United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
MATTHEW M. SCHROCK, PLAINTIFF,
GIULITTO LAW FIRM LLC et al, DEFENDANTS.
HONORABLE SARA LIOI, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
se plaintiff, Matthew M. Schrock, filed this action
against defendants, Diana J. Prehn and the Giulitto Law
Office, LLC. In the complaint, plaintiff alleges that Prehn
failed to investigate the criminal charges brought against
him in Portage County Common Pleas Court Case No.
2013CR00164, and withheld information that would have
exonerated him. He seeks $7, 800, 000.00 in damages.
alleges that in 2013, Prehn was employed by the Giulitto Law
firm and represented him in criminal proceedings in the
Portage County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 2013CR00164.
He contends Prehn knew he was innocent of the felony charges
but failed to conduct an investigation. He states she did not
attempt to present a defense and relied solely on the
testimony presented by the State. He alleges she did not move
for a change of venue or ask the judge to recuse him or
herself due to prejudice. He claims she withheld information
that would have resulted in the dismissal of his case.
Plaintiff asserts, generally, that she abused attorney/client
rules. He seeks monetary damages.
Standard of Review
pro se pleadings are liberally construed, Boag
v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365, 102 S.Ct. 700, 70
L.Ed.2d 551 (1982) (per curiam); Haines v. Kerner,
404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972), the
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. Neitzke v. Williams,
490 U.S. 319, 109 S.Ct. 1827, 104 L.Ed.2d 338 (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 the complaint. Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 564, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d
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, 129 S. ct.
1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). 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. Bell Atl.
Corp., 550 U.S. at 555. The 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).
fails to establish a basis for federal court jurisdiction.
Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and, unlike
state trial courts, they do not have general jurisdiction to
review all questions of law. See Ohio ex rel. Skaggs v.
Brunner, 549 F.3d 468, 474 (6th Cir. 2008). Instead,
they have only the authority to decide cases that the
Constitution and Congress have empowered them to resolve.
Id. 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, 114 S.Ct. 1673, 128
L.Ed.2d 391 (1994) (internal citation omitted).
speaking, the Constitution and Congress have given federal
courts authority to hear a case only when diversity of
citizenship exists between the parties, or when the case
raises a federal question. Caterpillar Inc. v.
Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392, 107 S.Ct. 2425, 96 L.Ed.2d
318 (1987). The first type of federal jurisdiction, diversity
of citizenship, is applicable to cases of sufficient value
between “citizens of different States[.]” 28
U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). To establish diversity of
citizenship, the plaintiff must establish that he is a
citizen of one state and all of the defendants are citizens
of other states. The citizenship of a natural person equates
to his domicile. Von Dunser v. Aronoff, 915 F.2d
1071, 1072 (6th Cir. 1990) (citations omitted). The second
type of federal jurisdiction relies on the presence of a
federal question. This type of jurisdiction arises where a
“well-pleaded complaint establishes either that federal
law creates the cause of action or that the Plaintiff's
right to relief necessarily depends on resolution of a
substantial question of federal law.” Franchise Tax
Bd. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1,
27-28, 103 S. ct. 2841, 77 L.Ed.2d 420 (1983).
of citizenship does not exist in this case. Plaintiff is
incarcerated in the Ohio State Penitentiary. He does not list
any other address for himself. The defendants are an Ohio law
firm and an Ohio attorney who is currently a Portage County
Court of Common Pleas Magistrate. A plaintiff in federal
court has the burden of pleading sufficient facts to support
the existence of the court's jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P.
8. In a diversity action, the plaintiff must state the
citizenship of all parties so that the existence of complete
diversity can be confirmed. Washington v. Sulzer
Orthopedics, Inc., No. 03-3350, 2003 WL 22146143, at *1
(6th Cir. Sept. 16, 2003). The complaint, as written,
suggests that the plaintiff and defendants are all citizens
of Ohio. Federal subject matter jurisdiction cannot be based
on diversity of citizenship.
federal jurisdiction exists in this case, it must be based on
a claimed violation of federal law. In determining whether a
claim arises under federal law, the Court looks only to the
“well-pleaded allegations of the complaint and
ignore[s] potential defenses” defendant may raise.
Mikulski v. Centerior Energy Corp., 501 F.3d 555, 560
(6th Cir. 2007) (quotation marks and citation omitted).
Although the well-pleaded-complaint rule focuses on what
plaintiff alleges, it allows the Court to look past the words
of the complaint to determine whether the allegations
ultimately involve a federal question. Ohio ex rel.
Skaggs, 549 F.3d at 475 (citation omitted). In addition
to causes of action expressly created by federal law,
federal-question jurisdiction also reaches ostensible
state-law claims that: (1) necessarily depend on a
substantial and disputed federal issue, (2) are completely
preempted by federal law or (3) are truly federal-law claims
in disguise. See Mikulski, 501 F.3d at 560 (citation
omitted); City of Warren v. City of Detroit, 495
F.3d 282, 286 (6th Cir. 2007) (quotation marks and citation
plaintiff is proceeding pro se and pro se
plaintiffs enjoy the benefit of a liberal construction of
their pleadings and filings. Boswell v. Mayer, 169
F.3d 384, 387 (6th Cir. 1999). Indeed, this standard of
liberal construction “requires active interpretation
... to construe a pro se petition ‘to
encompass any allegation stating federal relief.'”
Franklin v. Rose, 765 F.2d 82, 85 (6th Cir. 1985)
(quoting White v. Wyrick, 530 F.2d 818, 819 (8th
Cir. 1976)). Even with that liberal construction, however,
plaintiff failed to identify a federal question in this case,
and none is apparent on the face of the complaint.
plaintiff intended to assert a claim under 42 U.S.C. §
1983, he failed to do so. To establish a prima facie
case under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, plaintiff must assert that
a person acting under color of state law deprived him of
rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution
or laws of the United States. Parratt v. Taylor, 451
U.S. 527, 535, 101 S.Ct. 1908, 68 L.Ed.2d 420 (1981).
Generally, to be considered to have acted “under color
of state law, ” the person must be a state or local
government official or employee. A private party may be found
to have acted under color of state law to establish the first
element of this cause of action only when the party
“acted together with or has obtained significant aid
from state officials” and did so to such a degree that
its actions may properly be characterized as “state
action.” Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S.
922, 937, 102 S.Ct. 2744, 73 L.Ed.2d 482(1982). An individual
may also be considered a state actor if he or she exercises
powers traditionally reserved to a state. Jackson v.
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