United States District Court, D. Minnesota
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Leo I. Brisbois United States Magistrate Judge
matter comes before the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge pursuant to a general assignment made in accordance
with the provision of 28 U.S.C. § 636, and upon
Plaintiff Irene Bernice Benjamin's Complaint, [Docket No.
1], as well as, her Application to Proceeds in District Court
Without Prepaying Fees or Costs. [Docket No. 2].
underlying Complaint contains allegations that Defendant St.
Cloud Hospital violated Plaintiff's right to exercise her
Native American religion because the hospital will not
recognize her marriage to her husband. (Compl. [Docket No.
1]). As relief, she asks this Court to “restore”
her marriage and the rights included with that marriage which
Plaintiff alleges to include her “right to legally
represent [her] husband in his medical care.”
(Id. at 4).
did not pay the filing fee in the present action; instead,
she has sought to proceed in forma pauperis (hereinafter
“IFP”). Typically, the Court considers the IFP
application before any other action may be taken. However,
here, the Court finds it appropriate to address subject
matter jurisdiction as a requisite threshold consideration.
Courts have limited jurisdiction and may only hear matters
which fall within the jurisdiction of the Federal Courts.
Marine Equipment Management Co. v. United States, 4
F.3d 643, 646 (8th Cir. 1993) (“Federal courts are not
courts of general jurisdiction and have only the power that
is authorized by Article III of the Constitution and the
statutes enacted by Congress pursuant thereto.”). This
creates in the Federal Courts a self-imposed duty to inquire
whether the prerequisite of subject matter jurisdiction has
been satisfied in every case before them. See,
Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 514 (2006)
(providing that courts “have an independent obligation
to determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists, even
in the absence of a challenge from any party”);
Turner v. Armontrout, 922 F.2d 492, 293 (8th Cir.
1991); Williams v. Rogers, 449 F.2d 513, 518 (8th
Cir. 1971) (“[W]here jurisdiction does not exist the
court, whether trial or appellate, shall dismiss the
action sua sponte.”) (emphasis added) (citing
Louisville & Nashville R.R. Co. v. Mottley, 211
U.S. 149, 152 (1908)).
a Court may consider the merits of a party's claims, the
Court has an independent duty to ensure it possesses the
requisite subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the
party's claims. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3); Ruhgras AG v.
Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 577, 583 (1999).
“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).
are two types of federal subject matter jurisdiction: A
federal district court may have subject matter jurisdiction
based on either federal question jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C.
§ 1331, or on the basis of diversity of citizenship, 28
U.S.C. § 1332. See, e.g., Briks v.
Yeager, No. 19-cv-1 (NEB/LIB), 2019 WL 2119560, at *2
(D. Minn. May 15, 2019); Soltan v. Coburn, No.
9-cv-478 (JRT/FLN), 2009 WL 2337134, at *3 (D. Minn. July 23,
2009) (citing 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1332; One
Point Solutions, LLC v. Borchert, 486 F.3d 342, 346 (8th
Cir. 2007)). It is the Plaintiff's burden to establish
that subject matter jurisdiction exists. See,
Osborn v. United States, 918 F.2d 724, 730 (8th
§ 1331, “[t]he district courts shall have original
jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the
Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.”
28 U.S.C. § 1331. Under § 1332, “[t]he
district court shall have original jurisdiction of all civil
actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or
value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and cost, and is
between- (1) citizens of different States; [or] (2) citizens
of a State and citizens or subjects of a foreign state . . .
.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
order for a court to have diversity jurisdiction over a
dispute based upon 28 U.S.C. § 1332, each plaintiff must
be diverse from, or have a different citizenship than, each
defendant. Owen Equip. & Erection Co. v. Kroger,
437 U.S. 365, 373 (1978). The presence of a non-diverse party
automatically destroys subject matter jurisdiction when
jurisdiction is based solely on diversity. Wisconsin
Dep't of Corrections v. Schacht, 524 U.S. 381, 389
(1998). Therefore, diversity jurisdiction is not available
when any plaintiff is a citizen of the same state as any
defendant. Owen Equip., 437 U.S. at 374. Section
1332(a) specifically provides that there is not diversity
between citizens of a State and citizens or subjects of a
foreign state if the foreign subjects are admitted for
permanent residence in the United States and are domiciled in
the same State.
fails to demonstrate that subject matter jurisdiction based
on diversity of citizenship exists in the present case as
Plaintiff specifically assert that she and Defendant St.
Cloud Hospital are residents of Minnesota. (See,
Compl., [Docket No. 1], at 1-2). If Plaintiff and any
Defendant are residents of the same state, then there cannot
be diversity of citizenship. See, 28 U.S.C. §
likewise fails to demonstrate that subject matter
jurisdiction exists based on a federal question in the
present case as there is not any claim “arising under
the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United
States.” (See, Compl. [Docket No. 1]). While
Plaintiff's Complaint indicates “Federal
Question” as the “basis for federal court
jurisdiction” and while she provided the
“American Indian Religious Freedom Act . . . 42 U.S.C.
1996” as the “basis for” that purported
“Federal Question” jurisdiction, 42 U.S.C. §
1996 cannot serve as the basis upon which this Court asserts
subject matter jurisdiction.
1996 is the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. Plaintiff
asserts this is the basis for subject matter jurisdiction in
the present case. However, the Eighth Circuit has explicitly
held that Section 1996 does not create a federal cause of
action or create any judicially enforceable right.
Lockhart v. Kenops, 927 F.2d 1028, 1036 (8th Cir.
1996). Rather, the Eighth Circuit has explained that
“AIRFA is merely a statement of federal policy to
protect Indians' exercise of their religion; it confers
no cause of action.” Id. (citing Lyng v.
Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Ass'n, 485 U.S.
439 (1988)). Accordingly, section 1996 cannot be the basis
for federal question jurisdiction over the claims in
Plaintiff's Complaint. See, Id.
does not identify, and this Court does not find, any other
basis for subject matter jurisdiction over the purported
claims identified in Plaintiff's Complaint. Even
liberally construing Plaintiff's pleadings in her favor
and drawing all reasonable inferences in her favor, Plaintiff
has failed to allege sufficient facts upon which a basis for
subject matter jurisdiction may be found.
IT IS HEREBY RECOMMENDED THAT the present
action be DISMISSED without prejudice for