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Stebbins v. Jennings

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

August 29, 2013

MICHAEL W. STEBBINS, Plaintiff,
v.
MARY JENNINGS, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER

[Resolving ECF No. 2]

BENITA Y. PEARSON, District Judge.

Pro se Plaintiff Michael W. Stebbins filed this action against Mary and James Jennings. In the Complaint (ECF No. 1), Plaintiff alleges Defendants have custody of his daughters and are attempting to terminate his visitation rights. He does not specify the relief he seeks.

Plaintiff filed an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (ECF No. 2). That Application is granted.

I. Background

Plaintiff's Complaint is very brief. It states in its entirety:

[T]he Jennings said originally I was a drug attic (sic), and a lazy alcoholic. They got custody of my two daughters. Now that I got a (sic) apt, and a job their (sic) saying I am psycotic (sic), violent, a threat to their family, and my, children. [T]hey are all false accusations, and I would like justice. I was out of work, they offered help. But then kicked me when I was down. Now their (sic) trying to take away my visitation rights[.]

ECF No. 1.

II. Standard for Dismissal

Although pro se pleadings are liberally construed, Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982) (per curiam); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), the district court is required to dismiss an in forma pauperis action under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted or if it lacks an arguable basis in law or fact.[1] Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319 (1989); Lawler v. Marshall, 898 F.2d 1196 (6th Cir. 1990); Sistrunk v. City of Strongsville, 99 F.3d 194, 197 (6th Cir. 1996). A claim lacks an arguable basis in law or fact when it is premised on an indisputably meritless legal theory or when the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327.

A cause of action fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted when it lacks "plausibility in th[e] complaint." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 564 (2007). A pleading must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). The factual allegations in the pleading must be sufficient to raise the right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Plaintiff is not required to include detailed factual allegations, but must provide more than "an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A pleading that offers legal conclusions or a simple recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not meet this pleading standard. Id. In reviewing a complaint, the court must construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Bibbo v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 151 F.3d 559, 561 (6th Cir. 1998).

III. Law and Analysis

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and, unlike state trial courts, they do not have general jurisdiction to review questions of federal and state law, but only the authority to decide cases that the Constitution and Congress have empowered them to resolve. See Ohio ex rel. Skaggs v. Brunner, 549 F.3d 468, 474 (6th Cir. 2008). Consequently, "[i]t is to be presumed that a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction, and the burden of establishing the contrary rests upon the party asserting jurisdiction." Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994) (internal citation omitted).

Generally speaking, the Constitution and Congress have given federal courts authority to hear a case only when the case raises a federal question or when diversity of citizenship exists between the parties. Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). Plaintiff provides no information that would suggest diversity of citizenship is present in this case. He indicates he lives in Ohio, but does not list a residence for Defendants. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332; Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 584 (1999) (stating that federal courts only entertain jurisdiction of cases based on diversity of citizenship under § 1332 if there is complete diversity, i.e. where no ...


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