United States District Court, D. Maryland
J. MESSITTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Phoebe Smith, a resident of College Park, Maryland, filed a
Complaint and a Motion to Proceed in Forma
Pauperis. Smith asserts she is entitled to $800 from
Olivia Agbo, a resident of Laurel, Maryland, due to a
misunderstanding over the purchase of cell phones. ECF 1. For
reasons noted herein, the Complaint must be dismissed.
court is mindful of its obligation to liberally construe
self-represented pleadings, such as Smith'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 federal court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to
allege facts which 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, 722-723 (4th Cir. 1989).
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 action 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.”
Under the “well-pleaded complaint doctrine, ”
federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is
presented on the face of a 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). .
affording Smith's claim the most liberal construction,
the Complaint fails to present a federal claim cognizable
under § 1331. At best, the Complaint alleges a contract
dispute between two Maryland, non-federal parties. This Court
only has authority to review such claims when filed by a
party who establishes diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.
party seeks to invoke diversity jurisdiction under §
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, both parties
reside in Maryland. Thus, any vague allegation of a
contractual dispute cannot meet federal diversity
the Complaint shall be dismissed without prejudice by
separate Order which follows.
 Smith's $4, 000.00 monthly income
is sufficient to cover this Court's $400filing fee, even
after consideration of her living expenses. Because it
appears that Smith may have filed her Complaint in the wrong
court, the undersigned will deny her in forma pauperis
status, and decline to assess the filing fee.
 Smith is not without remedy. She may
pursue her claim in the Maryland state district (small