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Hardin v. Streets

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Spartanburg Division

July 28, 2014

James Edward Hardin, # 275030, Plaintiff,
Amy Streets, Defendant.


KEVIN F. McDONALD, Magistrate Judge.

The plaintiff is an inmate at the Broad River Correctional Institution where he is serving sentences for armed robbery, kidnapping, and assault with intent to kill entered in the Court of General Sessions for Spartanburg County in 2001. The plaintiff must also serve a consecutive sentence of 125 months for three firearms-related convictions entered in United States v. James Edward Hardin, Criminal No. 7:00-314-GRA-2 (D.S.C.). The defendant is a resident of Spartanburg, South Carolina. In the right column of the caption of the complaint, the plaintiff indicates that the abovecaptioned case is a breach of contract action brought pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 32-3-10 "and or" S.C. Code Ann. § 27-35-20.

In the "STATEMENT OF CLAIM" portion of the complaint, the plaintiff alleges that he entered into an agreement with the defendant for her to edit the plaintiff's 300 page manuscript (doc. 1 at 3). According to the plaintiff, the agreement stated that the defendant was to receive $300 in advance to begin the project, $50 for software, $250 for labor, plus additional payments upon the completion of the project ( Id. ). The plaintiff alleges that: (1) In August of 2013, the defendant told him that her computer could not carry out the task ( Id. ); (2) The plaintiff immediately began to request that the defendant return the plaintiff's manuscript to him; and (3) The plaintiff is bringing this civil action because the defendant has not returned the manuscript ( Id. ). In his prayer for relief, the plaintiff seeks return of the manuscript and the $300 that he has paid to defendant ( Id. at 5).

Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of the pro se complaint pursuant to the procedural provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915. The plaintiff is a pro se litigant, and thus the plaintiff's pleadings are accorded liberal construction. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 90-95 (2007)( per curiam ). When a federal court is evaluating a pro se complaint or petition, the plaintiff's or petitioner's allegations are assumed to be true. Merriweather v. Reynolds, 586 F.Supp.2d 548, 554 (D.S.C. 2008). Even under this less stringent standard, the complaint is subject to summary dismissal. The requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts that set forth a claim currently cognizable in a federal district court. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 390-91 (4th Cir. 1990).

There is no basis for federal question jurisdiction in this case under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because the defendant, as a private citizen who allegedly contracted with the plaintiff, has not acted under color of state law. See American Mfr. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 50-52 (1999).

This federal court does not have diversity jurisdiction to consider any state law claims pursuant to the South Carolina Code of Laws because the plaintiff and the defendant are citizens of South Carolina. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332; and Strawbridge v. Curtiss, 7 U.S. (3 Cranch) 267, 267 (1806). Moreover, the jurisdictional amount (in excess of $75, 000) required by the diversity statute is obviously not met in the above-captioned case. See, e.g., Bennett v. Coca-Cola Co., Civil Action No. 2:11-3368-TMC-JDA, 2012 WL 260010, at *3 (D.S.C. Jan. 4, 2012) (collecting cases in and outside the District of South Carolina), adopted by 2012 WL 256550 (D.S.C. Jan. 27, 2012).

Since there is no basis for federal question or diversity jurisdiction in this case, this federal court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over the above-captioned case, and the case should be dismissed. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3) ("If the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.").

Based on the foregoing, it is recommended that the district court summarily dismiss the above-captioned case without prejudice and without service of process. The plaintiff's attention is directed to the Notice on the next page.

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