each defendant. See Newman-Green, Inc. v.
Alfonzo-Larrain, 490 U.S. 826, 829 (1989). "It is
well established that diversity jurisdiction attaches only
when all parties on one side of the litigation are of a
different citizenship from all of those on the other."
Stouffer Corp. v. Breckenridge, 859 F.2d 75, 76 (8th
Cir. 1988) (citing Strawbridge v. Curtiss, 7 U.S. (3
Cranch) 267, 2 L.Ed. 435 (1806)). According to the complaint,
all parties reside in Maryland. Thus, any vague allegation of
tortious conduct cannot meet federal diversity requirements.
the complaint shall be dismissed by separate order, which
 According to its website, the mission
statement for the Central Collection Unit, part of
Maryland's Department of Budget and Management, is to
“collect delinquent debts owed to the State of
District of Columbia Court of
Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 482, (1983);
Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, ...