Lekoba v. Bouity
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Paula Xinis on 7/27/2016. (kns, Deputy Clerk)(c/m 7/27/16)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
CIVIL ACTION NO. PX-16-2634
On July 20, 2016, the Clerk received for filing the above-captioned self-represented 28
U.S.C. § 1332 diversity of citizenship complaint from Jeannot Lekoba a resident of College Park,
Maryland.1 Lekoba sues Michel Bouity, a resident of Towson, Maryland. The complaint is
accompanied by a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. ECF No. 2. Because he appears
indigent, Lekoba’s indigency motion shall be granted.
In the statement of facts supporting the complaint Lekoba simply states “Mister Michel
Bouity is wrongly accusing me of stealing a credit card.” ECF No. 1, p. 6. The relief section of the
form complaint has been left blank.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915,2 the courts are required to screen a plaintiff's complaint when
On the attached civil cover sheet, Lekoba checks off diversity as the jurisdictional basis for
his suit. In addition, he has checked off the “False Claims Act” section under nature of suit. ECF No. 1-1.
The statute provides in pertinent part:
Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the
court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that ... (B) the action or
in forma pauperis status has been granted. The statute permits district courts to independently
assess the merits of in forma pauperis complaints, and “to exclude suits that have no arguable basis
in law or fact.” See Nasim v. Warden, 64 F.3d 951, 954 (4th Cir. 1995); see also Crowley Cutlery
Co. v. United States, 849 F.2d 273, 277 (7th Cir. 1988) (federal district judge has authority to
dismiss a frivolous suit on his own initiative). This screening authority differentiates in forma
pauperis suits from ordinary civil suits. Nasim, 64 F.3d at 953-954; see also Eriline Co. S.A. v.
Johnson, 440 F.3d 648, 656 (4th Cir. 2006). Pursuant to this statute, numerous courts have
performed a preliminary screening of non-prisoner complaints. See Fogle v. Blake, 227 Fed. Appx.
542, *1 (8th Cir. July 10, 2007) (affirming district court's pre-service dismissal of non-prisoner’s §
1983 complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); Michau v. Charleston Cnty., S.C., 434 F.3d
725, 727 (4th Cir. 2006) (applying 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) to preliminary screen a non-prisoner
complaint); Evans v. Albaugh, 2013 WL 5375781 (N. D. W.Va. 2013) (28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)
authorizes dismissal of complaints filed in forma pauperis).
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), the court must dismiss a plaintiff's complaint if it fails
to state a claim on which relief may be granted. Although a pro se plaintiff's pleadings are liberally
construed, the complaint must contain factual allegations sufficient “to raise a right to relief above
the speculative level” and that “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007). This “plausibility standard requires [plaintiff] to
demonstrate more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Francis v.
Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). Indeed, plaintiff
appeal—(i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be
granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.
must articulate facts that, when accepted as true, demonstrate he has stated a claim entitling him to
A court may consider subject matter jurisdiction as part of its initial review of the complaint.
See Lovern v. Edwards, 190 F.3d 648, 654 (4th Cir. 1999) (holding that “[d]etermining the question
of subject matter jurisdiction at the outset of the litigation is often the most efficient procedure”). In
general, if subject matter jurisdiction is lacking in an action before a court, the case must be
dismissed. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3) (“If the court determines at any time that it lacks subjectmatter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.”). Consequently a federal court must
determine with certainty whether it has subject matter jurisdiction over a case pending before it. If
necessary, the court has an obligation to consider its subject matter jurisdiction sua sponte. See
Joseph v. Leavitt, 465 F.3d 87, 89 (2d Cir. 2006). “[Q]uestions of subject-matter jurisdiction may be
raised at any point during the proceedings and may (or, more precisely, must) be raised sua sponte
by the court.” Brickwood Contractors, Inc. v. Datanet Engineering, Inc., 369 F.3d 385, 390 (4th Cir.
District courts have original jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 “of all civil actions
arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” See 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Under
the “well-pleaded complaint doctrine,” federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is
presented on the face of Plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint. See Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482
U.S. 386, 392 (1987). The Fourth Circuit has observed that “[t]here is no ‘single, precise definition’
of what it means for an action to ‘arise under’ federal law.” Verizon Md., Inc. v. Global NAPS, Inc.,
377 F.3d 355, 362 (4th Cir. 2004) (quoting Merrell Dow Pharm. Inc. v. Thompson, 478 U.S. 804,
808 (1986)). Indeed:
The Supreme Court has recognized § 1331 jurisdiction in a variety of cases, such as
(1) when a federal right or immunity forms an essential element of the plaintiff's
claim; (2) when a plaintiff's right to relief depends upon the construction or
application of federal law, and the federal nature of the claim rests upon a reasonable
foundation; (3) when federal law creates the cause of action; and (4) when the
plaintiff's right to relief necessarily depends on resolution of a substantial question of
Id. (internal citations and quotations omitted).
Lekoba claims that he has been “wrongly” accused of stealing a credit card, in violation of
the False Claims Act (“FCA”). The FCA provides a cause of action for fraud committed against the
United States. See Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 784 (4th Cir.
1999). Thus, Lekoba fails to assert a cause of action under the FCA sufficient to confer federal
question jurisdiction upon this court.
The claim appears grounded in state law. A federal district court does not sit to review every
claim related to alleged fraudulent or tortious conduct involving non-federal parties. Instead, it only
has authority to review such state-law claims filed pursuant to a federal district court's diversity of
citizenship jurisdiction. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332, diversity jurisdiction exists when the parties
reside in different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. When a party seeks to
invoke diversity jurisdiction under § 1332, he or she bears the burden of demonstrating that the
grounds for diversity exist and that diversity is complete. See Advani Enterprises, Inc. v.
Underwriters at Lloyds, 140 F.3d 157, 160 (2d Cir. 1998).
The parties reside in Maryland. Therefore, the complaint does not satisfy diversity of
citizenship requirements and the case must be dismissed without prejudice for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. A separate Order shall be entered in accordance with this Memorandum.
Date: July 27 , 2016
United States District Judge
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