United States District Court, D. Maryland
Catherine C. Blake United States District Judge
April 20, 2018, Chantel Johnson filed a complaint against
Pinda Marie McKoy, Achike Christopher Oranye, Dale Meyers,
Steven Taylor, Jonathan Schoemann, and the Baltimore City
Housing Authority. ECF No. 1. She also filed a motion to
proceed in forma pauperis. ECF No. 2. Ms. Johnson indicates
that the complaint involves a U.S. Government defendant and
also invokes this court's diversity jurisdiction.
See Compl. at 4; Civil Cover Sheet, ECF No. 1-1. For
the reasons stated below, the motion to proceed in forma
pauperis will be granted and the complaint will be dismissed.
filed this complaint in forma pauperis pursuant to 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. § l9l5(e)(2)(B)(i) and (ii). This
court is mindful, however, of its obligation to liberally
construe self-represented pleadings, such as the instant
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 93-94
(citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555-56 (2007)). Nonetheless, liberal construction does
not mean that this 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, 390-31 (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 to them."). In making this
determination, "[t]he district court need not look
beyond the complaint's allegations." White v.
White, 886 F.2d 721, 722-723 (4th Cir. 1989).
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and "may not
exercise jurisdiction absent a statutory basis."
Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545
U.S. 546, 552 (2005). They "have an independent
obligation to determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction
exists, even when no party challenges it." Hertz
Corp. v. Friend, 559 U.S. 77, 94 (2010). The facts
showing the existence of subject matter jurisdiction
"must be affirmatively alleged in the complaint."
Pinkley, Inc. v. City of Frederick, MD, 191 F.3d
394, 399 (4th Cir.1999) (citing McNutt v. Gen'l
Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178 (1936)). "A
court is to presume, therefore, that a case lies outside its
limited jurisdiction unless and until jurisdiction has been
shown to be proper." United States v. Poole,
531 F.3d 263, 274 (4th Cir.2008) (citing Kokkonen v.
Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)).
Moreover, the "burden of establishing subject matter
jurisdiction is on . . . the party asserting
jurisdiction." Robb Evans & Assocs., LLC v.
Holibaugh., 609 F.3d 359, 362 (4th Cir. 2010); accord
"Hertz, 559 U.S. at 96; McBurney v.
Cuccimlli, 616 F.3d 393, 408 (4th Cir. 2010).
of citizenship jurisdiction exists "where the matter in
controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive
of interest and costs, and is between . . . citizens of
different States." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1).
"From the beginning of the diversity jurisdiction, the
rule in actions commenced by plaintiffs in federal court has
been that the citizenship of the parties at the time of
commencement of the action determines whether the requisite
diversity exists." Rowland v. Patterson, 882
F.2d 97, 98 (4th Cir.1989). "Courts have consistently
interpreted § 1332 and its predecessors to require
complete diversity such that the state of citizenship of each
plaintiff must be different from that of each
defendant." Athena Auto., Inc. v. DiGregorio,
166 F.3d 288, 290 (4th Cir. 1999). Here, the plaintiff
resides in Maryland. Only one of the defendants named is
alleged to be a citizen of a different state. Compl. at 2-3.
The remaining defendants are residents of Maryland, defeating
the possibility of diversity jurisdiction. Id.
Additionally, there, are no U.S. Government defendants
substance of the complaint does not provide any other basis
for jurisdiction over the claims asserted. Rather, the
allegations are speculative at best, and seem to connect
unrelated events to impugn the actions of two defendants,
while asserting no specific claims against the remaining
defendants. Plaintiff alleges that defendant Oranye and McKoy
shared her confidential medical information with others
without her authorization and points to a series of
subsequent events involving store clerks, a child custody
case filed by the father of her children, strangers she
encounters on public transportation, medical care providers,
and others as "proof that this unspecified information
was improperly disseminated. See generally Compl. at
7-16. Although a complaint need not contain detailed
allegations, the facts alleged must be enough to raise a
right to relief above the speculative level and require
"more than labels and conclusions, " as
'"courts are not bound to accept as true a legal
conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'"
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quoting Papsan v.
Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). The Complaint must
contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face." Id. at 570. Once a
claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by
showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in
the complaint. Id. at 563. This complaint does not
adequately state a federal claim.
affording this complaint a generous construction, the nature
of any federal claims that might exist and the jurisdictional
basis for the complaint cannot be discerned. The complaint
does not "give the defendant fair notice of what the
plaintiffs claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests." Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & ...