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United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 18, 2005.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN E. JONES, District Judge



On December 2, 2004, Plaintiff Solomon Dancey ("Plaintiff" or "Dancey"), proceeding pro se, filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania against Defendant Eric Richardson ("Defendant" or "Richardson") and filed an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis.


  In the complaint, Plaintiff completely fails to invoke the Court's federal jurisdiction. The Court's understanding of Plaintiff's claim is that he worked for Defendant doing construction in exchange for renting a room where Plaintiff maintains Defendant's other property as a safe house. (See Rec. Doc. 1 at ¶ 3). Apparently, after having given Defendant information concerning a close personal friend's drug use, the residence was "sabotaged" and Plaintiff later discovered that his personal belongings were stolen by the Defendant. As compensation, Plaintiff requests that specific items that were allegedly taken or damaged be returned or that Plaintiff receive the fair market value of such items. Id. at ¶ 4.

  Nowhere on the face of the complaint does Plaintiff address the Court's jurisdiction except to state on the civil cover sheet that he is filing "a person to person suit to recover all items in his possession to replace or fix any damage and or to retain face value of all stolen item with honest estimate." Id. at 3.

  As a federal court with limited jurisdiction, we may only hear a case if the Constitution or a federal statute provides us with jurisdiction. See Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of America, 511 U.S. 375, 378 (1994). Subject matter jurisdiction may arise in one of two forms: diversity jurisdiction or federal question jurisdiction.*fn1

  Where jurisdiction is based upon diversity, the matter in controversy must exceed $75,000 and there must be complete diversity of citizenship between the parties. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332. In this case, the addresses Plaintiff provides for both parties are that of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Plaintiff has noted on the civil cover sheet that both parties are citizens of the same state. We therefore conclude that there is no complete diversity of citizenship between the parties.*fn2 Accordingly, we will alternatively consider whether the Court's jurisdiction over this matter may be predicated upon the existence of a federal question.

  Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, federal courts have been granted original jurisdiction over "all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The determination of whether a claim arises under federal law, and therefore presents a federal question, "is governed by the `well-pleaded complaint rule,' which provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented on the face of the plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint." Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987) (citing Gully v. First National Bank, 299 U.S. 109, 112-13 (1936)); see also Dukes v. U.S. Healthcare, Inc., 57 F.3d 350, 353 (3d Cir. 1995).

  After a thorough review of the complaint, the Court does not find that Plaintiff has asserted a claim that presents a federal question. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(h) provides that "[w]henver it appears by suggestion of the parties or otherwise that the court lacks jurisdiction of the subject matter, the court shall dismiss the action." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3).


1. Plaintiff's complaint (doc. 1) shall be dismissed without prejudice.
2. Plaintiff's Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (doc. 2) is denied as moot.
3. The Clerk is directed to close the file on this case.

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