United States District Court, D. Maryland
CATHERINE C. BLAKE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
plaintiff Leonardo Rivera filed the above-captioned complaint
on November 6, 2019, together with a motion to proceed in
forma pauperis, which the court grants. For the reasons that
follow, the complaint must be dismissed without requiring a
response from defendants.
is suing James Bryant in and the Maryland Motor Vehicles
Administration ("MVA") in connection with
Rivera's purchase of a truck from Bryant for the sum of
$800 and his inability to obtain a certificate of title for
it from the MVA. ECF 1 at 7-9. According to Rivera, Bryant
represented that the title to the truck was clear, but when
Rivera attempted to obtain a certificate of title from the
MVA, he learned that the title was encumbered and a
certificate could not be issued.- Id. Rivera
contacted Bryant on several occasions to attempt to have him
correct the issue with the title, but Rivera claims Bryant
simply kept repeating that the sale was "final" and
he was not interested in doing anything further with the sale
or the transfer of the truck to Rivera. Id.
Meanwhile, Rivera spent additional money to have the truck
towed and to have repairs made to the truck. Id. As
relief Rivera seeks $2500 in damages for breach of
contract and $2500 for pain and suffering from Bryant; and he
seeks a writ of mandamus requiring the MVA to issue a
corrected title for the truck. Id. at 19-20.
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 93-94
(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. Serv's., 901
F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990); see also Beaudett v. City
of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985) (stating
a district court need 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, however, 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,
722-23 (4th Cir. 1989).
relief is not available from this court when sought against a
State agency, as Rivera seeks here. Under 28 U.S.C. §
1361 the federal district courts have original jurisdiction
of any action in the nature of mandamus to compel an officer
or employee of the United States or one of its agencies to
perform a duty owed to a petitioner. However, federal
district courts have no mandamus jurisdiction over State
employees or agencies, such as the MVA. Gurley v.
Superior Court of Mecklenburg Cnty., 411 F.2d 586, 587
(4th Cir. 1969). To the extent that the MVA is improperly
refusing to issue a title, Rivera may seek mandamus in the
appropriate Maryland state court.
Rivera's"claims against Bryant, they arise under
state law, and may only be brought in this court if the
complaint satisfies the requirements of this court's
diversity jurisdiction. Federal 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, 191 F.3d 394,
399 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing McNutt v. Gen. Motors
Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 189 (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. of Am., 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); see
also Hertz, 599 U.S. at 96; McBurney v.
Cuccinelli, 616 F.3d 393, 408 (4th Cir. 2010).
jurisdiction 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). While Rivera and
Bryant are citizens of different States, the amount in
controversy is not satisfied. "The test for determining
jurisdiction based upon the amount involved is primarily one
of good faith." Gauldin v. Va. Winn Dixie,
Inc., 370 F.2d 167, 170 n.l (4th Cir. 1966). "[I]f
it appears to a legal certainty that the plaintiff cannot
recover the jurisdictional amount," the case should be
dismissed for want of jurisdiction; McDonald v.
Patton, 240 F.2d 424, 426 (4th Cir. 1957) (citing
St. Paul Mercury Indemnity Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303
U.S. 283, 289 (1938)). The plaintiffs good faith cannot be
assumed by this court where, as here, it appears to a legal
certainty that the claim is really for less than the
jurisdictional amount of $75, 000. See St. Paul, 303
U.S. at 289 ("It must appear to a legal certainty that
the claim is really for less than the jurisdictional amount
to justify dismissal"). At issue here is the purchase of
a truck for less than one-thousand dollars. Rivera's
claim for monetary damages totals $5000, exclusive of his
request for attorney's fees, which may not be included in
determining the amount in controversy.
the court does not have jurisdiction and the complaint will
be dismissed. A separate order follows.
 Rivera brings three claims for relief.
The first is against Bryant for breach of contract. ECF 1 at
9. The second is against Bryant for violations of Title 13 of
the Maryland Transportation Code, relating to certificates of
title and registration of vehicles. Id. at 12. The
third is against the MVA and appears to allege that Rivera is
entitled to a writ of mandamus pursuant to provisions of the
Maryland Constitution and the 14th Amendment of the U.S.
Constitution. Id. at 14-15.
 Rivera also seeks to recover $5000 in
attorney's fees. ECF I at ...