Roundtree v. Onwaunibe et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge George Levi Russell, III on 3/31/2017. (c/m 3/31/17)(kr2, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
* Civil Action No. GLR-16-4014
MAYOR & CITY COUNCIL,
BALTIMORE, MD CITY SHERIFF’S
On December 16, 2016, Yvonne Roundtree filed suit against Defendants to prevent
foreclosure on her home in Baltimore, Maryland and to seek $20,000 in damages. (ECF No. 1).
Roundtree also filed a Motion to Proceed in Forma Pauperis, which will be granted.
Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and “may not exercise jurisdiction absent
a statutory basis.” Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 552 (2005). “A
court is to presume, therefore, that a case lies outside its limited jurisdiction unless and until
jurisdiction has been shown to be proper.” United States v. Poole, 531 F.3d 263, 274 (4th Cir.
2008) (citing Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)). “[B]efore a
federal court can decide the merits of a claim, the claim must invoke the jurisdiction of the
court.” Miller v. Brown, 462 F.3d 312, 316 (4th Cir. 2006). A federal court has “an independent
obligation to determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists, even when no party challenges
it.” Hertz Corp. v. Friend, 559 U.S. 77, 94 (2010); see also Sucampo Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v.
Astellas Pharma, Inc., 471 F.3d 544, 548 (4th Cir. 2006).
Federal district courts “have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the
Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States” under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, as well those “where
the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs,
and is between . . . citizens of different States” under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Roundtree asserts
diversity of citizenship among the parties as a basis for jurisdiction in the coversheet filed with
the Complaint. (ECF No. 1 at 5; ECF No. 1-2). Because Roundtree and all Defendants appear to
be domiciled in Maryland, the diversity of citizenship and amount in controversy requirements
for jurisdiction are not met. Although Roundtree does not specifically assert there is federal
question jurisdiction, she does allege a “civil rights housing violation for senior citizen (age).”
(Compl. at 5). Roundtree provides no explanation for why Defendants’ actions constitute a
violation of her civil rights on account of age. Indeed, she does not specify her age in the
In addition, Roundtree cannot convert what is essentially an in rem state foreclosure
proceeding into a federal question by citing to federal statute. “[A] claim of federal question
jurisdiction is to be resolved on the basis of the allegations of the complaint itself.” Burgess v.
Charlottesville Sav. and Loan Assoc., 477 F.2d 40, 43 (4th Cir. 1973) (discussing removal of
state action to federal court). A complaint, therefore, must contain allegations affirmatively and
distinctly establishing federal grounds not in mere form, but in substance and not in mere
assertion, but in essence and effect. Id. (citing Cuyahoga Co. v. Northern Ohio Co., 252 U.S.
388, 397 (1920)).
“[T]he mere assertion in a pleading that the case is one involving the
construction or application of the federal laws does not authorize the District Court to entertain
the suit.” Burgess, 477 F.2d at 42 (citing Malone v. Gardner, 62 F.2d 15, 18 (4th Cir. 1932)).
Roundtree’s vague and summary reference to a civil rights housing violation does not support
federal question jurisdiction. Accordingly this case will be dismissed without prejudice. A
separate Order follows.
March 31, 2017
George L. Russell, III
United States District Judge
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