United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania
SCOTT J. MELNICK, Plaintiff,
WEIL ANTIQUE CENTER, Defendant.
EDWARD G. SMITH, J.
This matter is one of 29 cases filed by the plaintiff pro se, Scott J. Melnick, in which he is attempting to collect hundreds of millions of dollars based on alleged contracts by which he provided advice to various individuals and entities as to how to win the lottery. For the reasons set forth below, the court will order the plaintiff to show cause why the court should not dismiss the amended complaint in this case for (1) lack of subject-matter jurisdiction or (2) lack of timely service of process under Rule 4(m) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
I. SUMMARY OF ALLEGATIONS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
The plaintiff commenced this action against the defendant, Veil Antique Center, by filing a complaint on May 29, 2014. See Doc. No. 1. The docket contains a notation that the Clerk of Court’s office issued a summons to the plaintiff on June 2, 2014. See 5-29-14 Unnumbered Docket Entry Between Doc. Nos. 1 & 2 (showing issuance to plaintiff on June 2, 2014). The plaintiff then filed an amended complaint on July 24, 2014.
In the amended complaint, the plaintiff alleges that he resides in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and the defendant has a business address in Allentown, Pennsylvania. See Am. Compl. at ¶¶ 1, 2. He also alleges that he is a United States citizen and the defendant is a United States business. Id. at ¶¶ 3, 4. He claims that “[t]his court has jurisdiction, as the agreements made were completed by interstate communications online, telephone, and Facebook.” Id. at ¶ 5.
As for the substance of his claims, the plaintiff avers that on March 24, 2012, he entered into a “cooperative venture” with the defendant to “win a jackpot lottery.” Id. at ¶ 8. In this venture, the defendant agreed “to full disclosure of acts performed under [the] agreement and to divulge the winnings of any assigned lottery tickets played by [it] as part of a lottery ticket purchasing agreement.” Id. at ¶ 9. In addition, the defendant had to disclosure “an income tax statement to [prove] that a lottery was won or not won.” Id. at ¶ 10.
Despite this agreement, the defendant did not disclose the pertinent tax information to the plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 11. Thus, the plaintiff “assume[s], per the agreement, ” that the defendant won the $656, 000, 000 Mega Millions lottery prize and failed to disclose it to him. Id. The plaintiff claims that defendant’s failure to turn over its income tax statement to him constituted a breach of the parties’ agreement. Id. at ¶ 12. For his requested damages, the plaintiff seeks his share of the $656, 000, 000 lottery winnings, $63, 000, 000 in compensatory damages, $9, 000 “per lottery claim” for legal fees, and 4% interest on “any money lost during all this time.” Id. at ¶¶ 13-16.
Although the Clerk of Court issued a summons to the plaintiff on June 2, 2014, there is no indication on the docket that the plaintiff has properly served the summons and the complaint or the amended complaint.
Although there appear to be significant issues with the merits of the claims in the amended complaint insofar as the plaintiff is attempting to collect money resulting from a lottery that the defendant may or, most likely, may not have won, the court will not address those issues at this point. Instead, there are two preliminary issues requiring resolution: First, it does not appear that the court has subject-matter jurisdiction over this action. Second, it does not appear that the plaintiff has properly effected service of the summons and the complaint (or the amended complaint) as required by Rule 4(m) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
With regard to subject-matter jurisdiction, the party asserting federal jurisdiction “bears the burden of showing that the case is properly before the court at all stages of the litigation.” Packard v. Provident Nat’l Bank, 994 F.2d 1039, 1045 (3d Cir. 1993). Although the only documents of record so far are the complaint and the amended complaint, the court is obliged to address issues of subject-matter jurisdiction sua sponte. See Trent Realty Assocs. v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass’n of Philadelphia, 657 F.2d 29, 36 (3d Cir. 1981) (“A federal court is bound to consider its own jurisdiction preliminary to consideration of the merits.”). If the court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action. See 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.”).
Here, the amended complaint does not contain any particular averments regarding jurisdiction other than the plaintiff’s blanket assertion that the court has jurisdiction because the parties used “interstate communications” to complete the agreement. Am. Compl. at ¶ 5. This allegation, in itself, does not affirmatively show the basis for this court’s jurisdiction over this matter. Moreover, the court is unaware of any act of Congress providing the court with jurisdiction by virtue of apparently non-diverse parties’ use of interstate communications.
The only document in which the plaintiff attempted to affirmatively identify the basis for the court’s subject-matter jurisdiction in this matter was the original complaint. Although the original complaint is no longer the operative document because the plaintiff filed an amended complaint, the court notes that the plaintiff had indicated in the original complaint that the court has federal-question jurisdiction (28 U.S.C. § 1331) over this case. See Compl. at 2, Doc. No. 1. In support of this allegation, the plaintiff claims that the following constitutional, statutory, or treaty rights are at issue: “Embezzlement, Theft of Service, Conspiracy, [and] Consumer fraud.” Id.
Even if the court were to rely on the plaintiff’s allegation in the original complaint that he was seeking to invoke the court’s jurisdiction over matters involving a federal question, he still has not sustained his burden to show that jurisdiction is proper here. The federal-question jurisdiction statute provides that “[t]he district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331. “For a claim to arise under the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States, a right or immunity created by the Constitution or laws of the United States must be an essential element of the plaintiff’s claim.” In re Orthopedic Bone Screw Prods. Liab. Litig., 939 F.Supp. 398, 399 (E.D. Pa. 1996) ...