United States District Court, D. Colorado
ORDER DIRECTING PLAINTIFF TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT
GORDON P. GALLAGHER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Plaintiff Tristan Smith-Kennedy resides in Las Vegas, Nevada. On November 24, he filed a complaint (ECF No. 1) against various entities and individuals. The Court has granted leave to proceed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915.
The Court must construe the complaint liberally because Plaintiff is not represented by an attorney. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). However, the Court cannot act as an advocate for a pro se litigant. See Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110. As part of the court’s review pursuant to D.C.COLO.LCivR 8.1(b), the court has determined that the operative complaint is deficient. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff will be directed to file an amended complaint.
“Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction; they must have a statutory basis for their jurisdiction.” Morris v. City of Hobart, 39 F.3d 1105, 1111 (10th Cir. 1994). There are two statutory bases for federal subject matter jurisdiction: federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
The federal courts have an independent obligation to determine whether subject matter jurisdiction exists. Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 583 (1999). Because federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, there is a presumption against its existence. Basso v. Utah Power & Light Co., 495 F.2d 906, 909 (10th Cir. 1974). A federal district court may therefore raise the objection that it lacks jurisdiction on its own initiative at any stage of the litigation. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3) (“Whenever it appears by suggestion of the parties or otherwise that the court lacks jurisdiction of the subject matter, the court shall dismiss the action.”); see also McAlester v. United Air Lines, Inc., 851 F.2d 1249, 1252 (10th Cir. 1988) (“The issue of subject matter jurisdiction may be raised sua sponte by the court at any time during the course of the proceedings.”).
In the Complaint, Plaintiff does not allege a statutory basis to invoke the Court’s federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Moreover, the applicable federal law does not support his claim.
Moreover, Plaintiff fails to plead facts to support jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. A plaintiff properly invokes § 1332 jurisdiction when he or she presents a claim between parties of diverse citizenship that exceeds the required jurisdictional amount, currently $75, 000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a); see also Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 513 (2006). Both the requisite amount in controversy and the existence of diversity must be affirmatively established by a preponderance of the evidence on the face of either the complaint or the removal notice for purposes of diversity jurisdiction. Martin v. Franklin Capital Corp., 251 F.3d 1284, 1290 (10th Cir. 2001). Plaintiff’s claim does not appear to request damages of $75, 000.00. As a result, it appears “legally certain, ” that the facts Plaintiffs alleged could not support a demand for more than $75, 000 in damages, which is required to meet the statutory threshold for diversity jurisdiction. Thus, the allegations of the Complaint are insufficient to invoke this Court’s diversity jurisdiction.
More importantly, the operative complaint is deficient because it does not comply with the pleading requirements of Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The twin purposes of a complaint are to give the opposing parties fair notice of the basis for the claims against them so that they may respond and to allow the Court to conclude that the allegations, if proven, show that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. See Monument Builders of Greater Kansas City, Inc. v. American Cemetery Ass’n of Kansas, 891 F.2d 1473, 1480 (10th Cir. 1989). The requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 are designed to meet these purposes. See TV Communications Network, Inc. v. ESPN, Inc., 767 F.Supp. 1062, 1069 (D. Colo. 1991), aff’d, 964 F.2d 1022 (10th Cir. 1992). Rule 8(a) provides that a complaint “must contain (1) a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court’s jurisdiction, . . . (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief; and (3) a demand for the relief sought.” The philosophy of Rule 8(a) is reinforced by Rule 8(d)(1), which provides that “[e]ach allegation must be simple, concise, and direct.” Taken together, Rules 8(a) and (d)(1) underscore the emphasis placed on clarity and brevity by the federal pleading rules. Prolix, vague, or unintelligible pleadings violate Rule 8.
Claims must be presented clearly and concisely in a manageable format that allows a court and a defendant to know what claims are being asserted and to be able to respond to those claims. New Home Appliance Ctr., Inc., v. Thompson, 250 F.2d 881, 883 (10th Cir. 1957). For the purposes of Rule 8(a), “[i]t is sufficient, and indeed all that is permissible, if the complaint concisely states facts upon which relief can be granted upon any legally sustainable basis.” Id.
The Court has reviewed the Complaint and finds that Plaintiff fails to provide a short and plain statement of his claims in compliance with the pleading requirements of Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff lists a number of federal statutes as the jurisdiction for his claims. Due to the vagueness of the claims, however, Plaintiff fails to assert any factual basis that falls within the purview of these statutes. Plaintiff’s claims, therefore, are nonsensical and do not state the proper statutory authority for his claims. Moreover, he fails to adequately set forth the proper parties and addresses as required.
A decision to dismiss a complaint pursuant to Rule 8 is within the trial court’s sound discretion. See Atkins v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., 967 F.2d 1197, 1203 (8th Cir. 1992); Gillibeau v. City of Richmond, 417 F.2d 426, 431 (9th Cir. 1969). The Court, however, will give Plaintiff an opportunity to cure the deficiencies in the Complaint by submitting an Amended Complaint that meets the requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8.
Plaintiff is required to assert personal participation by properly named defendants in the alleged constitutional violation. See Bennett v. Passic, 545 F.2d 1260, 1262-63 (10th Cir. 1976). To establish personal participation, Plaintiff must show in the Cause of Action section of the complaint form how each named individual caused the deprivation of a federal right. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985). There must be an affirmative link between the alleged constitutional violation and each defendant’s participation, control or direction, or failure to supervise. See Butler v. City of Norman, 992 F.2d 1053, 1055 (10th Cir. 1993).
Furthermore, to state a claim in federal court Plaintiff must explain (1) what a defendant did to him; (2) when the defendant did it; (3) how the defendant’s action harmed him; and (4) what specific legal right the defendant violated. Nasious v. Two Unknown B.I.C.E. Agents, 492 F.3d 1158, 1163 (10th Cir. 2007) (noting that, to state a claim in federal court, "a complaint must explain what each defendant did to him or her; when the defendant did it; how the defendant’s action harmed him or her; and, what specific legal right the plaintiff believes the defendant violated").
A defendant also may not be held liable for the unconstitutional conduct of his or her subordinates on a theory of respondeat superior. See Ashcroft v. ...