United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division
NAKEEMA S. STRINGFELLOW
PAMELA HENDERSON, ET AL.
A. DOUGHTY JUDGE.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
L. Hayes Untied States Magistrate Judge.
the undersigned magistrate judge, on reference from the
District Court, is a motion for appointment of counsel [doc.
# 2] filed by plaintiff pro se Nakeema Stringfellow. For
reasons that follow, it is recommended that plaintiff's
complaint be dismissed, without prejudice, for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction. It is further ordered that
plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel is DENIED.
September 12, 2018, Nakeema Stringfellow, acting pro se,
filed a prior suit against the Louisiana Department of
Children and Family Services (“DCFS”) on a
court-supplied form entitled, “Complaint Under Section
706(f) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” See
Stringfellow v. Department of Children and Family
Services, No. 18-1212 (W.D. La.)
(“Stringfellow I”). The thrust of
plaintiff's prior suit was that in October 2015, Mavis
Stringfellow, the grandmother of plaintiff's three
children, F.S., M.S., and J.S., filed a complaint with DCFS
that apparently resulted in DCFS's removal of
plaintiff's three children from her home. According to
the complaint in Stringfellow I, Mavis Stringfellow
served as “caretaker” for the children for over
one year, and then Natasha Stringfellow tried to care for
them. Plaintiff later was notified by social worker, Kierra
Richardson, and her supervisor, Pamela Henderson, that her
children had been placed in a shelter and other foster care.
Stringfellow further alleged that in June 2017, her visits
with her children inexplicably ceased.
January 30, 2019, this court dismissed Stringfellow
I for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See
Stringfellow I. In so doing, the court determined that
diversity jurisdiction was absent and there was no colorable
federal question presented by plaintiff's complaint.
plaintiff filed the instant pro se complaint on February 14,
2019, in which she again complained about her children being
taken away. See Compl. [doc. # 1]. Moreover, she
conceded that she had “filed a similar complaint for
civil case recently. Some of the same things still apply.
Still trying to get Grant [sic] relief for my 3 children to
return home. Lawsuit filed employers [sic] still refuses to
cooperate with the case plan procedures for case
closure.” Id. Moreover, with one exception,
Shalonda Ellis - a current “social worker/foster care
taker, ” all of the other defendants in this suit also
were in Stringfellow I: Pamela Harrison, Kiera
Richardson, Mavis Stringfellow, and the DCFS. In conjunction
with her complaint, plaintiff filed a motion for appointment
of counsel. [doc. # 2].
reaching the merits of a case, federal courts are obliged to
ensure that they enjoy subject matter jurisdiction to hear
the matter. See Sinochem Intern. Co. Ltd. v. Malaysia
Intern. Shipping Corp., 549 U.S. 422, 430-431, 127 S.Ct.
1184, 1191 (2007); Smith v. Texas Children's
Hospital, 172 F.3d 923, 925 (5th Cir. 1999)
(courts must examine the basis for the exercise of federal
subject matter jurisdiction). This practice ensures that a
court without jurisdiction does not end up “prematurely
dismissing a case with prejudice.” See In Re: Fema
Trailer Formaldehyde Products Liability Litigation
(Mississippi Plaintiffs), In Re: Fema Trailer Formaldehyde
Products Liability Litigation (Alabama Plaintiffs), 668
F.3d 281 (5th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). Lack
of subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time.
Giles v. Nylcare Health Plans, Inc., 172 F.3d 332,
336 (5th Cir. 1999). A court must raise the issue
sua sponte if it discovers that it lacks subject
matter jurisdiction. Id.
case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction when the court lacks the statutory or
constitutional power to adjudicate the case.” Home
Builders Ass'n of Miss., Inc. v. City of Madison,
143 F.3d 1006, 1010 (5th Cir. 1998) (quoting Nowak v.
Ironworkers local 6 Pension Fund, 81 F.3d 1182, 1187
(2nd Cir. 1996)). The party seeking to invoke jurisdiction
bears the burden of demonstrating its existence. See
Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir.
2001); Howery v. Allstate Ins. Co., 243 F.3d 912,
916 (5th Cir. 2001). “[T]here is a presumption against
subject matter jurisdiction that must be rebutted by the
party bringing an action to federal court.” Coury
v. Prot, 85 F.3d 244, 248 (5th Cir. 1996) (citation
most common ways to invoke federal subject matter
jurisdiction are via federal question and diversity. 28
U.S.C. §§ 1331 & 1332. Upon review, it is
manifest that the same deficiencies that thwarted
jurisdiction in Stringfellow I, continue to plague
the current iteration of plaintiff's cause of action.
First, the DCFS's presence in the suit precludes the
exercise of diversity jurisdiction. Second, the court does not
discern a colorable federal question on the face of
plaintiff's complaint. In the absence of a colorable claim
“arising under” the Constitution or laws of the
United States against the defendants, the court lacks
jurisdiction to entertain plaintiff's cause of action
against them. The court adopts and incorporates herein the
additional reasoning set forth in Stringfellow I.
undersigned recognizes that “before dismissing a pro se
complaint, a district court ordinarily should give the
litigant an opportunity to amend.” Bruce v.
Little, 568 Fed.Appx. 283 (5th Cir. 2014) (citing
inter alia, Bazrowx v. Scott, 136 F.3d
1053, 1054 (5th Cir. 1998)). Here, however, the instant
complaint simply rehashes plaintiff's prior suit, which
she amended more than once before dismissal. See
Stringfellow, supra. Therefore, at this point, further
amendment would prove futile.
court further observes that it enjoys the inherent authority
to impose sanctions, including an injunction, against
litigants who use the legal system to harass their opponents
through vexatious litigation. Terra Partners v. Rabo
Agrifinance, Inc., 504 Fed.Appx. 288, 290-91 (5th Cir.
2012). The court cautions plaintiff that if she continues to
re-file this same suit in the absence of federal ...