United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Lynchburg Division
Redmond J. Howard, Plaintiff,
Old Mill Townhomes, Defendant.
K. MOON, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Redmond Howard's
(“Plaintiff”) pro se Complaint seeking
an injunction and Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma
Paupris. (Dkt. 1, 2). In his complaint, Plaintiff
appears to seek equitable relief against his apartment
complex, Defendant Old Mill Townhomes, for an alleged breach
of contract and a breach of the implied warranty of
habitability. For the reasons stated herein, I will grant
Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma paupris
but dismiss the Complaint because the Court lacks subject
matter jurisdiction over the Plaintiff's claims.
28 U.S.C. § 1915, district courts must screen initial
filings and dismiss a complaint filed in forma
pauperis “at any time if the court determines that
. . . the action or appeal . . . is frivolous or malicious .
. . [or] fails to state a claim on which relief may be
granted. . . .” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(ii);
see also Eriline Co. S.A. v. Johnson, 440 F.3d 648,
656 (4th Cir. 2006) (noting that § 1915 permits
“district courts to independently assess the merits of
in forma pauperis complaints, and ‘to exclude
suits that have no arguable basis in law or fact.'
”) (quoting Nasim v. Warden, Md. House of
Correction, 64 F.3d 951, 954 (4th Cir. 1995)). Further,
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(h)(3), “[i]f
the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.”
See also Walker v. Laundry, 697 Fed.Appx. 179, 180
(4th Cir. 2017) (noting that plaintiff's § 1983
claim under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 should have been dismissed
for lack of subject matter 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. “The
presence or absence of federal-question jurisdiction is
governed by the ‘well-pleaded complaint rule, '
which provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a
federal question is presented on the face of the
plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint.”
Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392
(1987); see also Martin v. Lagualt, 315 F.Supp.2d
811 (E.D. Va. 2004) (applying the well-pleaded complaint rule
in the context of a pro se complaint). Plaintiff
contends that the Court possesses federal question
jurisdiction over his claims. (Dkt. 2 at ECF 3). It does not.
alleges in his Complaint that he is seeking an injunction
against Defendant Old Mill Townhomes regarding
“rejections of rental payments, disputes between
plaintiff and the defendant's agents and third parties,
and dissatisfaction of the unit and its fellow
occupants.” (Dkt. 2 at ECF 5). The allegedly rejected
rental payment totaled $229.42. Id.
does not cite or even allude to any federal law conferring on
him a right to bring the instant suit. Additionally, while
Plaintiff makes a passing reference to his ethnicity, he does
not assert that his civil rights have been violated in any
way, nor any federal law that would support a cause of
Plaintiff seeks equitable relief to redress state law claims
(e.g. breach of contract, breach of the implied
warranty of habitability, etc.). In essence, Plaintiff seeks
to adjudicate a minor dispute over a rent payment as a
federal question. While it is somewhat unclear whether
Plaintiffs claims are frivolous (i.e. without a
basis in law or fact)-it is clear that the Court is without
jurisdiction to adjudicate them.
these reasons, the motion to proceed in forma
pauperis will be granted, and the Clerk of the Court
will be directed to file Plaintiffs complaint, which will be
dismissed without prejudice. An appropriate order will follow
Entered this 24th day of January, 2018.
 Even if Plaintiff brought his claims
under diversity of citizenship jurisdiction, it ...