United States District Court, D. Maryland
L. HOLLANDER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
self-represented plaintiff, Stephen Johnson, filed suit
against Brittany Davis and “John Doe 1-10.” ECF
The suit concerns a default order entered against Johnson in
a paternity action initiated by Davis in the Circuit Court
for Anne Arundel County, Maryland. ECF 1-1 (“Affadavit
of Truth”); see also Davis v. Johnson, No.
C-02-FM-17-000583 (Anne Arundel Co. Cir. Ct. 2017) at
Johnson has also filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis.
ECF 2. Because Johnson appears to be indigent, his motion
shall be granted.
1915(a)(1) of Title 28 of the U.S. Code permits an indigent
litigant to commence an action in this court without
prepaying the filing fee. To guard against possible abuses of
this privilege, however, 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).
court is mindful of its obligation to construe liberally the
pleadings of a pro se litigant. 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 Complaint to allege
facts that set forth a cognizable claim or jurisdiction in
this court. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs.,
901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990); White v. White, 886
F.2d 721, 722-723 (4th Cir. 1989); 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.”). Johnson's complaint
must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction and for failure to
state a claim.
to Johnson, a paternity proceeding was initiated against him
in Maryland while he was living in Atlanta, Georgia. ECF 1-1
at 1-2. A default order was issued by the Circuit Court for
Anne Arundel County, Maryland on May 10, 2017. See Davis
v. Johnson, No. C-02-FM-17-000583 (Anne Arundel Co. Cir.
Ct. 2017), see also ECF 1-1 at 1. However,
Johnson's current address is listed as Crownsville,
Maryland and Davis's address is also located in Maryland.
ECF 1 at 1.
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). A federal court has “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).
Diversity jurisdiction, which Johnson seemingly invokes
(see ECF 1-3), applies “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). The
only named parties in the complaint are living in Maryland.
Thus, diversity jurisdiction does not exist here.
to the extent that Johnson is challenging the validity of a
state court order regarding paternity and child support, he
may not bring such a challenge to this court. This
court's jurisdiction does not extend to matters regarding
child custody, paternity, or divorce. See Cantor
v. Cohen, 442 F.3d 196, 202 (4th Cir. 2006); see
also Cole v. Cole, 633 F.2d 1083, 1087 (4th Cir. 1980)
(noting that federal courts “generally abstain from
child custody matters”); Raftery v. Scott, 756
F.2d 335, 343 (4th Cir. 1985) (Michael, J. concurring)
(discussing domestic relations exception to federal
courts' jurisdiction because state has a stronger more
direct interest); Wasserman v. Wasserman, 671 F.2d
832, 834 (4th Cir. 1982) (stating that “diversity
jurisdiction does not include power to grant divorces,
determine alimony or support obligations, or decide child
extent that Johnson attempts to assert a federal claim
through recitation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the
Constitution and provisions of the Code of Federal
Regulations, he has failed to name a state actor as a
defendant. ECF 1-2 at 1. The named defendant is a private
limited circumstances seemingly private conduct can qualify
as state action. The Fourth Circuit has “recognized
four exclusive circumstances under which a private party can
be deemed to be a state actor: ‘(1) when the state has
coerced the private actor to commit an act that would be
unconstitutional if done by the state; (2) when the state has
sought to evade a clear constitutional duty through
delegation to a private actor; (3) when the state has
delegated a traditionally and exclusively public function to
a private actor; or (4) when the state has committed an
unconstitutional act in the course of enforcing a right of a
private citizen.” DeBauche v. Trani, 191 F.3d
499, 507 (4th Cir. 1999) (quoting Andrews v. Fed. Home
Loan Bank of Atlanta, 998 F.2d 214, 217 (4th Cir.
1993)). Davis's institution of a paternity suit for
purposes of securing child support, the conduct alleged
against the defendant here, does not fall within these four
categories of conduct. “If the conduct does not fall
into one of these four categories, then the private conduct
is not an action of the state.” Andrews, 998
F.2d at 217.
 Plaintiff describes John Doe 1-10 as
follows: “Any entity, man or woman representing,
assitting [sic] or aiding fraudulent contract is subject to
total amount setforth [sic] ...