United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
SARA M. CARROLL and ANDREW MORENO, Plaintiffs,
FIRST CHOICE HOUSING, LLC, RICK HARDESTY, and KARA LINDSAY, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
A. BRADY UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
Carroll and Andrew Moreno, Plaintiffs proceeding pro se,
filed an Amended Civil Complaint (ECF No. 5) against First
Choice Housing, LLC, Rick Hardesty, and Kara Lindsay.
Plaintiffs also filed a second Motion to Proceed in forma
pauperis (ECF No. 6). For the reasons set forth below,
the Plaintiffs' Motion is DENIED. The Plaintiffs'
Complaint is DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
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.
inquiry does not end there, however. In 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
state a claim under the federal notice pleading standards, a
complaint must set forth a “short and plain statement
of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Factual allegations are
accepted as true and need only give “‘fair notice
of what the...claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.'” EEOC v. Concentra Health Serv.,
Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776-77 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007)). However, a plaintiff's allegations must show
that his entitlement to relief is plausible, rather than
merely speculative. Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d
1074, 1083 (7th Cir. 2008).
Plaintiffs' initial Complaint was dismissed by this Court
in its Opinion and Order dated October 31, 2019. This Court
found that Plaintiffs' initial Complaint was little more
than a collateral attack against eviction proceedings in the
Allen County, Indiana Superior Court, and therefore this
Court had no jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine. (ECF No. 4). Plaintiffs' Amended Civil
Complaint largely cures the Rooker-Feldman issue,
but comes no closer to invoking this Court's
jurisdiction. In essence, the Amended Civil Complaint alleges
that the Defendants exercised “self-help/constructive
eviction” by shutting off the utilities to
Plaintiffs' rental home in violation of Indiana Code
§ 32-31-5-6(c)(3). Whether or not these allegations are
true, they do not present a claim “arising under the
Constitution, law, or treaties of the United States, ”
such that federal question jurisdiction exists under 28
U.S.C. § 1331. Nor is this a case where a state law
claim implicates significant federal issues, invoking
“another longstanding, if less frequently encountered,
variety of federal ‘arising under'
jurisdiction.” Grable & Sons Metal Prods., Inc.
v. Darue Eng'g & Mfg., 545 U.S. 308, 312 (2005).
Instead, by all appearances this case is a run-of-the-mill
landlord-tenant dispute arising under state law. Regardless
of how such a dispute is framed, it cannot invoke the
jurisdiction of this Court. See, e.g.,
TI Inv'rs of Wis., LLC v. XFPG, LLC, 2013 WL
3731756 (E.D. Wis. July 15, 2013). Moreover, there are no
allegations in the Amended Civil Complaint that would invoke
diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Indeed,
because virtually the same allegations are currently pending
as a counter-claim in an Indiana small claims court
(see Allen County, Indiana Superior Court Cause No.
02D03-1909-SC-12449), a court with a jurisdictional limit of
$6, 000.00, Ind. Code § 33-29-2-4(b)(1), it would seem
impossible for Plaintiffs to establish the required
Court has already given Plaintiffs one opportunity to
re-state their claim in a way that would invoke the
jurisdiction of this Court. Plaintiffs have failed in that
task, and this Court can see no way in which a federal case
can be made out of the facts alleged in either the initial
Civil Complaint or the Amended Civil Complaint. Accordingly,
no further amendments will be permitted.
foregoing reasons, the Court:
(1) DENIES Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to Proceed in
forma pauperis (ECF No. 6); and
(2) DISMISSES the Amended Civil Complaint (ECF No. 5); and
(3) DISMISSES this case with ...