United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
ELEANORA L. BOOKER-PROCTOR, Plaintiff,
LESLIE JACKSON, CREATE & LEARN LLC, PAUL.JACKSON, ABDOVV FAMILY LLC, SHIPLEY & HORNE, P.A., Defendants.
J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Eleanora L. Booker-Proctor, a resident of District Heights.
Maryland. Hied a Complaint and a Motion lo Proceed in Forma
Pauperis. In her eight-count Complaint. Plaintiff
alleges that Defendants fraudulently induced Plaintiff lo
enter into a lease agreement with Leslie Downing for the
purpose of leasing space within a building, requiring
Plaintiff to obtain a peace order for her own
protection." ECF No. I. Booker-Proctor has not provided
service copies of the Complaint or the addresses of the
Defendants. For reasons provided herein, the Complaint must
be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Court is mindful of its obligation to liberally construe
self-represented pleadings. such as Booker-Proctor'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 that
set forth a cognizable claim. See Weller v. Dep't of
Soc. Services for City of Baltimore. 901 F.2d 387. 391
(4th Cir. 1990); sec also Beaudett v. City of
Hampton. 775 F.2d 1274. 1278 (4th Cir. 1985) (stating a
district court may not "conjure up questions never
Court may consider subject matter jurisdiction as part of its
initial review of the Complaint. Bee Lovern v.
Edwards, 190 F.3d 648. 654 (4th Cir. 1999)
("Determining 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, 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 certainly
whether it has subject matter jurisdiction over a case
pending before it. See Brickwood Contractors. Inc. v.
Datanet Engineering. Inc., 369 F.3d 385. 390 (4th Cir.
2004) ("questions 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"): .sec also Joseph v. Leavitt. 465 F.3d
87. 89 (2d Cir. 2006) ("we have an independent
obligation to consider the presence or absence of subject
matter jurisdiction sua sponte").
district 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 plaintiffs
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 SAPS. Inc., 377 F.3d 355. 362 (4th Cir. 2004)
(quoting Merrell Daw 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 plaintiffs claim:
(2) when a plaintiffs 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 plaintiffs right to relief necessarily depends on
resolution of a substantial question of federal law.
Id. (internal citations and quotations omitted).
affording Booker-Proctor's claims the most liberal
construction, the Complaint fails to present a federal claim
cognizable under § 133 1. At best, the Complaint alleges
a contract dispute between Booker-Proctor and five
non-federal parlies. Therefore, the Court only has authority to
review such claims if Plaintiff can establish diversity
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
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); see also Gonzalez v.
Fairgate Properties Co., N.V., 241 F.Supp.2d 512. 517
(P. Md. 2002) ("[t]he burden of establishing
diversity jurisdiction rests with the party seeking to
litigate in federal court"). 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 P.2d 75. 76 (8th Cir. 1988) (citing
Strawbridge v. Curtiss, 7 U.S. (3 Cranch) 267. 2
L.Ed. 435 (1806)). Booker-Proctor is a resident of Maryland.
While she does not provide addresses for any of the
Defendants, she certifies that a copy of the Complaint was
sent via mail to Defendant Shipley & Home at an address
in Largo. Maryland. ECF No. 1 at 5. In addition, web pages
for Shipley & Home, as well as Defendant Abdow Family
LLC. suggest that they are Maryland residents. Because Plaintiff
has not established that complete diversity amongst the
parties exists, the Court does not have diversity
jurisdiction and the case may not proceed.
absence of any basis for subject matter jurisdiction, the
Court shall dismiss the Complaint without prejudice by
separate Order, which follows.
In her indigency application, Plaintiff
lists her name as Eleanora A. Wells Booker. Despite this
discrepancy, she will be granted in forma pauperis status for
the purpose of initial review. ECF No. 2.
Plaintiff brings her Complaint against
a number of defendants, and references "Defendant
Leslie." However, Leslie Downing is not named as a
Defendant in this action. Moreover, although Booker-Proctor
claims to have obtained a peace order against Downing.
Maryland's electronic docket reveals that a peace order,
valid through January 9, 2018. has been entered against