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Bey v. Bearing Contracting, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

January 3, 2018

NASIR ALIM BEY, Plaintiff,
v.
BEARING CONTRACTING, LLC, et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Henry E. Hudson United States District Judge Richmond, Virginia

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction with Roseboro, filed November 10, 2017. (ECF No. 7.) The Defendants included an appropriate Roseboro Notice as required by Local Civil Rule 7(K) and the Fourth Circuit's decision in Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975).

         All parties have filed memoranda supporting their respective positions. The Court will dispense with oral argument because the facts and legal contentions are adequately presented in the materials before the Court, and oral argument would not aid in the decisional process. E.D. Va. Local Civ. R. 7(J).

         For the reasons that follow, the Court determines that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction and therefore must dismiss Plaintiffs Complaint in its entirety.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Nasir Alim Bey ("Plaintiff) was hired as a bricklayer by Defendant Bearing Contracting, LLC ("Bearing") on February 21, 2017. (Compl. 2, ECF No. 4.)Defendant Thomas Cornell Berry III ("Berry") is the Vice President of Bearing, and Defendant Jason Guard ("Guard") is a foreman for Bearing. (Id.) In the paperwork required for his employment, Plaintiff identified himself as a member of the Moorish Nation, and on February 28, 2017, Plaintiff was informed by Defendant Guard that he needed to provide additional documentation as the Moorish Nation is not recognized by the United States. (Id.) On March 1, 2017, Plaintiff met with Defendant Berry to discuss his deficient documentation and produced an "Allodial American National Identification" card and an "Unalienable Right to Travel" card. (Id. at 2, Ex. E.) On March 2, 2017, Defendant Berry informed Plaintiff that this documentation was insufficient and that Bearing required additional documentation, namely a Social Security Number. (Id. at 2.) On the same day, Defendant Berry provided Plaintiff with a check for the value of the hours Plaintiff had worked. (Id. at 5.) The check was a "Vendor" check, not a "Paycheck, " and bore the notation that it was for the sale of a saw blade. (Id. at 3, 5, 6, Ex. J.)

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction." Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S 375, 377 (1994). They possess only such power as is authorized by the Constitution or conferred by statute. Id. "The requirement that jurisdiction be established as a threshold matter 'spring[s] from the nature and limits of the judicial power of the United States' and is 'inflexible and without exception.'" Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env % 523 U.S. 83, 94-95 (1998) (quoting Mansfield, C. & L.M. Ry. Co. v. Swan, 111 U.S. 379, 382 (1884)). Accordingly, the Court may "or, more precisely, must" raise issues of subject-matter jurisdiction sua sponte if it appears at any time during the proceedings that the court's exercise of jurisdiction would be improper. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3); Brickwood Contractors, Inc. v. Datanet Eng'g, Inc., 369 F.3d 385, 390 (4th Cir. 2004) (citing Bender v. Williamsport Area Sh. Dist, 475 U.S. 534, 541 (1986). Plaintiffs have the burden of proving subject-matter jurisdiction. Piney Run Pres. Ass 'n v. County Comm 'rs of Carroll Cnty., Md, 523 F.3d 453, 459 (4th Cir. 2008). A court determining whether jurisdiction exists "may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment." Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991).

         In addition, the Court acknowledges the liberal construction afforded to pro se complaints. Laber v. Harvey, 438 F.3d 404, 413 n. 3 (4th Cir.2006). The Court, however, need not attempt "to discern the unexpressed intent of the plaintiff." Id. Nor does the requirement of liberal construction excuse a clear failure in the pleading to allege a federally cognizable claim. Weller v. Dep 't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990). As the Fourth Circuit explained in Beaudett v. City of Hampton, "[t]hough [pro se ] litigants cannot, of course, be expected to frame legal issues with the clarity and precision ideally evident in the work of those trained in law, neither can district courts be required to conjure up and decide issues never fairly presented to them." 775 F.2d 1274, 1276 (4th Cir. 1985).

         The principal means through which a federal district court obtains subject-matter jurisdiction are 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 28 U.S.C. § 1332, federal-question and diversity jurisdiction, respectively.

         Under federal-question jurisdiction, "district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331. "[T]he vast majority of cases brought under the general federal-question jurisdiction of the federal courts are those in which federal law creates the cause of action." See Merrell Dow Pharm. Inc. v. Thompson, 478 U.S. 804, 808 (1986). The well-pleaded complaint rule requires that federal-question jurisdiction be evident from the face of a plaintiff s properly pleaded complaint. See Id. Dismissal for want of jurisdiction is only appropriate where the allegations supporting jurisdiction are "wholly unsubstantial or frivolous." Kerns v. United States, 585 F.3d 187, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (quoting Be//v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678, 682 (1946)).

         Under diversity jurisdiction, a federal district court has original jurisdiction over all civil actions where the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between citizens of different states. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). With the exception of certain class actions, Section 1332 requires complete diversity among parties, meaning that the citizenship of every plaintiff must be different from the citizenship of every defendant. Cent. W.Va. Energy Co. v. Mt. State Carbon, LLC, 636 F.3d 101, 103 (4th Cir. 2012) (citing Caterpillar, Inc. v. Lewis, 519 U.S. 61, 68 (1996).

         III. DISCUSSION

         At the outset, the Court notes that it is difficult to discern from Plaintiffs Complaint precisely what cause of action he is asserting. It appears that Plaintiffs claims stem from the mislabeling of his check as a vendor check versus a paycheck and Defendants requiring him to provide additional documentation as a condition of employment. The Complaint also does not identify whether jurisdiction is predicated on diversity of ...


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