United States District Court, D. Maryland
MILREACE M. MALONE, Plaintiff,
CIRCUIT COURT FOR BALTIMORE CITY, RICKY RICARDO MALONE, JR. Defendants.
K. BREDAR CHIEF JUDGE.
28, 2019, Plaintiff Milreace M. Malone filed the
above-captioned Complaint against the Circuit Court for
Baltimore City, Maryland and Ricky Ricardo Malone, Jr., an
inmate presently incarcerated in Pine Knot, Kentucky,
alleging “civil rights” violations and invoking
this Court's diversity jurisdiction. Compl. at p. 4, ECF
No. 1; Civil Cover Sheet, ECF No. 1-1. Plaintiff alleges that
her divorce proceedings from Mr. Malone have been “held
up” in the Circuit Court although she paid the $185 fee
on February 4, 2019. ECF No. 1 at 4-6. Plaintiff does not
claim a specific amount in controversy but states that she
“just want[s] a divorce.” Id. at 5.
also filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis.
ECF No. 2. Plaintiff's motion shall be granted; however,
for the reasons that follow, the Complaint must be dismissed.
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. 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).
all of Plaintiff's claims relate to her divorce
proceedings in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City.
“In sum, despite the superficial federal question
nature of this suit, the real purpose is plainly a domestic
relations issue that belongs to the Maryland state court. It
does not belong in federal court.” Aldmyr Sys.,
Inc. v. Friedman, 215 F.Supp.3d 440, 458 (D. Md. 2016)
(citing Lovern v. Edwards, 190 F.3d 648, 655 (4th
Cir. 1999) (“[F]ederal courts must guard against the
litigant who frames a pretextual federal issue solely for the
purpose of having a state-law claim adjudicated in the
federal system . . . .”)), aff'd, 679
Fed.Appx. 254 (4th Cir. 2017), cert. denied, 138
S.Ct. 321 (2017). Thus, the instant Complaint does not state
a claim that may be brought under this Court's federal
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 citizens of different states. The
statute “requires complete diversity among parties,
meaning that the citizenship of every plaintiff must be
different from the citizenship of every defendant.”
Cent. W.Va. Energy Co., Inc. v. Mtn. State Carbon,
LLC, 636 F.3d 101, 103 (4th Cir. 2011) (citing
Caterpillar, Inc. v. Lewis, 519 U.S. 61, 68 (1996)).
minimum, Plaintiff fails to state an amount in controversy.
Even if she satisfied the diversity requirements, however,
this Court is mindful that “[i]n granting diversity
jurisdiction to the district courts, Congress did not
authorize them to declare ab initio litigants'
rights and duties under family relations laws.”
Cole v. Cole, 633 F.2d 1083, 1087 (4th Cir. 1980).
Such issues have traditionally been reserved to the state or
municipal court systems with their expertise and professional
support staff. To determine whether the exception to federal
jurisdiction applies, district courts “must consider
the exact nature of the rights asserted or of the breaches
alleged.” Id. at 1088. The exception has been
found to apply “in matters which essentially pertain to
divorce, alimony, child custody, or child support
claims.” Tackett v. Tackett, 877 F.2d 60 (4th
Cir. 1989) (citing Cole, 633 F.2d at 1088).
previously stated, Plaintiff's claims stem directly from
proceedings surrounding her divorce from Defendant, which are
still ongoing in state court. To the extent she seeks
mandamus relief to force the State court to act on a pending
matter before that court, this Court has no jurisdiction to
command a State court to act. See Gurley v. Superior
Court of Mecklenburg Cty., 411 F.2d 586, 587 (4th Cir.
1969); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1361. Both the
absence of federal jurisdiction over domestic relations
cases, see Cherry v. Cherry, 438 F.Supp. 88 (D. Md.
1977) (dismissing diversity action that was brought ...