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Lee v. Cooper

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

September 23, 2019

PHILLIP LEE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
JOHN COOPER, Defendant,

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STEPHEN. LIMBAUGH, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on review of the response of plaintiffs Phillip and Odessa Lee to the Court's August 2, 2019 order to show cause. (Docket No. 8). The Court had ordered plaintiffs to show cause why their case should not be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Having reviewed plaintiffs' response, and for the reasons discussed below, the Court must dismiss this action without prejudice.

         Background

         Plaintiffs are pro se litigants. On April 4, 2019, they filed a civil action against defendant John Cooper alleging that Cooper reneged on a rent-to-own agreement concerning property at 843 Poplar Street in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. (Docket No. 1). Plaintiffs asserted that this Court had jurisdiction based on a federal question. (Docket No. 1 at 3). However, in the jurisdictional section of plaintiffs' form complaint, plaintiffs failed to support this assertion with relevant facts. Instead, they merely alleged that they had purchased a house in Poplar Bluff from defendant Cooper, paying twice the value for it. In the section of the form complaint where plaintiffs were directed to list any "federal officials or federal agencies" involved in their case, they listed the name of Missouri circuit judge John Shock.

         In the "Statement of Claim, " plaintiffs asserted that in 1996, they purchased the property at 843 Poplar Street pursuant to a rent-to-own agreement between themselves and defendant Cooper. (Docket No. 1 at 5). Plaintiffs alleged that Cooper never gave them the deed to the property, even after paying twice the amount in the agreement. In support, plaintiffs noted that Cooper had signed and notarized legal documents to this effect. (Docket No. 1 -1 at 1 -2).[1] Plaintiffs claimed to have lived on the property for twenty-three years, and that they "would have never just paid rent" for so long a period of time. (Docket No. 1 at 6).

         As relief, plaintiffs sought to either have their earnest money paid in full or to receive the return of the property. (Docket No. 1 a 5).

         On May 28, 2019, plaintiffs filed a supplement to their complaint. (Docket No. 6). The supplement consisted of a number of written documents, including: a Section 8 Lease Addendum, covering the period from December 28, 1998 to November 30, 1999; a state-court petition filed by defendant Cooper against plaintiffs, seeking recovery of possession for non-payment of rent; various letters to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); a letter from a notary public; a letter from an attorney to plaintiffs, advising plaintiffs that a state court had determined that they owed $6, 000 in back rent; a letter from State Farm Fire and Casualty Company to plaintiffs, advising them that they had an outstanding balance; and a Housing Assistance Payments Contract.

         On August 2, 2019, the Court ordered plaintiffs to show cause why their complaint should not be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. (Docket No. 7). In particular, the Court noted that despite asserting the existence of federal question jurisdiction, plaintiffs had failed to demonstrate that their case implicated any federal statutes, any federal treaties, or any provisions of the United States Constitution. (Docket No. 7 at 6). Petitioners were given thirty days in which to file a response. (Docket No. 7 at 7). They were advised that a failure to comply with the Court's order would result in the dismissal of their case without prejudice and without further notice.

         Plaintiffs duly filed their response on September 3, 2019. (Docket No. 8).

         Plaintiffs' Response

         Plaintiffs' response to the Court's order to show cause essentially restates the allegations made in their original complaint. They state that they had a rent-to-own agreement with defendant Cooper in which they would make payments to Cooper for the house at 843 Poplar Street with the intention of owning it one day. (Docket No. 8 at 1). However, even after paying twice the purchase price, Cooper did not transfer ownership of the property. Plaintiffs accuse Cooper of mental cruelty, robbery, stealing, fraud, and deceitfulness. They also claim that "Cooper is a thief who has "robbed" others.

         Beyond restating their claims, much of the response is devoted to detailing plaintiffs' current difficulties regarding housing and their health. (Docket No. 8 at 1-2). At no point, however, do plaintiffs attempt to demonstrate a basis for this Court's jurisdiction, as directed by the Court's order to show cause.

         Discussion

         Plaintiffs allege that defendant Cooper violated a rent-to-own agreement whereby plaintiffs would attain ownership of 843 Poplar Street, Poplar Bluff, Missouri, after making a certain number of payments. Despite making twice the number of required payments, plaintiffs accuse Cooper of refusing to give them the deed. From the face of the complaint, it appears that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Because of this, plaintiffs were directed to show cause as to why this case should not ...


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