IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS EASTERN DIVISION
June 25, 2010
ARLESTA J. HARRIS, PLAINTIFF,
S&S TOWING, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Milton I. Shadur Senior United States District Judge
Arlesta Harris ("Harris") has just filed a self-prepared Complaint against S&S Towing, Inc. and its President David Mumbower, coupling that filing with an In Forma Pauperis Application ("Application") and a Motion for Appointment of Counsel ("Motion"), each of them submitted on a form provided by this District Court's Clerk's Office. Because Harris obviously misunderstands the limited scope of a federal court's subject matter jurisdiction, both the Complaint and this action must be dismissed sua sponte.
Federal courts are empowered to entertain litigation only to the extent that Congress has prescribed. Accordingly subject matter jurisdiction is a threshold inquiry (Wisc. Knife Works v. Nat'l Metalcrafters, 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.
And as Wernsing v. Thompson, 423 F.3d 732, 743 (7th Cir. 2005)(internal citations and quotation marks omitted) has made clear, the court should act sua sponte in that respect if jurisdiction is lacking:
Jurisdiction is the power to declare law, and without it the federal courts cannot proceed. Accordingly, not only may the federal courts police subject matter jurisdiction sua sponte, they must.
Here no federal question is implicated in Harris' allegations, and the other potential branch of federal subject matter jurisdiction--diversity of citizenship--is absent as well. Accordingly the absence of subject matter jurisdiction compels the dismissal of the Complaint and this action, and this Court so orders. That being true, both the Application and the Motion are denied as moot.*fn1