United States District Court, D. South Carolina
ORDER AND NOTICE
V. Hodges United States Magistrate Judge.
Jerome McMillan (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se
and in forma pauperis, filed this complaint against Ratner
Companies and Dennis Ratner (collectively,
“Defendants”), alleging breach of contract.
Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B)
and Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e) (D.S.C.), the undersigned
is authorized to review such complaints for relief and submit
findings and recommendations to the district judge.
Factual and Procedural Background
alleges his wife visited a friend in Florida in 2013. [ECF
No. 1 at 5]. He asserts his wife's friend worked for
Ratner Companies and told his wife that Plaintiff lied to the
court in a prior legal action against Ratner Companies.
Id. Plaintiff states his wife used that information
against him during divorce proceedings. Id.
Plaintiff seeks $10, 000, 000. Id.
Standard of Review
filed his complaint 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. To protect against possible
abuses of this privilege, the statute allows a district court
to dismiss a 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). A
finding of frivolity can be made where the complaint lacks an
arguable basis either in law or in fact. Denton v.
Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992). A claim based on a
meritless legal theory may be dismissed sua sponte under 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). See Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989).
complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those
drafted by attorneys. Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d
1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). A federal court is charged with
liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant
to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case.
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In
evaluating a pro se complaint, the plaintiff's
allegations are assumed to be true. Fine v. City of
N.Y., 529 F.2d 70, 74 (2d Cir. 1975). The mandated
liberal construction afforded to 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. Nevertheless, 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.
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
is no presumption that a federal court has jurisdiction over
a case, Pinkley, Inc. v. City of Frederick, MD., 191
F.3d 394, 399 (4th Cir. 1999), and a plaintiff must allege
facts essential to show jurisdiction in his pleadings.
McNutt v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S.
178, 189-90 (1936); see also Dracos v. Hellenic Lines,
Ltd., 762 F.2d 348, 350 (4th Cir. 1985)
must affirmatively plead the jurisdiction of the federal
court.”). To this end, Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(1) requires
the complaint provide “a short and plain statement of
the grounds for the court's jurisdiction[.]” When a
complaint fails to include “an affirmative pleading of
a jurisdictional basis[, ] a federal court may find that it
has jurisdiction if the facts supporting jurisdiction have
been clearly pleaded.” Pinkley, 191 F.3d at
399 (citations omitted). However, if the court, viewing the
allegations in the light most favorable to a plaintiff, finds
insufficient allegations in the pleadings, the court will
lack subject matter jurisdiction. Id.
most commonly recognized and utilized bases for federal court
jurisdiction are (1) diversity of citizenship pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1332, and (2) federal question pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1331. The allegations contained in the instant
complaint do not fall within the scope of either form of the
court's limited jurisdiction.
the diversity statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), requires
complete diversity of parties and an amount in controversy in
excess of $75, 000. Complete diversity of parties in a case
means no party on one side may be a citizen of the same state
as any party on the other side. See Owen Equip. ...