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Franklin v. Pride

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division

October 10, 2019

NATHAN PRIDE, Defendant.



         On October 4, 2019, Plaintiff Eric Glenn Franklin, who is incarcerated at the Madison County Criminal Justice Complex (CJC) in Jackson, Tennessee, filed a pro se civil complaint against Nathan Pride, an attorney. (ECF No. 1.) The complaint was accompanied by a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF No. 2.) The Court issued an order on October 7, 2019, granting leave to proceed in forma pauperis and assessing the civil filing fee pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(a)-(b). (ECF No. 4.)

         Franklin alleges in the complaint that Defendant Pride was hired to represent him in a civil matter involving real property Franklin inherited from his mother. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 2.) He alleges that during the course of the representation, Pride “took it upon himself to forge another Deed without doing his research and realizing that the property was still in the original owners [sic] name.” (Id.) When confronted, Pride allegedly said there was nothing he could do, which resulted in Franklin and his daughter losing their home. (Id.) He seeks compensatory damages. (Id. at PageID 3.)

         The Court is required to screen prisoner complaints and to dismiss any complaint, or any portion thereof, if the complaint-

(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         In assessing whether the complaint in this case states a claim on which relief may be granted, the standards under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), as stated in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-79 (2009), and in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007), are applied. Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). The Court accepts the complaint's “well-pleaded” factual allegations as true and then determines whether the allegations “plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.'” Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681). Conclusory allegations “are not entitled to the assumption of truth, ” and legal conclusions “must be supported by factual allegations.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Although a complaint need only contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), Rule 8 nevertheless requires factual allegations to make a “‘showing,' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 n.3.

         “Pro se complaints are to be held ‘to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers,' and should therefore be liberally construed.” Williams, 631 F.3d at 383 (quoting Martin v. Overton, 391 F.3d 710, 712 (6th Cir. 2004)). Pro se litigants, however, are not exempt from the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989); see also Brown v. Matauszak, 415 Fed.Appx. 608, 612, 613 (6th Cir. Jan. 31, 2011) (affirming dismissal of pro se complaint for failure to comply with “unique pleading requirements” and stating “a court cannot ‘create a claim which [a plaintiff] has not spelled out in his pleading'” (quoting Clark v. Nat'l Travelers Life Ins. Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975))).

         This Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over Franklin's claims. The United States Supreme Court has stated:

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They possess only that power authorized by Constitution and statute, which is not to be expanded by judicial decree. It is to be presumed that a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction, and the burden of establishing the contrary rests upon the party asserting jurisdiction.

Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994) (citations omitted); see also Bender v. Williamsport Area Sch. Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 541 (1986) (“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.”) A federal court may address its subject-matter jurisdiction sua sponte. See, e.g., Ins. Corp. of Ireland, Ltd., 456 U.S. 694. 702 (1982) (“a court, including an appellate court, will raise lack of subject-matter jurisdiction on its own motion”). Furthermore, under Rule 12(h)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, “[i]f the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.”

         Franklin's complaint does not state any basis for federal subject-matter jurisdiction in this case. Though he filed the complaint on the form used for commencing actions under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, there is no allegation that the action arises “under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States, ” as required for federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Franklin does not allege that Pride violated his civil rights or that he acted under color of state law. He contends only that Pride mishandled the legal matter for which he was hired, causing Franklin and his daughter to lose their home. This is a claim of legal malpractice arising under Tennessee law.

         The complaint also does not allege that Franklin and Pride are citizens of different states, as required for diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Therefore, the Court has no ...

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