United States District Court, D. South Carolina
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
KAYMANI D. WEST FLORENCE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
a civil action filed by a pro se litigant requesting to
proceed in forma pauperis. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§636(b)(1), and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e)
(D.S.C.), this magistrate judge is authorized to review all
pretrial matters in such pro se cases and to submit findings
and recommendations to the district court.
Blackstock (“Plaintiff”) alleges that Defendant
Weinbaum, a psychiatrist, misdiagnosed her condition and
negatively affected her health by prescribing strong
medication that she really did not need to take. ECF No. 1 at
4-6. Plaintiff seeks $30, 000.00 in damages. Id. at
4. Plaintiff asserts that this case is brought under
federal-question jurisdiction and lists “Title 15,
Chapter 3545 (medical malpractice/medical negligence),
” as being “at issue in this case.” ECF No.
1 at 3. The undersigned notes that “Title 15, Chapter
3545” does not appear to reference either a State of
South Carolina or federal statute.
Standard of Review
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
review has been conducted in light of the following
precedents: Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319,
324-25 (1989); Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97
(1976); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972);
Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147 (4th Cir. 1978).
Complaint in this case was filed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915,
which permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in
federal court without prepaying the administrative costs of
proceeding with the lawsuit. To protect against possible
abuses of this privilege, the statute allows a district court
to dismiss the case upon a finding that the action
“fails to state a claim on which relief may be
granted” or is “frivolous or malicious.” 28
U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B)(I), (ii). Hence, under 28 U.S.C.
§1915(e)(2)(B), a claim based on a meritless legal
theory may be dismissed sua sponte. Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319 (1989).
court is required to liberally construe pro se pleadings,
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. at 97, holding them to a
less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys,
Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5 (1980). The mandated
liberal construction afforded pro se pleadings means that if
the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid
claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so,
but a district court may not rewrite a pleading to
“conjure up questions never squarely presented”
to the court. Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d
1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). The requirement of liberal
construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear
failure in the pleading to allege facts which 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). Even under this less stringent
standard, however, the pro se Complaint under review in this
case is subject to summary dismissal.
mere mention of a federal statute in a complaint does not
create federal-question jurisdiction. Hill v.
Marston, 13 F.3d 1548, 1550 (11th Cir. 1994). Rather,
federal-question jurisdiction requires that a party assert a
substantial federal claim. Hagans v. Lavine, 415
U.S. 528, 536 (1976); see also Baker v. Carr, 369
U.S. 186, 199 (1962) (holding that if jurisdiction is based
on a federal question, the plaintiff must show that he has
alleged a claim under federal law that is not frivolous).
Here, Plaintiff's allegations are wholly inadequate to
allege a substantial federal claim. As a result, this case
should be summarily dismissed.
order for this court to hear and decide a case, the court
must, first, have jurisdiction over the subject matter of the
litigation. This federal court has an “independent
obligation” to investigate the limits of its
subject-matter jurisdiction. See Arbaugh v. Y&H
Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 514 (2006). This is so even when
the parties “either overlook or elect not to
press” the issue, Henderson v. Shinseki, 562
U.S. 428, 434-35 (2011), or attempt to consent to a
court's jurisdiction. See Sosna v. Iowa, 419
U.S. 393, 398 (1975). Our obligation to examine our
subject-matter jurisdiction is triggered whenever that
jurisdiction is “fairly in doubt.” Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 671 (2009). It is well settled
that federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They
possess only that power authorized by Constitution and
statute, Willy v. Coastal Corp., 503 U.S. 131,
136-37 (1992); Bender v. Williamsport Area Sch.
Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 541 (1986), which is not to be
expanded by judicial decree. See Kokkonen v. Guardian
Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994) (internal
citations omitted); American Fire & Cas. Co. v.
Finn, 341 U.S. 6 (1951). It is to be presumed that a
cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction, Turner v.
Bank of N. Am., 4 U.S. (4 Dall.) 8, 11 (1799), and the
burden of establishing the contrary rests upon the party
asserting jurisdiction. McNutt v. Gen. Motors Acceptance
Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 182-83 (1936). The two most
commonly recognized and utilized bases for federal court
jurisdiction are (1) “federal question, ” 28
U.S.C. § 1331, and (2) “diversity of
citizenship.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The allegations
contained in the Complaint filed by Plaintiff in this case do
not fall within the scope of either form of this court's
limited jurisdiction, and there is no other basis for federal
jurisdiction evident on the face of the pleading.
there is clearly no basis for a finding of diversity
jurisdiction over this Complaint.
diversity statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), requires
complete diversity of parties and an amount in controversy in
excess of seventy-five thousand dollars ($75, 000.00):
(a) The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of
all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the
sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of ...