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Knight v. Chatlelain

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

June 13, 2019

JOHN C. CHATELAIN, et al., Defendants.


          Richard G. Kopf Senior United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff, Phyllis Marie Knight (“Knight”), who also refers to herself as Dr. Phyllis Marie Knight-Bey, D.M., filed this case on May 8, 2019, and was granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis on May 9, 2019. The court now conducts an initial review of Knight's Complaint (Filing 1) and Supplement (Filing 7) to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).


         Knight alleges that she “has identified herself as an aboriginal Moorish American National, a citizen of the Moorish National Republic Federal Government, Northwest Africa, [1] and as a participant in the Moorish Divine and National Movement of the World-the North Gate, ” and that she is “seeking damages due the unlawful eviction filing by (attorney) John C. Chatelain on behalf of his client (defendant) La Chelle Phillips without any proof of a contractual violation ...” (Filing 1, p. 1).

         Five Defendants are named in the Complaint: John C. Chatelain (“Chatelain”), La Chelle Phillips (“Phillips”), the Douglas County Court Clerk's Office, Judge Sheryl L. Lohaus, and the City of Omaha (Filing 1, pp. 2-3), but in a Supplement filed on May 20, 2019, Judge Lohaus and the City of Omaha are not included in the list of Defendants (Filing 7, p. 3). However, the caption of both filings lists six Defendants: Chatelain, Phillips, an unidentified County Court Judge, County Court Clerk Supervisor (Etta), the City of Omaha, and the State of Nebraska.

         Knight alleges that she “entered [a] motion in the (Douglas County Court) on May 7, 2019 demanding case number CI 19-8911 be dismissed due to lack of jurisdiction over the person, the subject and the matter due to diversity of citizenship.” (Filing 1, p. 1) The court takes judicial notice of the proceedings in La Chelle Phillips v. Phyllis Marie Knight, County Court of Douglas, Nebraska, Case No. CI 19-8911 (available on the JUSTICE public database at[2] The county court file reflects that a complaint for restitution and detainer was filed against Knight on April 24, 2019, by attorney John C. Chatelain (“Chatelain”) on behalf of La Chelle Phillips (“Phillips”), who was alleged to be the owner of a residence located at 5403 Grand Avenue in Omaha, Nebraska. The matter was dismissed without prejudice following a hearing on May 8, 2019.


         The court is required to review in forma pauperis complaints to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). The court must dismiss a complaint or any portion of it that states a frivolous or malicious claim, that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         Pro se plaintiffs must set forth enough factual allegations to “nudge[] their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, ” or “their complaint must be dismissed.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 569-70 (2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”).

         “The essential function of a complaint under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is to give the opposing party ‘fair notice of the nature and basis or grounds for a claim, and a general indication of the type of litigation involved.'” Topchian v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., 760 F.3d 843, 848 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Hopkins v. Saunders, 199 F.3d 968, 973 (8th Cir. 1999)). However, “[a] pro se complaint must be liberally construed, and pro se litigants are held to a lesser pleading standard than other parties.” Topchian, 760 F.3d at 849 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).


         Federal district courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). “If the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3).

         Original jurisdiction of the federal district courts over civil actions is generally set forth in 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1332. Subject-matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, commonly referred to as “federal question” jurisdiction, is proper when a plaintiff asserts a claim arising under a federal statute, the Constitution, or treaties of the United States. McLain v. Andersen Corp., 567 F.3d 956, 963 (8th Cir. 2009). Subject-matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, commonly referred to as “diversity of citizenship” jurisdiction, is proper when “the citizenship of each plaintiff is different from the citizenship of each defendant.” Ryan v. Schneider Natl. Carriers, Inc., 263 F.3d 816, 819 (8th Cir. 2001). The necessary diversity of citizenship can be between citizens of different States” or between “citizens of a State and citizens or subjects of a foreign state.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1)-(2). In addition, the amount in controversy in an action brought under “diversity of citizenship” jurisdiction must be greater than $75, 000.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).

         Knight alleges that she “is proceeding as a Natural Person, in Propria Persona, Sui Juris under the status 28 U.S. Code § 1331 and 42 U.S. Code § 242 [sic]” (Filing 1, p. 3). The second statutory reference presumably was intended as 18 U.S.C. § 242, which is a “civil rights statute making it criminal to act (1) ‘willfully' and (2) under color of law (3) to deprive a person of rights protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.” United States v. Peterson, 887 F.3d 343, 347 (8th Cir. 2018) (quoting United States v. Lanier, 520 U.S. 259, 264 (1997)). There is no private cause of action under this statute. Garrison v. Rock Creek Holding, LLC, No. 5:19-CV-05021, 2019 WL 1186862, at *2 (W.D. Ark. Mar. 13, 2019) (citing Rockefeller v. United States Court of Appeals Office, for Tenth Circuit Judges, 248 F.Supp.2d 17 (D.D.C. 2003)); see Allen v. Gold Country Casino, 464 F.3d 1044, 1048 (9th Cir. 2006) (18 U.S.C. § 242 is a criminal statute that does not give rise to civil liability). However, the statute has a civil counterpart, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To state a ...

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