United States District Court, D. Maryland
EDWIN R. ADDISON, Plaintiff,
KATHERINE CESCA et al., Defendants.
Lipton Hollander United States District Judge
R. Addison, the self-represented plaintiff, asks the Court to
resolve a family dispute that is rooted in a potential
inheritance. Addison alleges that his cousins, defendants
Kathleen Cesca and Douglas Brown, have taken advantage of the
parties' wealthy, elderly uncle, Vincent L. Vinella,
ECF 15 (Complaint) at 9. According to plaintiff, Cesca and Brown
have “‘pillage[d]' Vinella's bank
accounts, without his knowledge” (id. at 7),
fraudulently obtained a power of attorney, and have
diminished plaintiff's anticipated inheritance from
Vinella. Id. ¶¶ 6-7. Therefore, plaintiff
has filed suit to recover his uncle's stolen wealth and
to report defendants' malfeasance to the Court. See
Id. at 7. Plaintiff has attached numerous exhibits to
asserts five claims against defendants, all under Maryland
law, three of which are civil and two of which are criminal.
Id. at 24-26. Claim 1 is a claim for civil conversion,
in which plaintiff alleges that defendants have
“exploited [Vinella's] estate” and caused
damage to Vinella as well as his heirs and remaindermen,
including plaintiff. Id. at 24. In Claim 2, for
detinue and replevin, plaintiff alleges that defendants,
“using fraudulent powers of attorney . . . . unjustly
detain” Vinella's property. Id. at 25.
Claim 3 is for intentional interference with economic
relations. Plaintiff alleges that defendants “willfully
and wantonly and unlawfully exploited Vinella's estate
causing damage to Vinella, his heirs and his remaindermen,
including the Plaintiff.” Id. In particular,
plaintiff asserts that Vinella validly executed a Deed
Transfer on June 5, 2007, granting himself a life estate in
his own home and transferring the remaining interest to his
relatives, including plaintiff, as remaindermen. Id.
¶ 19. According to plaintiff, defendants subsequently
manipulated Vinella into signing a “Corrective Deed,
” which removed the remaindermen, including plaintiff,
from the deed. Id. ¶ 22. Plaintiff maintains
that this new deed is invalid. Id. Claim 4 alleges
“a general theft claim against Defendants, ”
under Md. Code, § 7-104 of the Criminal Law Article
(“C.L.”). Id. at 26. Claim 5 is another
allegation of criminal conduct against the defendants, for
elder abuse, under C.L. §§ 3-604, 3-605, and for
false imprisonment. Id.
have moved to dismiss. ECF 7 (“Motion”). In
support of the Motion, they have submitted several exhibits.
Defendants argue that because Mr. Vinella is alive, plaintiff
lacks any legal authority or standing to assert the claims in
the Complaint on Vinella's behalf. Id. at 1, 2.
In addition, defendants address the legal deficiencies of
each claim. Plaintiff opposes the Motion. ECF 9
(“Opposition”). Defendants have replied. ECF 12.
Court is mindful that a self-represented litigant is
generally “held to a ‘less stringent
standard' than is a lawyer, and the Court must
liberally construe his claims, no matter how
‘inartfully' pled.” Morrison v. United
States, RDB-12-3607, 2014 WL 979201, at *2 (D. Md. Mar.
12, 2014) (internal citations omitted); see Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (stating that claims of
self-represented litigants are held “to less stringent
standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers”);
Bala v. Commonwealth of Va. Dep't of Conservation
& Recreation, 532 F. App'x 332, 334 (4th Cir.
2013) (per curiam) (same).
hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See
Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I shall grant
Standards of Review
have moved to dismiss the Complaint under Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(1), for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim.
Rule 12(b)(1) Standard
federal court's subject matter jurisdiction depends upon
a plaintiff's standing. The question of standing concerns
whether the litigant is “entitled to have the court
decide the merits of the dispute.” Warth v.
Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498 (1975). In federal court,
standing refers to both “the jurisdictional
requirements of Article III and the prudential limits on its
exercise.” United States v. Windsor, U.S., 133
S.Ct. 2675, 2687 (2013); see also, e.g.,
Elk Grove Unified Sch. Dist. v. Newdow, 542 U.S. 1,
11 (2004), abrogated in part by Lexmark Int'l, Inc.
v. Static Control Components, Inc., U.S., 134 S.Ct.
1377, 1387-88 (2014).
jurisdictional standing requirements derive from the
“case or controversy” limitation in § 2 of
Article III of the Constitution. See, e.g.,
Hollingsworth v. Perry, U.S., 133 S.Ct. 2652, 2662
(2013). Only a plaintiff who has standing to sue has a case
or controversy under Article III. Steel Co. v. Citizens
For A Better Env't., 523 U.S. 83, 102 (1998).
“Three inter-related judicial doctrines-standing,
mootness, and ripeness-ensure that federal courts assert
jurisdiction only over ‘Cases' and
‘Controversies.'” Worth v. Jackson,
451 F.3d 854, 855 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (citing U.S. Const. art.
III, § 2.).
case or controversy limitation “requires the litigant
to prove that he has suffered a concrete and particularized
injury that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct,
and is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial
decision.” Hollingsworth, 133 S.Ct. at 2662
(citing Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S.
555, 560-61 (1992)). “In other words, for a federal
court to have authority under the Constitution to settle a
dispute, the party before it must seek a remedy for a
personal and tangible harm.” Id. In
Hollingsworth, the Supreme Court explained,
id. at 2667: “The Article III requirement that
a party invoking the jurisdiction of a federal court seek
relief for a particularized injury serves vital interests
going to the role of the judiciary in our system of separated
Civ. P. 12(b)(1) governs motions to dismiss for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction. See Khoury v. Meserve,
628 F.Supp.2d 600, 606 (D. Md. 2003), aff'd, 85
F. App'x 960 (4th Cir. 2004). Under Rule 12(b)(1), the
plaintiff bears the burden of proving, by a preponderance of
evidence, the existence of subject matter jurisdiction.
See Demetres v. East West Const., Inc., 776 F.3d
271, 272 (4th Cir. 2015); see also Evans v. B.F. Perkins
Co., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999). A challenge to
subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) may proceed
“in one of two ways”: either a facial challenge,
asserting that the allegations pleaded in the complaint are
insufficient to establish subject matter jurisdiction, or a
factual challenge, asserting “‘that the
jurisdictional allegations of the complaint [are] not
true.'” Kerns v. United States,
585 F.3d 187, 192 (4th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted)
(alteration in original); see also Buchanan v. Consol.
Stores Corp., 125 F.Supp.2d 730, 736 (D. Md. 2001).
facial challenge, “the facts alleged in the complaint
are taken as true, and the motion must be denied if the
complaint alleges sufficient facts to invoke subject matter
jurisdiction.” Kerns, 585 F.3d at 192;
accord Clear Channel Outdoor, Inc. v. Mayor & City
Council of Baltimore, 22 F.Supp.3d 519, 524 (D. Md.
2014). In a factual challenge, on the other hand, “the
district court is entitled to decide disputed issues of fact
with respect to subject matter jurisdiction.”
Kerns, 585 F.3d at 192. In that circumstance, the
court “may regard the pleadings as mere evidence on the
issue and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without
converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment.”
Velasco v. Gov't of Indonesia, 370 F.3d 392, 398
(4th Cir. 2004); see also Richmond, Fredericksburg &
Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768
(4th Cir. 1991).
in this case raise a facial challenge to the Court's
subject matter jurisdiction, based on the four corners of the