United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION (GRANTING MOTION TO PROCEED IN
FORMA PAUPERIS DISMISSING COMPLAINT)
E. Hudson Senior United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on Cynthia Armstrong's
("Plaintiff) Motion to Proceed In Forma
Pauperis, filed on July 2, 2018. (ECF No. 1.) Upon due
consideration, the Court concludes that Plaintiff is unable
to pay the required fees. Therefore, Plaintiffs Motion to
Proceed In Forma Pauper is is GRANTED, and the Clerk
is DIRECTED to file Plaintiffs Complaint (ECF No. 1-1). For
the reasons set forth herein, Plaintiff has failed to
establish that this Court has subject-matter jurisdiction
over her claims. Accordingly, this case is DISMISSED pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, 28 U.S.C. § 1332, and Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(h)(3).
purchased a house at 5140 Old Warwick Road, Richmond,
Virginia 23224 from Robert Snead ("Snead") in
October 2013. (Compl. 1, ECF No. 1-1.) She alleges that the
Virginia Housing Development Authority ("VHDA" or
"Defendant") "engaged in an inflation of the
property's appraisal and its contents, in order to obtain
a mortgage for more than a property is worth" and worked
with Snead to hide "structural inadequacies" with
the house. (Id.)
provides extensive allegations about the issues she has
endured with the house and the role Snead has played with
them. Specifically, she cites plumbing, heating, air
conditioning, electrical, and structural problems with the
house. (Id. at 2-4.) For each of these issues,
Plaintiff either contends that Snead caused the problem,
failed to take steps to remedy it, or some combination
thereof. (Id.) As a result, Plaintiff claims that
she has spent thousands of dollars on repairs. (Id.
at 4.) Plaintiff also claims that the VHDA has confiscated
repair checks sent from the insurance company and refused to
allow any repair work to be done. (Id.)
upon the foregoing, Plaintiff seeks $167, 000 from the VHDA
"for the price of the home, inflated taxes, and
insurance paid due to the misrepresented value of [her] home
that has deemed [her] mortgage null and void."
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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 'springs 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 7, 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. 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); Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3).
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).
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, 391 (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).
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
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." 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
Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678, 682 (1946)).
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, § 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).
outset, the Court notes that it is difficult to discern from
Plaintiffs Complaint precisely what cause of action she is
asserting. Plaintiff claims that the basis of her suit is
mortgage fraud, and it appears that her claims stem from
Defendant's relationship with Snead and Snead's
negligent construction of Plaintiff s home. The Complaint
also does not identify whether jurisdiction is predicated on
the presence of a federal ...