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Sparks v. Zanesville Metropolitan Housing Authority

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

May 31, 2018


          Algenon L. Marbley Judge



         Plaintiff, an Ohio resident who is proceeding without the assistance of counsel, brings this action against Defendant Zanesville Metropolitan Housing Authority (“ZMHA”). This matter is before the Court for consideration of Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis, which is GRANTED. (ECF No. 1.) All judicial officers who render services in this action shall do so as if the costs had been prepaid. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). This matter is also before the Court sua sponte for an initial screen of Plaintiff's Complaint as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) to identify cognizable claims and to recommend dismissal of Plaintiff's Complaint, or any portion of it, which is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Having performed the initial screen, for the reasons that follow, it is RECOMMENDED that the Court DISMISS this action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.


         Congress has authorized the sua sponte dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon which relief maybe granted. 2 8 U.S.C. §§ 1915 (e)(2)(B)(ii) and 1915A(b)(1). A complaint filed by a pro se plaintiff must be “liberally construed” and “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). By the same token, however, the complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (“dismissal standard articulated in Iqbal and Twombly governs dismissals for failure to state a claim” under §§ 1915A(b)(1) and 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)).

         In addition, a federal court has limited subject matter jurisdiction. “The basic statutory grants of federal court subject-matter jurisdiction are contained in 28 U.S.C. § 1331, which provides for ‘[f]ederal-question' jurisdiction, and § 1332, which provides for ‘[d]iversity of citizenship' jurisdiction.” Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 501 (2006). Federal-question jurisdiction is invoked when a plaintiff pleads a claim “arising under” the federal laws, the Constitution, or treaties of the United States. Id. (citation omitted). For a federal court to have diversity jurisdiction pursuant to Section 1332(a), there must be complete diversity, which means that each plaintiff must be a citizen of a different state than each defendant, and the amount in controversy must exceed $75, 000. Caterpillar, Inc. v. Lewis, 519 U.S. 61, 68 (1996).


Plaintiff's Complaint in its entirety states as follows:
I've been denied housing for the last six yrs. The person that makes that decision refuses to cooperate, because an angry girlfriend spoke to her. This lady laughed in my face twice now and once on the phone. Slandered my name for fun, made me beg for housing, and still refused me. This person told me i [sic] would NOT get housing for at least 5 more yrs and to go sleep outside in the cold in a tent. The paperwork has put in in a state of shock with outright lies & slander to my good name. Refuses to do her job to help house the people in need, for her own selfish gain. Fresh re-done apartments are empty while i [sic] cant [sic] cook or refridgerate [sic] food outside.

(ECF No. 1-1 at PAGEID # 6.) Plaintiff seeks monetary damages in the amount of $50, 000. (Id. at PAGEID # 7.)

         The Complaint does not contain “a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction[, ]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(1), because Plaintiff has failed to allege a claim arising under federal law and it does not appear that complete diversity exists. While Plaintiff asserts a claim of defamation against ZMHA (ECF No. 1-1 at PAGEID # 6), defamation, standing alone, does not state a claim arising under federal law. See Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693, 710 (1976) (noting that defamation, by itself, does not state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983); Naegele Outdoor Advertising Co. of Louisville, a Div. of Naegele, Inc. v. Moulton, 773 F.2d 692, 701 (6th Cir. 1985) (“[T]he interest in reputation alone is not sufficient to invoke the procedural guarantees contained in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” (citing Paul, 424 U.S. at 701, 710-11)).

         Moreover, Plaintiff cannot successfully invoke this Court's diversity jurisdiction with regard to his state-law defamation claim because Plaintiff and ZMHA are both Ohio residents. (ECF No. 1 at PAGEID # 3 (listing Plaintiff's address in Zanesville, Ohio); ECF No. 1-1 at PAGEID # 5 (identifying ZMHA's address as 407 Pershing Rd., Zanesville, Ohio 43701).) In addition, the amount in controversy is less than $75, 000. (ECF No. 1-1 at PAGEID # 7.) Accordingly, the Undersigned cannot discern a basis for federal jurisdiction.


         For the reasons explained above, the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this action. It is therefore RECOMMENDED that Plaintiff's Complaint be DISMISSED ...

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