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Shuler v. Jenkins

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

May 28, 2019

Melodie Shuler, Plaintiff,
Carlene Jenkins; Calvin Hall, Defendants.



         The plaintiff, Melodie Shuler, proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights and personal injury action.[1] The Complaint has been filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. This matter is before the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2) (D.S.C.). Having reviewed the Complaint in accordance with applicable law, the court finds this action is subject to summary dismissal if Plaintiff does not amend the Complaint to cure the jurisdictional deficiencies identified herein.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

          Plaintiff indicates she signed a lease with Defendant Carlene Jenkins in January 2015, but Jenkins never left the residence and moved her daughter into the leased premises without offsetting the rent.[2] (Compl. ¶ 97, ECF No. 3 at 28.) Plaintiff claims Jenkins told her that if she moved to South Carolina, Jenkins would give Plaintiff some nearby land where Plaintiff could practice law. (Id. ¶ 104, ECF No. 3 at 30.) Plaintiff also claims she paid Jenkins's entire mortgage and utility bills and moved to South Carolina with her family in reliance on this statement. (Id.)

         Additionally, Plaintiff alleges Jenkins made false statements to the police department and supported the police officer's suggestion that Plaintiff be evicted. (Id. ¶ 98, ECF No. 3 at 28.) Plaintiff claims she and her family moved out of the residence at some point but when they returned to gather their property, Jenkins damaged $1, 250.00 worth of Plaintiff's personal property and scattered the property throughout the premises. (Id.) Plaintiff also claims Jenkins threw away Plaintiff's two pet turtles. (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that despite being current on her rent payments, Jenkins's son, Calvin Hall, changed the locks to the residence while Plaintiff was away on a work trip on January 9, 2016. (Id. ¶ 101, ECF No. 3 at 29.) Plaintiff claims that when she returned, she and her children tried to enter the residence but Jenkins blocked them from entering, pushed Plaintiff, and swung an axe “near” Shuler and her family, and Shuler's husband had to subdue Jenkins. (Id. ¶¶ 101, 130, ECF No. 3 at 29, 34.) Plaintiff also claims Jenkins made false statements to law enforcement that Plaintiff kicked down Jenkins's door, assaulted her, and threatened her. (Id. ¶ 209, ECF No. 3 at 46-47.)

         Plaintiff expressly raises claims of breach of contract, specific performance, and common law battery against Jenkins. (Id., ECF No. 3 at 28-30, 34-35.) Plaintiff also expressly raises claim against Jenkins and Hall for defamation, (id., ECF No. 3 at 46-47), and civil conspiracy pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985, (id., ECF No. 3 at 44-46). Finally, Plaintiff raises claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligence, and state constitutional violations against all of the defendants listed in the pleading, but Plaintiff does not provide any allegations specific to Jenkins and Hall as to these claims.

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of the pro se Complaint. The Complaint has been filed pursuant to 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. This statute allows a district court to dismiss the case upon a finding that the action “is frivolous or malicious, ” “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, ” or “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         This court is required to liberally construe pro se complaints, which are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); King v. Rubenstein, 825 F.3d 206, 214 (4th Cir. 2016). Nonetheless, 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 cognizable in a federal district court. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009) (outlining pleading requirements under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for “all civil actions”).

         B. Analysis

         The instant case is subject to summary dismissal because Plaintiff fails to demonstrate federal jurisdiction over his claim. Federal 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). Accordingly, a federal court is required, sua sponte, to determine if a valid basis for its jurisdiction exists, “and to 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).

         There is no presumption that a federal court has jurisdiction over a case, Pinkley, Inc. v. City of Frederick, 191 F.3d 394, 399 (4th Cir. 1999), and a plaintiff must allege facts essential to show jurisdiction in his pleadings. McNutt v. Gen. Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 189 (1936); see also Dracos v. Hellenic Lines, Ltd., 762 F.2d 348, 350 (4th Cir. 1985) (“[P]laintiffs must affirmatively plead the jurisdiction of the federal court.”). To this end, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ...

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