Jenkins v. Haines Law et al
ORDER OF DISMISSAL WITHOUT PREJUDICE. This case is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiff's pending motion to proceed in forma pauperis 2 is DENIED as MOOT. The Clerk of Court will provide a copy of this Order to all the parties of record.(Signed by Judge Melinda Harmon) Parties notified.(rhawkins)
United States District Court
Southern District of Texas
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
HAINES LAW, et al,
April 13, 2018
David J. Bradley, Clerk
CIVIL ACTION NO. H-18-687
ORDER OF DISMISSAL WITHOUT PREJUDICE
Pro se Plaintiff Kolan Jenkins is currently confined in the Harris County Jail. Plaintiff
has filed a complaint using the form for civil rights complaints under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging
that his attorney did not return unearned fees. The Court concludes that this case must be
DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE for lack of jurisdiction.
Unlike state courts, which have subject matter jurisdiction over a broad assortment of
causes and claims, the jurisdiction of federal courts is limited only to cases or controversies that
are “authorized by Article III of the [United States] Constitution and the statutes enacted by
Congress pursuant thereto.” Bender v. Williamsport Area Sch. Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 541 (1986)
(citing Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch (5 U.S.) 137, 173-180 (1803)); Scarlott v. Nissan North
Amer., Inc., 771 F.3d 883, 887 (5th Cir. 2014) (“Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction
‘hav[ing] only the authority endowed by the Constitution and that conferred by Congress.’ ”)
(quotation omitted). Because of the limits on federal judicial power, district courts have a duty
to evaluate subject matter jurisdiction — even if the parties do not raise this issue — before
reaching the merits of a case. See Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 583 (1999);
In re FEMA Trailer Formaldehyde Prods. Liab. Litig., 668 F.3d 281, 286 (5th Cir. 2012)
(“Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction; without jurisdiction conferred by statute, they
lack the power to adjudicate claims.”) (citations omitted). If a district court determines at any
time that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction, it “must dismiss the action.” FED. R. CIV. P.
Generally, a federal district court has the authority to hear two types of cases: (1) cases in
which a plaintiff alleges a cognizable violation of his rights under the Constitution or federal
law; and (2) cases in which a citizen of one state alleges a violation of his or her rights
established under state law by a citizen of another state where the amount in controversy exceeds
$75,000. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331-32. Assuming that all of Plaintiff’s allegations are true, his
case falls into neither category.
In order to state a federal claim under section 1983, a plaintiff must show that a state
actor deprived him of a constitutional right. See Conway v. Hecker, 623 F. App’x 232, 232 (5th
Cir. Nov. 20, 2015) (mem. op.) (citing Doe v. Rains Cnty. Indep. Sch. Dist., 66 F.3d 1402, 1406
(5th Cir. 1995)). For purposes of section 1983, a public defender or private attorney is not a state
actor acting under the color of law. Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 325 (1981); see also
Conway, 623 F. App’x at 232. Moreover, Plaintiff’s central claim is that the defendants have
withheld money that he believes is his based on a contractual issue; this is a state law claim, not a
federal constitutional claim for a violation of civil rights. Accordingly, Plaintiff does not state a
claim based on a federal question.
In addition, there is no indication that diversity of parties exists here; Plaintiff is located
in Houston, Texas and Haines Law Firm and David Haines also have a Houston, Texas address.
See Docket Entry No. 1 at 2. Because no diversity of parties exists and none of Plaintiff’s claims
raise a federal question, this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear this claim.
Accordingly, the Court ORDERS as follows:
This case is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE for lack of subject matter
Plaintiff’s pending motion to proceed in forma pauperis (Docket Entry No. 2) is
DENIED as MOOT.
The Clerk of Court will provide a copy of this Order to all the parties of record.
SIGNED at Houston, Texas, this 12th day of April, 2018.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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