United States District Court, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Division
GREGORY E. COUCH, Plaintiff,
HONORABLE MARY BETH ROGERS, SHIRLEY M. DENNIS, DEBRA DENNIS, Defendants.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE
ELIZABETH S. ("BETSY") CHESTNEY, UNITED STATES
the Honorable United States District Judge David A.
Report and Recommendation concerns this Court's subject
matter jurisdiction over this case. The District Court
referred Plaintiff's Motion for Hearing on October 24,
2019. In the undersigned's order denying the motion, the
undersigned ordered Plaintiff to file a more definite
statement of the claims he seeks to present to the Court in
order to determine whether there is subject matter
jurisdiction over this case. The undersigned therefore has
authority to enter this recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1)(B). For the reasons set forth below, it is
recommended that Plaintiff's Complaint be dismissed for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Court has an obligation to evaluate its subject matter
jurisdiction at any point in the course of a case and to do
so sua sponte, meaning on its own motion.
Gonzalez v. Thaler, 565 U.S. 134, 141 (2012).
Plaintiff filed his Complaint on August 6, 2019, proceeding
pro se, paid the filing fee, and effected service.
No Defendant has yet to make an appearance in this case.
Complaint [#1] sues a judge in New Jersey and several other
individuals residing in New Jersey for $11, 222.00 in damages
purportedly based on this Court's diversity jurisdiction.
Plaintiff's allegations surround an alteration to a will
in New Jersey probate court that allegedly caused him
financial harm. Plaintiff filed a More Definite Statement on
November 5, 2019 [#11], supplementing his allegations.
Plaintiff contends that he was asked to pay court costs in
New Jersey related to an application to be designated as an
administrator for the estate of Pearleen Dennis, the mother
of Plaintiff's cousin, and never received a refund.
Plaintiff also alleges he was responsible for other expenses
related to Ms. Dennis's estate administration and seeks
reimbursement. Plaintiff attaches invoices to support his
claim that certain expenses were incurred. The amounts listed
in these invoices are approximately $3, 096.00 in funeral
expenses and less than $1, 000 in hotel and rental car
expenses. (Invoices [#11] at 4-82.)
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and only have
authority to hear a case if it falls under one of two
categories of federal jurisdiction: (1) federal question, 28
U.S.C. § 1331 or (2) diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332. Plaintiff does not assert a federal cause of
action so this case does not fall under this Court's
federal-question jurisdiction, and his Complaint states that
he is proceeding under this Court's diversity
jurisdiction. This Court has diversity jurisdiction where a
lawsuit is between citizens of different states (as here) and
the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000 based on the facts
as alleged on the face of the plaintiff's complaint. 28
U.S.C. § 1332(a); Allen v. R & H Oil & Gas
Co., 63 F.3d 1326, 1335 (5th Cir. 1995). Plaintiff's
Complaint states that the amount in controversy is $11,
222.00. (Compl. [#1] at 4.) Plaintiff's More Definite
Statement provides the Court with invoices not exceeding $5,
000.00. (Invoices [#11] at 4-82.)
evaluate the amount in controversy by looking at the face of
the complaint and determining whether the claimed amount of
damages exceeds the jurisdictional threshold. Ervin v.
Sprint Commc'ns Co., 364 Fed. App'x 114, 117
(5th Cir. 2010). Based on the face of Plaintiff's
Complaint and More Definite Statement, his lawsuit does not
fall under either statutory basis for this Court's
subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiff does not assert a
federal cause of action, and Plaintiff does not allege that
the amount in controversy in this case exceeds $75, 000. This
Court therefore lacks subject matter jurisdiction over
Plaintiff's Complaint, meaning Plaintiff's lawsuit
may not be heard in federal court.
Conclusion and Recommendation
considered the facts alleged in Plaintiff's Complaint and
More Definite Statement, the undersigned concludes that there
is no subject matter jurisdiction over this case and
therefore recommends that Plaintiff's Complaint be
Instructions for Service and Notice of Right to
United States District Clerk shall serve a copy of this
report and recommendation on all parties by either (1)
electronic transmittal to all parties represented by
attorneys registered as a “filing user” with the
clerk of court, or (2) by mailing a copy to those not
registered by certified mail, return receipt requested.
Written objections to this report and recommendation must be
filed within fourteen (14) days after being
served with a copy of same, unless this time period is
modified by the district court. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1);
Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). The party shall file the objections with
the clerk of the court, and serve the objections on all other
parties. A party filing objections must specifically identify
those findings, conclusions or recommendations to which
objections are being made and the basis for such objections;
the district court need not consider frivolous, conclusive or
general objections. A party's failure to file written
objections to the proposed findings, conclusions and
recommendations contained in this report shall bar the party
from a de novo determination by the district court.
Thomas v. Arn,474 U.S. 140, 149-52 (1985);
Acuña v. Brown & Root, Inc., 200 F.3d
335, 340 (5th Cir. 2000). Additionally, failure to file
timely written objections to the proposed findings,