United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Michael Thomas Cantrell, Pro Se Plaintiff.
P. Jones, United States District Judge.
plaintiff, Michael Thomas Cantrell, a Virginia inmate
proceeding pro se, has filed a civil action against Charles
Wayne Branham, a fellow inmate. Because Cantrell asserts that
Branham violated his rights “as a United States citizen
by making comments against [his] religion, ” Compl. 1,
ECF No. 1, the court has construed and docketed his
submission as a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. §
1983. After review of the Complaint, I conclude that the case
must be summarily dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
states that he and Branham are both confined at the Lynchburg
Adult Detention Center. He alleges that on November 8, 2019,
Branham verbally attacked Cantrell's religious beliefs
and made an obscene sexual comment about Cantrell's
mother and God. Cantrell said that he was going to see a
staff member about these comments. Then, Branham assaulted
him, broke his arm, and “body slammed” him for
“snitching.” Id. at 4. As relief,
Cantrell seeks monetary damages, payment of medical bills for
X rays, surgery, and orthodontic appointments. He also asks
that Branham be charged with malicious wounding.
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. “They
possess only that power authorized by Constitution and
statute.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of
Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). Generally, a case can be
originally filed in a federal district court if there is
federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 or
diversity of citizenship jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §
state a claim under § 1983, the plaintiff must state
facts showing that a person acting under color of state law
undertook conduct that violated the plaintiff's
constitutional rights. Cooper v. Sheehan, 735 F.3d
153, 158 (4th Cir. 2013). Thus, such a claim can be
considered as a federal question that is within the
jurisdiction of the court. To determine if defendant Branham
qualifies as a person acting under color of state law for
purposes of a § 1983 claim, the court must make two
closely related determinations.
First, the deprivation must be caused by the exercise of some
right or privilege created by the State or by a rule of
conduct imposed by the state or by a person for whom the
State is responsible. . . . Second, the party charged with
the deprivation must be a person who may fairly be said to be
a state actor. This may be because he is a state official,
because he has acted together with or has obtained
significant aid from state officials, or because his conduct
is otherwise chargeable to the State.
Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 937
alleged actions against Cantrell do not meet either of the
Lugar factors. There is no allegation in the
Complaint suggesting that Branham was exercising any right he
had under state law, or following a state official's
directive, when he assaulted Cantrell. Branham is also not a
state official himself and did not receive aid from state
officials in carrying out the conduct of which Cantrell
complains. Accordingly, I conclude that Branham's conduct
is, in no way, chargeable to the state so as to make him a
state actor subject to being sued under § 1983. As such,
Cantrell cannot proceed with his claims under § 1983
that Branham's actions violated his constitutional rights
or any other federally protected right. Therefore, his claim
against Branham does not fall within the court's federal
question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
also fails to state facts showing that he could pursue a
federal civil action against Branham under the court's
diversity jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. §
1332(a). Under this section, a district court can exercise
original jurisdiction over a civil action “where the
matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000,
exclusive of interest and costs, ” and the
parties are citizens of different states. Id.
Cantrell's Complaint fails to fulfill either of these
requirements. He offers no indication that he and Branham are
citizens of different states, and the monetary value he
assigns to the harm Branham allegedly caused him does not
exceed the total required under § 1332(a).
Cantrell cannot use a federal lawsuit of any kind to have
Branham criminally charged and prosecuted for malicious
wounding. Private citizens cannot bring a direct criminal
action against another person or petition a federal court to
compel the criminal prosecution of another person. Maine
v. Taylor, 477 U.S. 131, 137 (1986); Leeke v.
Timmerman, 454 U.S. 83, 86-87 (1981); Linda R. S. v.
Richard D., 410 U.S. 614, 619 (1973).
stated reasons, Cantrell's Complaint does not state facts
demonstrating that his claim against Branham falls within the
jurisdiction of this court under either § 1331 or §
1332(a). Accordingly, I will ...