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Eastridge v. City of Sellersburg

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albany Division

June 26, 2019

JAMES DARREN EASTRIDGE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF SELLERSBURG, STATE OF INDIANA, TIMOTHY L. GRAY, JEREMY TODD MULL, and SELLERSBURG POLICE DEPT, Defendants.

          ENTRY GRANTING MOTION TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS, SCREENING AND ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE United States District Court

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff James Darren Eastridge's (“Eastridge”) Prisoner Request to Proceed in District Court Without Prepaying the Full Filing Fee (Filing No. 2). Because he is allowed to proceed in forma pauperis, this action is also subject to screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         I. DISCUSSION

         A. Filing Fee

         Eastridge's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, without prepaying fees or costs (Filing No. 2) is granted. While in forma pauperis status allows a plaintiff to proceed without pre-payment of the filing fee, the plaintiff remains liable for the full fees. See Robbins v. Switzer, 104 F.3d 895, 898 (7th Cir. 1997) (in forma pauperis litigants remain liable for the filing fee; “all [28 U.S.C.] § 1915(a) does for any litigant is excuse the pre-payment of fees”). The Court does not have the authority to waive the filing fee, and it remains due despite Eastridge's in forma pauperis status. Fiorito v. Samuels, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84869, at *5 (C.D. Ill. June 30, 2016) (“[c]ourt does not have the authority to waive a filing fee”); McDaniel v. Meisner, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 106067, at *12 (E.D. Wis. Aug. 12, 2015) (same). The filing fee for in forma pauperis litigants is $350.00. No. payment is due currently; however, the $350.00 balance remains owing.

         B. Screening

         District courts have an obligation under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) to screen complaints before service on the defendant and must dismiss the complaint if it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim for relief, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. Dismissal under the in forma pauperis statute is an exercise of the court's discretion. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 34 (1992). In determining whether the complaint states a claim, the court applies the same standard as when addressing a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Lagerstrom v. Kingston, 463 F.3d 621, 624 (7th Cir. 2006). To survive dismissal under federal pleading standards,

[the] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.

Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Thus, a “plaintiff must do better than putting a few words on paper that, in the hands of an imaginative reader, might suggest that something has happened to her that might be redressed by the law.” Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 403 (7th Cir. 2010) (emphasis in original).

         C. The Complaint

         In this civil action, pro se plaintiff Eastridge asserts a claim for defamation based upon perjury, false reporting, false statements, and false evidence. He brings his defamation claim against Defendants City of Sellersburg, State of Indiana, Timothy L. Gray, Jeremy Todd Mull, and Sellersburg Police Department. The Complaint alleges that Eastridge is bringing his claim under federal law and “seek[ing] damages in the amount of $35 million dollars plus punitive damages, loss of my job, wages, and I was put on news channel as a mentally unstable, I'm seeking defamation of character for slander, false reporting, and false statements.” (Filing No. 1 at 9.)

         D. Dismissal of Complaint

         It does not appear that this Court has jurisdiction to adjudicate the claim that Eastridge has presented. Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, not general jurisdiction, and “[n]o court may decide a case without subject-matter jurisdiction, and neither the parties nor their lawyers may stipulate to jurisdiction or waive arguments that the court lacks jurisdiction. If the parties neglect the subject, a court must raise jurisdictional questions itself.” United States v. County of Cook, 167 F.3d 381, 387 (7th Cir. 1999); Bender v. Williamsport Area Sch. Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 541 (1986). “Courts . . . have an independent obligation to determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists, even in the absence of a challenge from any party.” Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 514 (2006). A court “must raise the issue sua sponte when it appears that subject matter jurisdiction is lacking.” Buethe v. Britt Airlines, 749 F.2d 1235, 1238 (7th Cir. 1984); see also Evergreen Square of Cudahy v. Wis. Hous. & Econ. Dev. Auth., 776 F.3d 463, 465 (7th Cir. 2015) (“federal courts are obligated to inquire into the existence of jurisdiction sua sponte”). “When a federal court concludes that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the complaint in its entirety.” Arbaugh, 546 U.S. at 514, quoted in Miller v. Herman, 600 F.3d 726, 730 (7th Cir. 2010); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3) (“If the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.”).

         Mr. Eastridge asserts that he is “suing for a violation of federal law under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, ” (Filing No. 1 at 9), however, he has not presented a federal claim, instead, he has presented a state law tort claim for defamation and seeking monetary damages in the amount of $35, 000, 000.00. In order for a federal court to exercise jurisdiction over such a claim, the parties must be citizens of ...


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