Burns v. Chatman
ORDER GRANTING IFP AND DISMISSING CASE - Signed by District Judge Paul D. Borman. (DTof)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
THOMAS DENNIS BURNS,
Case No. 17-11757
Paul D. Borman
United States District Judge
David R. Grand
United States Magistrate Judge
OPINION AND ORDER:
(1) GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S APPLICATION TO PROCEED IN
DISTRICT COURT WITHOUT PREPAYMENT OF FEES OR COSTS
(ECF NO. 2); AND
(2) SUMMARILY DISMISSING THE COMPLAINT PURSUANT TO
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (ECF NO. 1)
Now before the Court is Plaintiff Thomas Dennis Burns’s Application to
Proceed in District Court without Prepaying Fees or Costs. (ECF No. 2.) For the
reasons below, the Court will grant Plaintiff’s Application to Proceed without
Prepaying Fees or Costs, but will dismiss the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2) because it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1), a court may allow commencement of a
civil action without the prepayment of fees or costs if the applicant submits an
affidavit demonstrating that he or she is “unable to pay such fees or give security
therefor.” In the instant action, Plaintiff has supplied an affidavit regarding his
financial obligations and income. (ECF No. 2.) Based on this information, the
Court will grant Plaintiff’s Application to Proceed without Prepayment of Fees or
At the same time, the Court is required to dismiss a complaint filed without
prepayment of fees when it “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted.”
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). To avoid dismissal for this reason, the complaint
must “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face. A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal
citations and quotation marks omitted). “[A] plaintiff’s obligation to provide the
‘grounds’ of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief’ requires more than labels and conclusions .
. . . Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level . . . .” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations omitted). The
Court is aware that a pro se litigant’s complaint must be liberally construed and
held to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Haines
v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)
(per curiam). Still, the plaintiff must provide more than just “bare assertions of
legal conclusions.” Grinter v. Knight, 532 F.3d 567, 577 (6th Cir. 2008) (quoting
Scheid v. Fanny Farmer Candy Shops, Inc., 859 F.2d 434, 436 (6th Cir. 1988)).
Federal district courts only have jurisdiction to decide certain kinds of cases.
Their jurisdiction is limited to cases defined in Article III, § 2, cl. 1 of the
Constitution, or that have been entrusted to the federal courts through a
jurisdictional grant of Congress. See Ins. Corp. of Ireland, Ltd. v. Compagnie des
Bauxites de Guinee, 456 U.S. 694, 701-02 (1982). Federal courts have jurisdiction
over “federal-question cases—civil actions that arise under the Constitution, laws,
or treaties of the United States.” Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545
U.S. 546, 552 (2005) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1331). “In order to provide a neutral
forum for what have come to be known as diversity cases, Congress also has
granted district courts original jurisdiction in civil actions between citizens of
different States, between U.S. citizens and foreign citizens, or by foreign states
against U.S. citizens.” Exxon Mobil Corp., 545 U.S. at 552 (citing 28 U.S.C. §
1332). “[O]nce a court has original jurisdiction over some claims in the action, it
may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over additional claims that are part of the
same case or controversy.” Exxon Mobil Corp., 545 U.S. at 552. A plaintiff who
invokes federal jurisdiction bears the burden of demonstrating that a basis for it
exists. See Tobin v. Astra Pharm. Prod., Inc., 993 F.2d 528, 543 (6th Cir. 1993).
In this case, the Plaintiff has not established that this Court has jurisdiction
over his claims. Diversity jurisdiction does not exist in this case, as Plaintiff
indicates in his Complaint that both he and Defendant Chatman are citizens of
Michigan. (ECF No. 1, Compl. at 4.) Plaintiff has also not sued the United States.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1346. This Court therefore only has jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s
claims if they are somehow part of, or at least supplemental to, a claim “arising
under” federal law. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1367.
On the civil cover sheet accompanying his Complaint, Plaintiff does not
identify a federal statute under which he is filing his claims, instead stating an
allegation that Defendant “used a false instrument to interfere with [his] right to
property.” (Compl. at 9.) In the Complaint, Plaintiff elaborates that Defendant
falsely accused him of crimes, used false allegations to obtain his property, and
caused him emotional distress through slander and defamation. (See id. at 5.)
Plaintiff has not, however, identified a basis in federal law for the Court to
exercise jurisdiction over these claims. Among the boxes he has checked on his
civil cover sheet are those corresponding to “False Claims Act” and
“Administrative Procedure Act/Review or Appeal of Agency Decision.” (Id. at 9.)
Neither of these offers a clear foundation for federal jurisdiction here: Plaintiff has
not identified a decision by an administrative agency that he asks this Court to
review, nor has he made sufficient factual allegations to state a claim under the
federal False Claims Act, which generally imposes liability on persons who
commit fraud against the government. See 31 U.S.C.A. § 3729. The other boxes
checked by Plaintiff do not suggest that there are grounds for federal jurisdiction
over his claims, nor do his factual allegations—in connection with or
independently of the information on the civil cover sheet—permit the Court to
conclude that it may exercise jurisdiction in this case.
For these reasons, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff’s Application to Proceed
without Prepayment of Fees or Costs (ECF No. 2) and DISMISSES WITHOUT
PREJUDICE Plaintiff’s Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) for failure
to state a claim (ECF No. 1).
IT IS SO ORDERED.
s/Paul D. Borman
Paul D. Borman
United States District Judge
Dated: June 9, 2017
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
The undersigned certifies that a copy of the foregoing order was served upon
each attorney or party of record herein by electronic means or first class U.S. mail
on June 9, 2017.
Deborah Tofil, Case Manager
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