United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
ALBERT M. HALL, Plaintiff,
DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
V. EAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is plaintiff's complaint (Dkt. # 1) and
plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma
Pauperis and Supporting Affidavit (Dkt. # 2). Plaintiff
is proceeding pro se and, consistent with Supreme
Court and Tenth Circuit precedent, the Court will construe
his pro se pleading liberally. See, e.g.,
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972);
Gaines v. Stenseng, 292 F.3d 1222, 1224 (10th Cir.
2002). Plaintiff Albert M. Hall states that the Oklahoma
Department of Human Services is attempting to collect a debt
from him, and it appears that he is referring to outstanding
child support payments. Dkt. # 1, at 1. Plaintiff claims that
defendant has unfairly exempted his child's mother from a
similar debt, and he claims that this violates his right to
equal protection of the law and due process. Id.
Plaintiff alleges that it is the child's mother who has
asked defendant to collect child support payments on her
behalf. Id. at 2. He alleges that he previously had
a dispute with defendant concerning the payment of child
support, because he claimed that defendant failed to make
adjustments to his child support obligation based on the
amount of time the child was in his custody. Id. at
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and there is a
presumption against the exercise of federal jurisdiction.
Merida Delgado v. Gonzales, 428 F.3d 916, 919 (10th
Cir. 2005); Penteco Corp. Ltd. Partnership--1985A v.
Union Gas System, Inc., 929 F.2d 1519, 1521 (10th Cir.
1991). The party invoking federal jurisdiction has the burden
to allege jurisdictional facts demonstrating the presence of
federal subject matter jurisdiction. McNutt v. General
Motors Acceptance Corp. of Indiana, Inc., 298 U.S. 178,
182 (1936) (“It is incumbent upon the plaintiff
properly to allege the jurisdictional facts, according to the
nature of the case.”); Montoya v. Chao, 296
F.3d 952, 955 (10th Cir. 2002) (“The burden of
establishing subject-matter jurisdiction is on the party
asserting jurisdiction.”). The Court has an obligation
to consider whether subject matter jurisdiction exists, even
if the parties have not raised the issue. The Tenth Circuit
has stated that “[f]ederal courts ‘have an
independent obligation to determine whether subject-matter
jurisdiction exists, even in the absence of a challenge from
any party,' and thus a court may sua sponte
raise the question of whether there is subject matter
jurisdiction ‘at any stage in the
litigation.'” 1mage Software, Inc. v. Reynolds
& Reynolds Co., 459 F.3d 1044, 1048 (10th Cir.
asserts that the Court has federal question jurisdiction over
this case, because he is seeking relief under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. Dkt. # 2, at 3. However, § 1983 merely
provides a cause of action when a plaintiff's
constitutional rights have been violated, and § 1983
does not create any substantive rights. To state a claim
under § 1983, a plaintiff must show that his or her
constitutional rights were violated by a person acting under
the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42,
48 (1988). Plaintiff appears to be alleging an equal
protection challenge to Oklahoma's child support laws
and, construing his allegations broadly, he could be alleging
that the child's mother has been exempted from the
payment of child support based on her gender. Dkt. # 1, at 1.
However, he plainly alleges that the “mother filed a
debt against [plaintiff] and the department of human service
[sic] pursude [sic] it.” Id at 2. This does
not suggest that defendant is selectively enforcing child
support obligations against men and not women, but it merely
shows that in this case the female parent has sought
assistance in collecting outstanding child support payments.
It does not appear that defendant is facially attacking the
validity of Oklahoma's child support laws or that he is
suggesting that women are always exempt from child support
payments. Instead, defendant is challenging whether the
child's mother should be exempt from payment of child
support in this particular case, and this is a matter of
state law that does not concern due process or equal
protection under the United States Constitution. The Court
finds no basis to exercise federal question jurisdiction over
this case, and plaintiffs claims should be dismissed for lack
of subject matter jurisdiction.
IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the complaint (Dkt. # 1)
is hereby dismissed without prejudice. A
separate judgment of dismissal is entered herewith.
IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiffs Motion for Leave
to Proceed In Forma Pauperis and ...