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Bankhead v. Maounis

November 30, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Korman, United States District Judge


Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action against his landlord alleging that he has been discriminated against because of his sexual orientation, a "non-gay male." Complaint at 2. Plaintiff seeks damages and "an emergency order pursuant to the Federal Witness, Agents, Informant Protection Act for the arrest" of defendant. Id. at 7. I grant plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 solely for the purpose of this Order, and dismiss the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

I. Background

Plaintiff alleges that on August 20, 2006, he "entered into a residential non-commercial lease agreement verbally" for apart 2-L at 167 Harman Street in Brooklyn for $430.00 per month. Complaint at 2-3. Plaintiff alleges that shortly after he moved in, defendant entered his apartment without his permission, demanded that he accompany her to dinner and on visits to others' residences and queried him regarding his sexual orientation. Plaintiff alleges that once he informed defendant that he "wasn't gay, defendant became a completely different person, and exhibited nothing but bitterness toward[]" him, including, inter alia, demanding that plaintiff identify his guests, providing false information to the police, and accusing plaintiff of strange sounds and smells coming from his apartment. Id. at 3-5.*fn1

II. Discussion

I construe plaintiff's pleadings liberally particularly because they allege civil rights violations. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (per curiam); McEachin v. McGuinnis, 357 F.3d 197 (2d Cir. 2004). Nevertheless, all plaintiffs, regardless of representation, must establish that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over the claims presented. SeeRivera v. Golden Nat'l Mortg. Banking Corp., No. 00 Civ. 4368, 2001 WL 716908, at *1 n. 2 (S.D.N.Y. June 26, 2001) ("The complaint must be construed liberally in favor of the pro se plaintiff. At the same time, however, the pro se plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that subject matter jurisdiction exists.).

A federal court may not entertain an action over which it has no jurisdiction. Wynn v. AC Rochester, 273 F.3d 153, 157 (2d Cir. 2001). "[S]ubject-matter jurisdiction, because it involves the court's power to hear a case, can never be forfeited or waived." United States v. Cotton, 535 U.S. 625, 630 (2002). Moreover, federal courts, including this Court, have an independent obligation to determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists, even in the absence of a challenge from any party. Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., U.S., 126 S.Ct. 1235, 1244 (2006) (citing Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 583 (1999)).

The subject matter jurisdiction of the federal courts is limited. Federal jurisdiction is available only when a "federal question" is presented (28 U.S.C. § 1331), or plaintiff and defendant are of diverse citizenship and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000 (28 U.S.C. § 1332). When a federal court concludes that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the complaint in its entirety. Kontrick v. Ryan, 540 U.S. 443, 455 (2004); see also, Arbaugh, U.S., 126 S.Ct. at 1244; United Food & Commercial Workers Union, Local 919 v. CenterMark Props. Meriden Square, Inc., 30 F.3d 298, 301 (2d Cir. 1994); Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3).

Plaintiff provides no basis for the exercise of this Court's jurisdiction. The parties are not diverse; nor has plaintiff stated a federal question. Plaintiff's attempt to assert that 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1982 are bases for this Court's subject matter jurisdiction is unavailing. These sections are clearly inapplicable as they only apply to intentional racial discrimination. Although plaintiff makes conclusory allegations that defendant discriminated against him on the basis of sexual orientation, his complaint is quite clearly a dispute with his landlord. Landlord-tenant relations are a matter of state law. Hearn v. Lin, No. 01-CV-8208, 2002 WL 720829 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 14, 2002); See McAllan v. Malatzky, No. 97 CV 8291, 1998 WL 24369, at *2-3 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 22, 1998) (no subject matter jurisdiction where plaintiff attempted to recloak his charges regarding a state housing court matter as a violation of his constitutional rights), aff'd, 173 F.3d 845 (table) (2d Cir. 1999); DiNapoli v. DiNapoli, No. 95 Civ.7822, 1995 WL 555740, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 19, 1995) (federal courts do not have subject matter jurisdiction over landlord-tenant matters); Chiania v. Broadmoor Associates, No. 94 Civ. 0613, 1994 WL 30412, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 2, 1994) (finding no subject matter jurisdiction over landlord-tenant matters).

This Court, as a federal district court, is without subject matter jurisdiction to entertain plaintiff's claims. Whereas, ordinarily, I would allow plaintiff an opportunity to amend his complaint, Cruz v. Gomez, 202 F.2d 593 (2d Cir. 2000), I need not afford that opportunity here where it is clear from the face of the complaint that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction and the claims are frivolous.*fn2

III. Conclusion

Accordingly, plaintiff's complaint filed in forma pauperis is dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12 (h)(3). I certify pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3) that any appeal from this order would not be taken in good faith and therefore in forma pauperis status is denied for purpose of an appeal. Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438, 444-45 (1962).



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