United States District Court, D. Maryland
RICHARD D. BENNETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Plaintiff Branden Jay Thomas brings this action for damages
against his former trial counsel, Patricia Cresta Savage,
alleging that she willfully hindered his ability to present
evidence that would have allowed the jury to consider
punitive damages, pain and suffering, and lost wages. (ECF
No. 1 at p. 6).
represented Thomas at trial in Thomas v. PFC Ryan A.
Flanagan, Civil Action No. WDQ-13-685 (D. Md.). On
September 23, 2015, a jury found Defendant Flanagan liable on
all claims including false arrest, false imprisonment,
excessive force, and assault and battery. The jury verdict
awarded Thomas compensatory damages, but denied punitive
damages and did not award compensatory damages for future
lost wages. On September 24, 2015the Honorable William D.
Quarles, Jr. entered judgment in favor of Thomas and awarded
a him $1, 500 for past medical expenses, $25, 000 for past
lost wages, and $18, 500 for noneconomic damages.
October 13, 2015, Thomas moved for a new trial on damages.
Judge Quarles denied the Motion for a New Trial on January
20, 2016. Civil Action No. WDQ-13-685 (D. Md.), ECF No. 61,
62. Savage filed the satisfaction of judgment on February 29,
2016. Id. at ECF No. 63.
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, “constrained
to exercise only the authority conferred by Article III of
the Constitution and affirmatively granted by federal
statute.” In re Bulldog Trucking, Inc., 147
F.3d 347, 352 (4th Cir. 1998). Since federal courts have
limited subject matter jurisdiction, there is no presumption
that the court has jurisdiction. Pinkley, Inc. v. City of
Frederick, 191 F.3d 394, 399 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing
Lehigh Mining & Mfg. Co. v. Kelly, 160 U.S. 337
(1895)). Accordingly, a federal court is required, sua
sponte, to determine if a valid basis for its
jurisdiction exists, “and to dismiss the action if no
such ground appears.” Bulldog Trucking, 147
F.3d at 352; see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3)
(“Whenever it appears ... that the court lacks
jurisdiction of the subject matter, the court shall dismiss
the action.”). Generally, a case can be originally
filed in a federal district court only if there is
“federal question” jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1331 or “diversity of citizenship” under
28 U.S.C. § 1332, and “[t]he facts providing the
court jurisdiction must be affirmatively alleged in the
complaint.” Davis v. Pak, 856 F.2d 648, 650
(4th Cir. 1988) (citing McNutt v. General Motors
Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178 (1936)). Although the
absence of subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any
time during the case, determining jurisdiction at the
beginning of the litigation is the most efficient procedure;
Lovern v. Edwards, 190 F.3d 648, 654 (4th Cir.
1999); and if the court, viewing the allegations in the light
most favorable to the plaintiff, finds insufficient
allegations in the pleadings, the court will lack subject
matter jurisdiction. Id. 
summarily avers this Court has federal question jurisdiction
over his claims based the “underlying case. 42 U.S.C.
1983, 1985, 1988.” (ECF No. 1 at p. 4). Conclusory
allegations in the complaint are insufficient to support
jurisdiction.” Burgess v. Charlottesville
Sav. and Loan Ass'n, 477 F.2d 40, 43 (4th Cir.
1973). Thomas' allegations in the current Complaint,
however, do not support a federal civil rights action;
rather, they are premised at most on state claims of
negligence or legal malpractice.
Thomas does not identify any conduct by the Defendant which
could possibly be construed as a deprivation of the
Plaintiff's constitutional rights. An attorney, whether
retained, court-appointed, or a public defender, does not act
under color of state law, which is a jurisdictional
prerequisite for any civil action brought under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. See Deas v. Potts, 547 F.2d 800 (4th
Cir.1976) (private attorney); Hall v. Quillen, 631
F.2d 1154, 1155-1156 & nn. 2-3 (4th Cir.1980)
(court-appointed attorney); Polk County v. Dodson,
454 U.S. 312, 317-324 & nn. 8-16 (1981) (public
these reasons, the Court will dismiss this case without
prejudice for lack of jurisdiction by separate Order to
 Thomas does not allege, nor does the
Complaint suggest, grounds for jurisdiction based on
diversity of citizenship of the parties since both parties