United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
L. HORAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Ronnie Ceasar filed a pro se complaint against the
United States Department of Education (“DOE”) and
an attorney employed in DOE's Office for Civil
Rights's (“OCR”) Dallas office, alleging that
OCR's closing his complaint against Southern University,
Baton Rouge, Louisiana - after Ceasar failed to provide a
signed consent requested by OCR - violated his civil rights.
See Dkt. No. 3. This resulting action has been
referred to the undersigned United States magistrate judge
for pretrial management under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and a
standing order of reference from United States District Judge
David C. Godbey.
March 25, 2019, the Court entered a notice of deficiency (the
“NOD”) informing Ceasar that his original
complaint was subject to dismissal for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction and/or for failure to state a claim on which
relief may be granted and requiring that, by April 24, 2019,
he file an amended complaint that cures the deficiencies
noted and either pay the full filing fee to initiate this
action or move for leave to proceed in forma
pauperis (“IFP”). See Dkt. No. 4.
responded to the NOD by filing an IFP motion, see
Dkt. No. 6, and a motion to strike the NOD, see Dkt.
No. 5. The Court granted the IFP motion and denied the motion
to strike. See Dkt. No. 7.
then moved to recuse the undersigned, see Dkt. No.
8, a motion Judge Godbey has denied, see Dkt. No. 9.
undersigned now enters these findings of fact, conclusions of
law, and recommendation that, for the reasons explained
below, the Court should dismiss the complaint for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(h)(3) or, alternatively, with prejudice for
failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted under
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).
Federal courts have an independent duty to examine their own
subject matter jurisdiction. See Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon
Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 583-84 (1999). The Court will not
assume it has jurisdiction. And a party choosing to bring a
case into federal court bears the burden to establish federal
jurisdiction. See, e.g., Butler v. Dallas Area Rapid
Transit, __F. App'x, __ No. 18-10262, 2019 WL
1410726, at *1 (5th Cir. Mar. 27, 2019) (per curiam)
(“[A]ssertions [that] are conclusory [ ] are
insufficient to support [an] attempt to establish
subject-matter jurisdiction.” (citing Evans v.
Dillard Univ., 672 Fed.Appx. 505, 505-06 (5th Cir. 2017)
(per cuiam); Jeanmarie v. United States, 242 F.3d
600, 602 (5th Cir. 2001))). If he does not, his lawsuit must
be dismissed. 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
a district court is required to screen a civil action filed
IFP and may summarily dismiss that action, or any portion of
the action, if, for example, it fails to state a claim on
which relief may be granted. See 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii); see also, e.g., Bynum v. City of
Mesquite, No. 3:02-cv-1301-D, 2002 WL 32182292, at *2
n.2 (N.D. Tex. Oct. 30, 2002) (“In cases in which a
plaintiff seeks to proceed without the payment of the
required filing fee and attendant fees for service of
process, courts have long had the authority to dismiss in
forma pauperis complaints if satisfied that the claims
asserted are frivolous or malicious.”); Walters v.
Scott, Civ. A. No. H-14-1637, 2014 WL 5878494, at *1
(S.D. Tex. Nov. 11, 2014) (“A party proceeding in
forma pauperis is subject to the screening requirements
permitted by 28 U.S.C. § 1915” - a provision that
“applies equally to prisoners and non-prisoners.”
(citing Newsome v. Equal Emp't Opportunity
Comm'n, 301 F.3d 227, 231-33 (5th Cir. 2002))).
for failure to state a claim “turns on the sufficiency
of the ‘factual allegations' in the
complaint, ” Smith v. Bank of Am., N.A., 615
Fed.Appx. 830, 833 (5th Cir. 2015) (per curiam) (quoting
Johnson v. City of Shelby, Miss., 574 U.S.__, 135
S.Ct. 346, 347 (2014) (per curiam); emphasis added by
Smith), and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
“do not countenance dismissal of a complaint for
imperfect statement of the legal theory supporting the claim
asserted, ” Johnson, 135 S.Ct. at 346.
to survive dismissal under the framework of Bell Atlantic
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009), a plaintiff need
only “plead facts sufficient to show” that the
claims asserted have “substantive plausibility”
by stating “simply, concisely, and directly
events” that she contends entitle her to relief.
Johnson, 135 S.Ct. at 347 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2)-(3), (d)(1), (e)); see Harold H. Huggins Realty,
Inc. v. FNC, Inc., 634 F.3d 787, 796 (5th Cir. 2011)
(“A claim for relief is implausible on its face when
‘the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to
infer more than the mere possibility of
misconduct.'” (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
679)); Gentilello v. Rege, 627 F.3d 540, 544 (5th
Cir. 2010) (a court need “not accept as true conclusory
allegations, unwarranted factual inferences, or legal
conclusions” (citations omitted)).
rationale has even more force here, as the Court “must
construe the pleadings of pro se litigants
liberally, ” Andrade v. Gonzales, 459 F.3d
538, 543 (5th Cir. 2006), “to prevent the loss of
rights due to inartful expression, ” Marshall v.
Eadison, 704CV123HL, 2005 WL 3132352, at *2 (M.D. Ga.
Nov. 22, 2005) (citing Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9
(1980)); but see Smith v. CVS Caremark Corp., No.
3:12-cv-2465-B, 2013 WL 2291886, at *8 (N.D. Tex. May 23,
2013) (“[L]iberal construction does not require that
the Court or a defendant create causes of action where there
‘a pro se litigant should be offered an
opportunity to amend his complaint before it is
dismissed.' ... Granting leave to amend, however, is not
required if the plaintiff has already pleaded [his]
‘best case.' A plaintiff has pleaded [his] best
case after [he] is apprised of the insufficiency of [his]
complaint. [And a] plaintiff may indicate [he] has not
pleaded [his] best case by stating material facts that [he]
would include in an amended complaint to overcome the
deficiencies identified by the court.” Wiggins v.
La. State Univ. - Health Care Servs. Div., 710 ...