United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
KEITH E. BERRY, Plaintiff,
MO DEPT. SOCIAL SERVICES, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
G. FLEISSIG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on its own motion. On January
2, 2019, the Court ordered plaintiff to show cause why his
complaint should not be dismissed for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. Plaintiff was given thirty days from the date
of the order in which to respond. He has not responded.
Therefore, for the reasons discussed below, plaintiff's
complaint will be dismissed without prejudice. See
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3).
is a citizen of the State of Washington. (Docket No. 1 at 3).
He brings this pro se civil action against defendant Missouri
Department of Social Services. (Docket No. 1 at 2). He is
asserting federal question jurisdiction, and alleges that the
basis of said jurisdiction is the Fourth Amendment's
protection against unreasonable search and seizure, as well
as the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process and Equal
Protection Clauses. (Docket No. 1 at 3). Plaintiff also lists
“no Jurisdiction” as a basis for federal court
jurisdiction, which appears to be a reference to the
state-court judgments at issue in this case.
truncated and conclusory nature of plaintiff's
“Statement of Claim” makes it difficult to
ascertain the exact nature of his claims. Nevertheless, it
appears that he is complaining about garnishment of his wages
in relation to a child support case.
claims that on March 28, 2008, defendant Department of Social
Services placed a judgement on him in Missouri Circuit Court.
(Docket No. 1 at 5). Due to this, plaintiff asserts that he
“lost wages.” He alleges that the Department of
Social Services failed “to go [through] the proper
channel.” Plaintiff states that he has been living in
the State of Washington for the last twenty years. He claims
that he has not been properly served and that paternity has
not been determined through a DNA test or a “wet
signature” on the birth certificate. He states that the
only document he has received in the four years since the
garnishment started was a judgement from both parties. He
complains that he has requested documents from both parties
but has not been successful. He further alleges that when he
contacted the “Customer Relations Unit” they
“openly lied” to him.
seeks $50, 000 in punitive damages for “their
negligence” and for deliberately withholding
information. He also wants the garnishment of his wages to
January 2, 2019, the Court issued an order directing
plaintiff to show cause why his case should not be dismissed.
(Docket No. 4). The Court noted that plaintiff had not
demonstrated any basis for either federal question or
diversity of citizenship jurisdiction. Plaintiff was given
thirty days in which to respond. He has not filed a response.
brings this civil action against defendant Missouri
Department of Social Services. The basis of his complaint
appears to be the garnishing of his wages, stemming from a
child support action. For the reasons discussed below,
plaintiff's complaint will be dismissed for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction.
matter jurisdiction refers to a court's power to decide a
certain class of cases. LeMay v. U.S. Postal Serv.,
450 F.3d 797, 799 (8th Cir. 2006). “Federal courts are
not courts of general jurisdiction; they have only the power
that is authorized by Article III of the Constitution and the
statutes enacted by Congress pursuant thereto.”
Bender v. Williamsport Area Sch. Dist., 475 U.S.
534, 541 (1986); see also Gunn v. Minton, 568 U.S.
251, 256 (2013) (“Federal courts are courts of limited
jurisdiction, possessing only that power authorized by
Constitution and statute”). The presence of subject
matter jurisdiction is a threshold requirement that must be
assured in every federal case. Kronholm v. Fed. Deposit
Ins. Corp., 915 F.2d 1171, 1174 (8th Cir. 1990); see
also Sanders v. Clemco Indus., 823 F.2d 214, 216 (8th
Cir. 1987) (“The threshold requirement in every federal
case is jurisdiction and we have admonished the district
court to be attentive to a satisfaction of jurisdictional
requirements in all cases”). As such, the issue of
subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time, by any
party or the court. Gray v. City of Valley Park,
Mo., 567 F.3d 976, 982 (8th Cir. 2009).
courts have subject matter jurisdiction over both federal
question cases and diversity of citizenship cases. See
Auto-Owners Ins. Co. v. Tribal Court of Spirit Lake Indian
Reservation, 495 F.3d 1017, 1020 (8th Cir. 2007)
(finding that subject matter jurisdiction is lacking if
neither diversity of citizenship nor federal question
jurisdiction applies); and McLaurin v. Prater, 30
F.3d 982, 984-85 (8th Cir. 1994) (noting that Congress has
directed that district courts shall have jurisdiction in both
federal question and diversity cases). Plaintiff's
complaint, however, fails to establish this Court's
jurisdiction under either basis.
Federal Question Jurisdiction
question jurisdiction gives district courts “original
jurisdiction over civil actions arising under the
Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.”
Griffioen v. Cedar Rapids & Iowa City Ry. Co.,
785 F.3d 1182, 1188 (8th Cir. 2015); see also 28
U.S.C. § 1331. Whether a claim arises under federal law
is determined by reference to the “well-pleaded
complaint.” Great Lakes Gas Transmission Ltd.
P'ship v. Essar Steel Minn., LLC, 843 F.3d 325, 329
(8th Cir. 2016). The well-pleaded complaint rule provides
that jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is
presented on the face of a plaintiff's properly pleaded
complaint. Markham v. Wertin, 861 F.3d 748, 754 (8th
Cir. 2017); see also Thomas v. United Steelworkers Local
1938, 743 F.3d 1134, 1139 (8th Cir. 2014) (“Under
the well-pleaded complaint rule, a federal question must
exist on the face of the plaintiff's properly pleaded
complaint in order to establish federal question subject
matter jurisdiction”). Plaintiff's ...