United States District Court, D. Maryland
SUSAN E. PATTISHALL, Plaintiff
VINTON G. CERF, ROBERT E. KAHN, Defendants
RICHARD D. BENNETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
September 26, 2018, the Court received a Complaint filed by
Maryland resident Susan E. Pattishall. Pattishall invokes
diversity jurisdiction and seeks money damages in excess of
$3 million from two Virginia residents whom she alleges stole
“a pack of papers consisting of a collection of writing
authored by me, a ‘philosopher's stone (magnus
opus) theory of relativity, personal stories about
experiences and family, and a college assignment on the
elliptic orbit.” ECF No. 1 at 9, Claim 1, ¶ 10;
ECF No. 1 at 13-14, ¶ 42. The theft occurred in late
September or early October 1980, and occurred in a pizza bar
in Norfolk, Virginia. Id., ¶¶ 10-11.
Pattishall claims the Defendants sold her unpublished
manuscript to hostile foreign governments and others.
Id., pp. 7-8. Although the Defendants told her their
names during their 1980 encounter, Pattishall did not
remember their identities until she “saw their photos
together on Wikipedia quite recently.” Id., p.
9, ¶ 11.
addition to her Complaint, Pattishall has filed a Motion for
Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis (ECF No. 2), which shall
be granted. For the reasons that follow, the Complaint must
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. § 1915(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
(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 (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,
“[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.
the “well-pleaded complaint” rule, the facts
showing the existence of subject matter jurisdiction
“must be affirmatively alleged in the complaint.”
Pinkley, Inc. v. City of Frederick, 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 v. Friend, 599 U.S. 77, 95 (2010); McBurney v.
Cuccinelli, 616 F.3d 393, 408 (4th Cir. 2010).
statutory basis for diversity jurisdiction is found at 28
U.S.C. § 1332. Under 28 U.S.C. §1332(a), a federal
district court has original jurisdiction over all civil
actions where the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000,
exclusive of interest and costs, and is between:
(1) citizens of different states;
(2) citizens of a State and citizens or subjects of a foreign
state, except that the district courts shall not have
original jurisdiction under this subsection of an action
between citizens of a State and citizens or subjects of a
foreign state who are lawfully admitted for permanent
residence in the United States and are domiciled in the same
(3) citizens of different States and in which citizens or
subjects of a foreign state are additional parties; and
(4) a foreign state, defined in section 1603(a) of this
title, as plaintiff and citizens of a State or of different
statute “requires complete diversity among parties,
meaning that the citizenship of every plaintiff must be
different from the citizenship of every defendant.”
Central West Virginia Energy Co., Inc. v. Mountain State
Carbon, LLC, 636 F.3d 101, 103 (4th Cir. 2011), citing
Caterpillar, Inc. v. Lewis, 519 U.S. 61, 68 (1996).
appears that the Complaint satisfies the requirements for
diversity jurisdiction. Nonetheless, this Court is not the
appropriate forum for adjudication of Pattishall's
claims. The alleged theft occurred in Virginia, and both
Defendants reside there. “The district court of a
district in which is filed a case laying venue in the wrong
division or district shall dismiss, or if it be in the
interest of justice transfer such case to any district or
division in which it could have been brought.” 28
U.S.C. §1406(a). Given the significant deficiencies in
the Complaint,  the Complaint shall be dismissed without
prejudice to refiling in a more appropriate forum.