Bilotti et al v. St. Clair County Intergovernmental Grants Department et al.
ORDER DISMISSING CASE without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Signed by Chief Judge David R. Herndon on 8/3/2011. (msdi)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
LINDA BILOTTI, et al.
ST. CLAIR COUNTY INTERGOVERNMENTAL
GRANTS DEPARTMENT, et al.,
HERNDON, Chief Judge:
On May 20, 2011, plaintiffs, pro se, filed an employment discrimination
complaint claiming jurisdiction based on 28 U.S.C. § 1331. In the jurisdiction
section of the form complaint, plaintiffs alleged that the defendants discriminated
against plaintiffs based on defamation. On the civil cover sheet, however, plaintiffs
indicated that the basis of the Court’s jurisdiction was that the United States
government was a plaintiff. Clearly, it is not. The civil cover sheet also indicates that
this case was being filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
After reviewing the complaint and supporting documents filed therewith, the
Court sua sponte raised the issue of its jurisdiction over this claim. See Frey v.
Envtl. Prot. Agency, 270 F.3d 1129, 1131 (7th Cir. 2001). Accordingly, the Court
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gave notice to plaintiffs that it was considering dismissing this complaint for a lack
of subject matter jurisdiction and set the matter for hearing so that plaintiffs had an
opportunity to be heard on whether the Court had jurisdiction. Id. at 1131-32.
On July 19, 2011, a little over week prior to the scheduled hearing on
July 28, 2011, plaintiffs filed a motion to amend/correct the complaint (Doc. 5). In
their motion to amend the complaint, plaintiffs sought to omit the employment
discrimination claim, to add Julia Jackson as a plaintiff, and to add St. Clair County
and Mid America Workforce Investment Board as defendants. Plaintiffs also sought
to amend their complaint by contending that defendants defamed plaintiffs on
December 14, 2009, and June 1, 2010, by comments/statements made in the
Belleville News Democrat. Plaintiffs further requested to amend their civil cover
sheet by asserting a federal question as the basis of their jurisdiction and wrote that
“[d]efendants made false, slanderous and libelous statements with actual malice to
defame our character” as the description of their cause.
On July 28, 2011, the Court held a hearing on the Court’s jurisdiction
and gave every plaintiff present an opportunity to be heard regarding the type of
claim each of them believed they had. Following the hearing, the Court informed
plaintiffs that it would take the matter under advisement. The Court now dismisses
plaintiffs’ cause of action without prejudice on the basis that it is clear that plaintiffs’
cause of action is founded in defamation and there is no federal jurisdiction over
such claim as defamation generally is a matter of state law.
See Baravati v.
Josephthal, Lyon & Ross, Inc., 28 F.3d 704, 707 (7th Cir. 1994). Furthermore,
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nothing plaintiffs sought to amend in their motion to amend (Doc. 5) changes this
and therefore that motion (Doc. 5) is denied.
As the Court explained to plaintiffs at the hearing, “[f]ederal courts are
courts of limited jurisdiction.” Int’l Union of Operating Eng’rs, Local 150, AFL-CIO
v. Ward, 563 F.3d 276, 280 (7th Cir. 2009). “The Constitution permits federal
courts to hear only certain claims, including those claims between parties of diverse
state citizenship and, most importantly for present purposes, ‘federal question’
claims, or those arising under’ the laws of the United States.” Id. (citing U.S. CONST .
art. III, § 2, cl. 1.). “Today, federal question jurisdiction is codified is codified at 28
U.S.C. § 1331, which states that ‘[t]he district courts shall have original jurisdiction
of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United
States.’” Ward, 563 F.3d at 281 (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1331).
Here, plaintiffs failed to allege anything in their complaint, in their
proposed amendments to their complaint, or in their statements at the hearing that
would transform their claim to anything more than a state law defamation claim.
Without something more, the Court lacks federal jurisdiction over such a claim. The
Court explored with plaintiffs other grounds for possible federal question
jurisdiction, but no plaintiff could discuss a discriminatory basis for their
termination which would go to a potential retaliatory discharge theory. Accordingly,
the Court must dismiss plaintiffs’ cause of action without prejudice. The Court’s
dismissal does not speak to any potential merits of a state court action, but rather
only to the Court’s limited jurisdiction. The case is dismissed without prejudice and
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the motion to amend (Doc. 5) is denied.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Signed this 3rd day of August, 2011.
Digitally signed by David R.
Date: 2011.08.03 13:33:50
United States District Court
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