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Anderson v. Clerk, Knoxville, TN

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Beckley Division

February 8, 2019

DARIUS ANDERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CLERK, Knoxville, TN, Defendant.

          PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

          Omar J. Aboulhosn United States Magistrate Judge

         On January 7, 2019, Plaintiff, acting pro se, filed in this Court his letter-form Complaint seeking relief for alleged violations of his constitutional rights pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 91 S.Ct. 1999, 24 L.Ed.2d 619 (1971).[1] (Document No. 1.) In his letter-form Complaint, Plaintiff named the Clerk of the Court from Knoxville, Tennessee as the Defendant. (Id.) Plaintiff states that he wishes to file a “civil law suit against the U.S. Office Clerk of Knoxville, TN, for not filing or responding to my civil lawsuit against the U.S. Attorney's Office - Prosecutors Kelly Norris, and the federal government for racial discrimination under the 14th amendment equal protection clause.”[2] (Id.) Plaintiff explains that he is filing the above action in this District because there would be a “conflict of interest” in the Eastern District of Tennessee. (Id.)

         STANDARD

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court is required to screen each case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. On screening, the Court must recommend dismissal of the case if the complaint is frivolous, malicious or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. A “frivolous” complaint is one which is based upon an indisputably meritless legal theory. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 112 S.Ct. 1728, 118 L.Ed.2d 340 (1992). A “frivolous” claim lacks “an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325, 109 S.Ct. 1827, 1831 - 32, 104 L.Ed.2d 338 (1989). A claim lacks an arguable basis in law when it is “based on an indisputably meritless legal theory.” Id., 490 U.S. at 327, 109 S.Ct. at 1833. A claim lacks an arguable basis in fact when it describes “fantastic or delusional scenarios.” Id., 490 U.S. at 327 - 328, 109 S.Ct. at 1833. A complaint therefore fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted factually when it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief. With these standards in mind, the Court will assess Plaintiff's allegations in view of applicable law.

         ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff asserts a claim against the Clerk of Court for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, who is not a resident of the State of West Virginia. Two conditions must be satisfied for a district court to assert personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant: (1) A state long-arm jurisdiction statute must authorize jurisdiction over the nonresident defendant; or (2) The court's exercise of personal jurisdiction over the non-resident defendant must “comport with the Due Process Clause.” Mylan Lab, Inc. v. Akzo, N.V., 2 F.3d 56, 59-60 (4th Cir. 1993); In re Celotex Corp., 124 F.3d 619, 627 (4th Cir. 1997). Since “the West Virginia long-arm statute is coextensive with the full reach of due process, it is unnecessary in this case to go through the normal two-step formula for determining the existence of personal jurisdiction.” In re Celotex Corp., 124 F.3d at 627-28(citation omitted); also see York v. Property and Casualty Ins. Co. of Hartford, 2013 WL 5504435 (S.D.W.Va. Oct. 3, 2013)(“the statutory inquiry mergers with the constitutional inquiry, and the two inquires essentially become one.) Therefore, the court's inquiry centers on whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction over the non-resident defendant is consistent with the Due Process Clause.

         It is well established that the exercise of personal jurisdiction over the non-resident defendant is consistent with the Due Process Clause “if the defendant has sufficient ‘minimum contacts' with the forum such that requiring the defendant to defend its interests in the forum does not ‘offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'” In re Celotex Corp., 124 F.3d at 628(quoting International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S.Ct. 154, 90 L.Ed. 95 (1945)). When assessing the “minimum contacts, ” courts should consider whether the defendant's contacts with the forum also provides the basis for the suit. Carefirst of Maryland, Inc. v. Carefirst Pregnancy Centers, Inc., 334 F.3d 390, 397 (4th Cir. 2003). If the defendant's contact with the forum state provides the basis for the suit, courts may exercise what is known as “specific jurisdiction.” Id. To determine whether specific jurisdiction exists, the Court should consider the following: “(1) the extent to which the defendant has purposefully availed itself of the privilege of conducting activities in the state; (2) whether the plaintiff's claims arise out of those activities directed at the state; and (3) whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction would be constitutionally ‘reasonable.'” Id. If the defendant's contact with the forum state does not provide the basis for the suit, a court may only exercise “general jurisdiction.” Id. General jurisdiction is appropriate only where the defendant's contacts with the forum are “continuous and systematic.” Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 415, 104 S.Ct. 1868, 80 L.Ed.2d 404 (1984).

         Plaintiff alleges that the Defendant is the Clerk of Court, located in Knoxville, Tennessee. All of the allegations against the Defendant occurred in Tennessee. Plaintiff fails to allege any type of contact between the State of West Virginia and Defendant. Accordingly, Plaintiff's claims against Defendant should be dismissed because this Court lacks personal jurisdiction.[3]

         PROPOSAL AND RECOMMENDATION

         Based upon the foregoing, it is respectfully PROPOSED that the District Court confirm and accept the foregoing factual findings and legal conclusions and RECOMMENDED that the District Court DENY Plaintiff's Application to Proceed Without Prepayment of Fees and Costs (Document No. 4), DISMISS Plaintiff's letter-form Complaint (Document No. 1) and remove this matter from the Court's docket.

         The Plaintiff is hereby notified that this “Proposed Findings and Recommendation” is hereby FILED, and a copy will be submitted to the Honorable United States District Judge Irene C. Berger. Pursuant to the provisions of Title 28, United States Code, Section 636(b)(1)(B), and Rule 6(d) and 72(b), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the parties shall have fourteen (14) days (filing of objections) and three (3) days (if received by mail) from the date of filing of this Findings and Recommendation within which to file with the Clerk of this Court specific written objections identifying the portions of the Findings and Recommendation to which objection is made and the basis of such objection. Extension of this time period may be granted for good cause.

         Failure to file written objections as set forth above shall constitute a waiver of de novo review by the District Court and a waiver of appellate review by the Circuit Court of Appeals. Snyder v. Ridenour, 889 F.2d 1363, 1366 (4th Cir. 1989); Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 155 (1985); Wright v. Collins, 766 F.2d 841, 846 (4th Cir. 1985); United States v. Schronce, 727 F.2d 91, 94 (4th Cir. 1984). Copies of such objections shall be served on opposing parties, District Judge Berger and this Magistrate Judge.

         The Clerk is requested to send a copy of this Proposed Findings and Recommendation to ...


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