United States District Court, D. South Carolina
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
GORDON BAKER, Magistrate Judge.
a civil action filed by a pro se (non-prisoner)
litigant. Plaintiff has paid the full filing fee (DE# 1, $400
receipt number SCX200013360). Under Local Civil Rule
73.02(B)(2) of the United States District Court for the
District of South Carolina, pretrial proceedings in this
action have been referred to the assigned United States
Magistrate Judge. Having carefully reviewed the Complaint,
the Magistrate Judge recommends that this case be dismissed
without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction,
for the following reasons:
filed this federal Complaint on April 8, 2016. (DE# 1). In
such Complaint, Plaintiff indicates that on March 1, 2013, he
sued his landlord in state court for breach of contract,
fraud, and discrimination. ( Id. at 3, Â¶ III
"Statement of Claim"). He proceeded pro se
(i.e. without the assistance of counsel). Circuit Court Judge
Diane S. Goodstein presided over the state case, which went
to trial on April 8, 2014. See Zeng v. Coosaw Partners,
LLC, et al, Case No. 2013-CP-18-3687 (C.P. Dorchester
Cty. June 6, 2014). Plaintiff alleges that Judge Goodstein
"made a very obvious mistake to my case." (
Id. ). Plaintiff indicates he appealed the state
court decision to the South Carolina Court of Appeals, which
affirmed. See Zeng v. Coosaw Partners, LLC, 2015 WL
4755833 (S.C. Ct. App. Aug. 12, 2015).
indicates that he "removed" the state case to
federal court on May 15, 2015. See Zeng v. Coosaw
Partners LLC, D.S.C. Case No. 2:15-cv-2023-RMG-MGB (DE#
1, with 339 pages of attachments). Although Plaintiff refers
to "removal, " this is not accurate. The docket
reflects that Plaintiff simply filed a federal lawsuit on
such date. In that federal lawsuit, Plaintiff attempted to
re-litigate the issues that had been adjudicated in state
court. As the same claims had already been adjudicated
between the same parties in state court, this Court dismissed
the federal suit on the basis of res judicata. (
Id., DE# 38 at 6, "It is apparent from the face
of the second amended complaint that Plaintiff's
allegations were tried in state court" and that
"the parties in that case were identical to the parties
in the present case").
has now filed a second lawsuit in federal court. See Zeng
v. Coosaw Partners LLC, D.S.C. Case No.
2:16-cv-1097-RMG-MGB. In the present Complaint, Plaintiff
acknowledges that this Court dismissed his prior federal
lawsuit on March 11, 2016 "because I was tried in state
court before." (DE# 1 at 5). Plaintiff complains that
United States District Judge Gergel "ignore the
state's (sic) judge had made a mistake." (
Id., as in original). For relief, Plaintiff seeks
damages from state Circuit Judge Goodstein for her decision
in Plaintiff's state case. Plaintiff contends that Judge
Goodstein "should be required to compensate for all of
the damage caused by her mistake." (DE# 1 at 5).
Plaintiff does not seek any injunctive relief.
U.S.C. Â§ 1915 inapplicable
the Magistrate Judge observes that pre-screening under 28
U.S.C. Â§ 1915 is inapplicable in pro se,
non-prisoner, fee-paid cases (such as the present case).
See Chong Su Yi v. Social Sec. Admin., 554
F.Appx. 247 (4th Cir. 2014) ("Because Yi is neither a
prisoner nor proceeding in forma pauperis in
district court, the provisions of 28 U.S.C. Â§Â§ 1915(e)(2),
1915A (2006), permitting sua sponte dismissal of
complaints which fail to state a claim are inapplicable,
" but further observing that "frivolous complaints
are subject to dismissal pursuant to the inherent authority
of the court, even when the filing fee has been paid");
Bardes v. Magera, Case No. 2:08-487-PMD-RSC, 2008 WL
2627134 at *8-10 (D.S.C. June 25, 2008) (holding that
pre-screening under Â§ 1915 does not apply in pro se,
non-prisoner, fee-paid cases). Therefore, the Magistrate
Judge is not conducting initial review pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
Subject Matter Jurisdiction Lacking
payment of the full filing fee does not cure a lack of
subject matter jurisdiction. See, e.g., Myers v.
McKnight, Case No. 2:10-cv-3259-RMG-RSC, 2011 WL 221867
at *7 (D.S.C. Jan. 5, 2011) (dismissing lawsuit because it
concerned matters exclusively within the jurisdiction of the
state courts). This Court has the inherent authority to
review a Complaint to ensure that subject matter jurisdiction
exists. See, e.g., Davis v. Wilson, Case No.
9:13-cv-382-GRA-BHH, 2013 WL 1282024, *1 (D.S.C. Mar. 8,
2013), adopted by, 2013 WL 1282024 (D.S.C. March 27,
2013), aff'd by 539 F.Appx. 145 (4th Cir. 2013),
cert. denied, 134 S.Ct. 940 (2014), reh'g
denied, 134 S.Ct. 1371 (2014).
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). A federal district court may
sua sponte consider whether a valid basis for its
jurisdiction exists and must "dismiss the action if no
such ground appears." Id. at 352; see also
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."). Although the absence of
subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time during
the case, determining jurisdiction at the outset of the
litigation is the most efficient procedure. Lovern v.
Edwards, 190 F.3d 648, 654 (4th Cir.1999); and see,
e.g., Cuyler v. Dept. of Army, Case No.
3:14-cv-3228-CMC-SVH, 2014 WL 4635570 (D.S.C. Sept. 15, 2014)
(summarily dismissing without issuance of summons).
8(a)(1) requires that the complaint provide "a short and
plain statement of the grounds for the court's
jurisdiction." See Dracos v. Hellenic
Lines, Ltd., 762 F.2d 348, 350 (4th Cir.), cert.
denied, 474 U.S. 945 (1985) ("[P]laintiffs must
affirmatively plead the jurisdiction of the federal
court."). Even liberally construed, the Plaintiff's
present Complaint fails to allege facts that would provide
any proper basis for subject matter jurisdiction (under
either federal question or diversity jurisdiction). The
Complaint is therefore subject to summary dismissal. See,
e.g., Brunson v. United States, Case No.
3:14-cv-2540-JFA-PJG, 2014 WL 4402803 (D.S.C. Sept. 3, 2014)
(summarily dismissing complaint because allegations were
insufficient to establish subject matter jurisdiction);
Carter v. Ervin, Case No. 0:14-cv-865-TLW-PJG, 2014
WL 2468351 (D.S.C. June 2, 2014) (summarily dismissing
complaint without prejudice for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction), appeal dism'd by 585 F.Appx. 98
(4th Cir. 2014); Darby v. Cty. of Orangeburg, Case
No. 5:12-cv-2351-CMC-PJG, 2012 WL 4890221 (D.S.C. Sept. 26,
2012), adopted by, 2012 WL 4891581 (D.S.C. Oct. 15,
2012) (summarily dismissing fee-paid pro se case for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction); Stanfield v.
Wigger, Case No. 2:14-839-PMD, 2015 WL 58077, *3 (D.S.C.
Jan.5, 2015) (summarily dismissing fee-paid case filed by a
pro se litigant) (collecting cases).
present Complaint does not refer to any federal statute or
any specific constitutional rights. Although Plaintiff
generally refers to the right to a fair trial, he does not
allege any facts that would suggest any cognizable federal
claim. Although courts liberally construe pro se
pleadings, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has instructed
that courts should not "ignore a ...