United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
OPINION AND ORDER
THERESA L. SPRINGMANN CHIEF JUDGE
Stewart, a Plaintiff proceeding pro se, filed a Complaint
[ECF No. 1] on March 29, 2018, against Defendants Parkcenter
Behavioral Health and Sharon Altholz. He contemporaneously
filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis [ECF
a plaintiff must pay a statutory filing fee to bring an
action in federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). However,
the federal in forma pauperis (IFP) statute, 28 U.S.C. §
1915, provides indigent litigants an opportunity for
meaningful access to the federal courts despite their
inability to pay the costs and fees associated with that
access. See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319
(1989). To authorize a litigant to proceed IFP, a court must
make two determinations: first, whether the litigant is
unable to pay the costs of commencing the action, §
1915(a)(1); and second, whether the action is frivolous or
malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is
immune from such relief, § 1915(e)(2)(B).
the first inquiry, an indigent party may commence an action
in federal court, without prepayment of costs and fees, upon
submission of an affidavit asserting an inability “to
pay such fees or give security therefor.” Id.
§ 1915(a). The Plaintiff has done so in this case.
However, the inquiry does not end here.
assessing whether a plaintiff may proceed IFP, a court must
look to the sufficiency of the complaint to determine whether
it can be construed as stating a claim for which relief can
be granted or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who
is immune from such relief. Id. §
1915(e)(2)(B). District courts have the power under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B) to screen complaints even before service
of the complaint on the defendants, and must dismiss the
complaint if it fails to state a claim. Rowe v.
Shake, 196 F.3d 778, 783 (7th Cir. 1999). Courts apply
the same standard under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) as
when addressing a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Luevano v. Wal-Mart Stores,
Inc., 722 F.3d 1014, 1018, 1027 (7th Cir. 2013). Federal
courts are also required to “check to see that federal
jurisdiction is properly alleged.” Wis. Knife Works
v. Nat'l Metal Crafters, 781 F.2d 1280, 1282 (7th
Cir. 1986); see also Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S.
319, 326 n.6 (1989).
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. U.S. Const. art.
III, § 2; see also Johnson v. U.S. Office of Pers.
Mgmt., 783 F.3d 655, 660 (7th Cir. 2015). The plaintiff
has the burden to establish subject matter jurisdiction.
See Lee v. City of Chi., 330 F.3d 456, 468 (7th Cir.
2003). In civil actions, federal district courts most
commonly exercise federal question jurisdiction or diversity
jurisdiction over cases or controversies. See 28
U.S.C. § 1331 (“The district courts shall have
original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the
Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United
States.”); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)
(“The district courts shall have original jurisdiction
of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds
the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and
costs, and is between . . . citizens of different
States[.]”). In the instant case, the Plaintiff has
brought a libel or slander suit against the Defendants. Libel
or slander is a tort; hence Indiana law applies, and the
Plaintiff must demonstrate diversity of citizenship in order
to establish subject matter jurisdiction. See Gintert v.
Howard Publ'ns Co., 565 F.Supp. 829, 831 (N.D. Ind.
1983). The Plaintiff, however, has not sufficiently pleaded
the Defendants' citizenship. The Plaintiff appears to be
a citizen of Indiana, and therefore if either Defendant is
also an Indiana citizen this Court lacks diversity of
citizenship jurisdiction. Lincoln Property Co. v.
Roche, 546 U.S. 81, 89 (2005) (explaining 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332 requires complete diversity of citizenship
between all plaintiffs and all defendants). In such a case,
the Plaintiff may proceed with his libel or slander suit in
state court, but cannot proceed in federal district court.
Plaintiff may amend his Complaint to include (1) a federal
claim, (2) the citizenship of the Defendants, or (3) both. If
the Plaintiff wishes to invoke diversity of citizenship
jurisdiction, the Plaintiff should also plead the amount in
controversy. Because the Plaintiff has asserted state law
claims over which this Court has no jurisdiction absent a
showing of diversity, the dismissal of this Complaint will be
without prejudice to the Plaintiff's right to refile his
state law claims against the Defendants in a state court.
foregoing reasons, the Court:
DENIES the Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Proceed in
forma pauperis [ECF No.2];
DISMISSES WITHOUT PREJUDICE the Complaint [ECF No. 1];
GRANTS the Plaintiff until May 4, 2018, to file an amended
complaint, accompanied by a new Petition to Proceed Without
Prepayment of Fees and Costs or the filing fee; and
CAUTIONS the Plaintiff that if he does not respond by the
above deadline, this case will be ...