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Paclik v. Urquiagapaclik

June 12, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herndon, District Judge


I. Introduction

On April 19, 2007, Plaintiff filed a pro se complaint with this Court alleging, among other things, that his civil rights had been violated by the St. Clair County Court system in the course of child custody proceedings. On April 23, 2007, the Court issued an Order dismissing Plaintiff's complaint without prejudice and with leave to amend finding that the Court lacked jurisdiction over this matter. On that same day, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint. (Doc. 6.) The following day, April 24, 2007, Plaintiff filed a second amended complaint. (Doc. 7.) It is the second amended complaint that the Court takes under consideration at this time. In addition, the Court reconsiders Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 2) and his motion for service of process at government expense (Doc. 4).

For many years, federal district courts granted motions to proceed in forma pauperis if the movant was indigent and the complaint was neither frivolous nor malicious. 28 U.S.C. § 1915. The Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), significantly changed the district court's responsibilities in reviewing pro se complaints and in forma pauperis motions. The Seventh Circuit has clarified that the PLRA "changed § 1915 not only for cases brought by prisoners, but in some respect for all indigent litigants." Hutchinson v. Spink, 126 F.3d 895, 899 (7th Cir. 1997). Under the PLRA, the Court must screen any indigent's complaint (those filed by prisoners and non-prisoners alike) and dismiss the complaint if (a) the allegation of poverty is untrue, (b) the action is frivolous or malicious, (c) the action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or (d) the action seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

II. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

As an initial matter, the Court reviewed Plaintiff's second amended Complaint to determine whether it has subject matter jurisdiction over this case. See Wisconsin Knife Works v. National Metal Crafters, 781 F.2d 1280, 1282 (7th Cir. 1986)("The first thing a federal judge should do when a complaint is filed is check to see that federal jurisdiction is properly alleged."); McCready v. White, 417 F.3d 700, 702 (7th Cir. 2005)("Ensuring the existence of subject matter jurisdiction is the court's first duty in every lawsuit.").

A. Diversity Jurisdiction

Plaintiff claims that diversity jurisdiction exists in this case. The statute regarding diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1332,requires complete diversity between the parties plus an amount in controversy exceeding $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs. Complete diversity means that "none of the parties on either side of the litigation may be a citizen of the state of which a party on the other side is a citizen." Howell v. Tribune Entertainment Co., 106 F.3d 215, 217 (7th Cir. 1997) (citations omitted).First of all, the Court remains unconvinced that complete diversity exists. Plaintiff states that he is a resident of Illinois and that Defendant is a resident of California. This does not suffice. Residency is not the same, under the law, as citizenship. See Simon v. Allstate Employee Group Medical Plan, 263 F.3d 656, 658 n.1 (7th Cir. 2001)(citations omitted)("An allegation of residency, however, is insufficient to establish diversity jurisdiction."). In addition, the Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to establish that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. Plaintiff states that he is seeking $75,000 in personal loans, airfare, and expenses that he paid on behalf of Defendant in the course of their marriage. In addition, he is seeking half of the $50,000 he claims to have spent litigating his divorce and child custody matters in St. Clair County Court. However, the Court does not have jurisdiction over such matters, due to the domestic relations exception to diversity discussed below and, therefore, would not have the authority to grant such damages, under any circumstances, on Plaintiff's behalf. Therefore, the Court finds that diversity jurisdiction does not exist.

B. Federal Question Jurisdiction

Having found that diversity jurisdiction does not exist, the Court next considers whether Plaintiff has stated a claim arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Plaintiff's Complaint contains an extensive description of the events surrounding Plaintiff and Defendant's marriage and subsequent break-up. It also contains numerous allegations against Defendant and other unnamed parties. The Court has attempted to identify Plaintiff's claims, primarily by examining the relief he requested in the final paragraph of his second amended Complaint. In the final analysis, the Court finds that it lacks jurisdiction over all but one of Plaintiff's claims.

The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly held that it is a "fundamental precept that federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. The limits upon federal jurisdiction, whether imposed by the Constitution or by Congress, must be neither disregarded nor evaded." Owen Equipment & Erection Co. V. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 374 (1978). As such, this Court may only exercise jurisdiction over matters upon which the Constitution or Congress has expressly granted it authority. State and federal court systems are entirely separate and independent. The United States Supreme Court is the only federal court that may review a state court decision and it may do so only when a decision has been rendered by the state's highest court and only then if the decision relates to the validity of a federal statute or treaty or the validity of a state statute under the federal Constitution or laws. See 28 U.S.C. § 1257. Accordingly, this Court does not have jurisdiction to review orders entered by a state court.

Furthermore, although federal courts have original jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 of all civil matters when complete diversity of citizenship exists and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000, the United States Supreme Court has long held that diversity jurisdiction does not extend to issues related to "domestic relations" -- specifically divesting federal courts of the power to issue divorce, alimony, and child custody decrees. Ankenbrandt v. Richards, 504 U.S. 689, 703 (1992).

III. Plaintiff's Claims

Having laid out the contours of the Court's authority to exercise jurisdiction over certain matters, the Court now turns to each of the claims alleged ...

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