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Jefferson v. Osterholt

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

June 3, 2019

DAVID JEFFERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
THOMAS E. OSTERHOLT, Defendant,

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          AUDREY G. FLEISSIG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on the motion of plaintiff David Jefferson for leave to commence this civil action without prepayment of the filing fee. (Docket No. 1). Having reviewed the information contained in the motion, the Court finds it should be granted. Additionally, for the reasons discussed below, the Court will order plaintiff to show cause why this action should not be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff is a pro se litigant who has filed a civil action naming Thomas E. Osterholt as defendant. He has indicated that the Court's jurisdiction is based on a federal question. (Docket No. 1 at 3; Docket No. 1-1 at 1). Specifically, in the section of the form complaint for asserting federal question jurisdiction, plaintiff states: “Housing discrimination. At a hearing about an eviction in June 2018, the lawyer refused to look at paperwork indicating the rent had been paid.” (Docket No. 1 at 3). In his statement of claim, plaintiff states, in full:

At [an] eviction hearing in June 2018 in St. Louis[, ] the lawyer refused to look at proof that I was current in the rent. I had a truck driving job waiting in Omaha, NE. He scheduled the next hearing, and I was rear-ended on I-80 west in Wyoming[, ] causing me to lose my job.

(Docket No. 1 at 5).

         Plaintiff has supplemented these allegations with several exhibits that were sent to the Court after the filing of the complaint. (Docket No. 6).[1] The exhibits include chat transcripts between plaintiff and USAA; a revised IRS earned income tax credit form from a labor law compliance service; a notice of cancellation of insurance from USAA; a letter from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs; a letter from the Social Security Administration; and a docket sheet from Neighborhood Gardens Apartments v. Jefferson, No. 1822-AC16429 (22nd Cir., City of St. Louis). Based on the docket sheet and review of plaintiff's state court case, the Court notes that defendant Osterholt is the attorney for Neighborhood Gardens Apartments and filed an action against plaintiff seeking unpaid rent.

         Plaintiff seeks damages in the amount of $74, 999 for loss of income and back pain, apparently in relation to the aforementioned car accident in Wyoming.

         Discussion

         Plaintiff has brought this action against defendant Thomas E. Osterholt, alleging that at a June 2018 eviction hearing, Osterholt refused to look at paperwork indicating that plaintiff's rent had been paid. He claims that this constitutes “housing discrimination.” For the reasons discussed below, plaintiff will be directed to show cause why this case should not be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

         A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         Subject 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).

         Federal 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). Here, plaintiff has indicated that the basis of this Court's jurisdiction is federal question jurisdiction. As explained below, however, neither federal question nor diversity of citizenship jurisdiction is apparent on the face of the complaint.

         B. Federal ...


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