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Woodyard v. Harper

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 18, 2016

CHARLES L. HARPER SR., AND 1244 H Street NE 20002, Defendant.



This matter is before the Court on pro se Plaintiff's filing of a document entitled “Plaintiff Affidavit of Truth and Undisputable Facts” (“Plaintiff’s Affidavit” or “Plaintiff’s Complaint”).[1]Plaintiff’s Affidavit has been docketed by the Clerk of the Court as an initial filing-and as of the date of this Memorandum Opinion, the only filing-in a new miscellaneous action. See ECF No. [1]. However, it appears to the Court that Plaintiff’s Affidavit is properly considered as a complaint commencing a civil action, as Plaintiff’s Affidavit contains a caption that explicitly identifies a plaintiff, Charlton Woodyard, Sr., and a defendant, Charles L. Harper Sr., [2] and also describes a set of factual circumstances in numbered paragraphs. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 3 (“A civil action is commenced by filing a complaint with the court.”); Fed.R.Civ.P. 7(a) (identifying a complaint as one of seven pleadings allowed in a civil action). See also See Fed. R. Civ. P. 10 (requiring a pleading to contain a caption, the party’s names, and a statement of claims in numbered paragraphs).

Upon review of pro se Plaintiff’s Affidavit-which the Court has construed as a complaint-the Court (1) concludes, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12)(h)(3), that this Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction to consider Plaintiff’s Complaint, because Plaintiff’s filing has not met the “case or controversy” requirements under the United States Constitution, and (2) concludes, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(a) and (12)(b)(6), that Plaintiff’s Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Accordingly, the Court shall dismiss Plaintiff’s case without prejudice.

If Plaintiff elects to file a new complaint, Plaintiff should file a complaint that meets the requirements set forth in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and Plaintiff should pay the filing fee of $400 or file an application for a fee waiver.


As stated in Plaintiff’s Affidavit, Plaintiff Charlton E. Woodyard resides at 1244 H Street NE, Washington, D.C. 20002. Pl.’s Affidavit at 1. On April 1, 2005, Plaintiff, acting as the “Authorized Agent on behalf of Luxury4Less, ” entered into a 45-year lease with Defendant lessor Charles L. Harper Sr. on April 1, 2005, for the property known as 1244 and 1246 H Street NE, Washington, D.C. 20002. Pl.’s Affidavit ¶ 1. Plaintiff’s Affidavit asserts that the property is zoned as a “mixed use” property, which affords the owner the right to rent the property to either commercial tenants or residential tenants or both. Id. ¶ 2. Plaintiff’s Affidavit alleges that Defendant prepared the lease in “full knowledge that the second floor had previously been used as a residential accommodation for his daughter, ” and that Defendant received the “full rents for the property and according to the lease there is no designation requiring separate receipts from each of the two floor (sic).” Id. ¶ 3, 4. The Affidavit further asserts that Plaintiff applied for and received a “Basic Business License” designating the property known as 1244 H Street NE for residential housing. Id. ¶ 7. The Affidavit then references a sales brochure that was allegedly “published with the approval and input” of the Defendant, which Plaintiff contends is further evidence of the “property’s functional duality and desirable mixed use designation.” Id. ¶ 8. The final paragraph of the Affidavit-titled “Investment Overview Investment Highlights”-contains a description of the property, which advertises it as a “Second Story Office Renovated as Two Bedroom Apartment in 2010.” Id. ¶ 8. The Affidavit concludes with a statement that “the Tenant shall receive $1, 205, 306.67 as benefit of the signed lease with Charles L. Harper Sr.”


A. Dismissal For Lack Of Subject Matter Jurisdiction under Rule 12(h)(3)

As courts of limited jurisdiction, federal courts must assure themselves of jurisdiction over any controversy they hear. See Noel Canning v. NLRB, 705 F.3d 490, 496 (D.C. Cir. 2013). For that reason, doubts about “subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time, even by the court sua sponte.” Jerez v. Republic of Cuba, 777 F.Supp.2d 6, 15 (D.D.C. 2011); see also G. Keys PC/Logis NP v. Pope, 630 F.Supp.2d 13, 15 (D.D.C. 2009) (“When it perceives that subject matter jurisdiction is in question, the Court should address the issue sua sponte.”). Moreover, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(h)(3), “[i]f 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).

In assessing its jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(h)(3), the court “must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint[, ]” Brown v. District of Columbia, 514 F.3d 1279, 1283 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (citation omitted), and “the allegations of the complaint should be construed favorably to the pleader.” New York v. Microsoft Corp., 209 F.Supp.2d 132, 138 n.6 (D.D.C. 2002) (citation omitted).

Although pro se complaints must be liberally construed, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), United States v. Byfield, 391 F.3d 277, 281 (D.C. Cir. 2004), this “benefit is not [ ] a license to ignore the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” Sturdza v. United Arab Emirates, 658 F .Supp. 2d 135, 137 (D.D.C. 2009). Rather, even a pro se plaintiff must meet his burden of proving that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over the claims, including when the court raises the issue sua sponte. Fontaine v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., 42 F.Supp.3d 102, 106 (D.D.C. 2014).

B. Dismissal For Failure to State a Claim under Rules 8(a) and 12(b)(6)

“Ordinarily, the sufficiency of a complaint is tested by a motion brought under Rule 12(b)(6), which tests whether a plaintiff has properly stated a claim” upon which relief can be granted. Bauer v. Marmara, 942 F.Supp.2d 31, 37 (D.D.C. 2013). However, if the complaint’s failure to state a claim for the purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) “is patent, ‘it is practical and fully consistent with plaintiffs’ rights and the efficient use of judicial resources’ for the court to act on its own initiative and dismiss the action.” Id. (citation omitted); see also Baker v. Dir., U.S. Parole Comm'n, 916 F.2d 725, 726 (D.C. Cir. 1990).

Moreover, under Rule 8(a), a court is authorized to dismiss a complaint that does not “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’ ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). In order to meet the requirements set forth by Rule 8(a), a complaint must contain, at minimum, “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief[.]” See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). “The purpose of the rule is to give fair notice of the claim being asserted so as to permit the adverse party the opportunity to ...

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