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Bell v. United States Government

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

October 18, 2017

SHAWN BELL, Plaintiff,



         For the reasons stated below, the Court dismisses this action for improper venue.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Shawn Bell, appearing pro se, has filed a complaint in this District against the Cecil County Detention Center (Elkton, MD), Cecil County Sheriff, Cecil County Clerk of Court, Cecil County Public Defender's Office, Jessup women's prison (Jessup, MD), Bon Secours Hospital (Baltimore, MD), and the Maryland Transit Authority Police.[1] Bell, who currently resides in Massachusetts, alleges that the police of Woodlawn, Maryland, stole her personal property and wrongfully detained her. She further avers that members of the Cecil County Sheriff's Department brutally assaulted her, causing traumatic brain injury and paralysis. Bell also claims that she was sent to the women's prison without going before a judge, and that her public defender refused to file an emergency motion for relief with regard to her confinement. Finally, Bell complains that her medical records concerning the aforesaid events wrongfully refer to her using the last name of her former husband. She does not provide the dates that the defendants engaged in the alleged misconduct. The plaintiff evokes this Court's jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1332.

         Bell's complaint references an action she filed in this Court in 2016 against Bon Secours Hospital, in which she also alleged that the hospital had wrongfully sent her to the women's prison even though she had not yet appeared in court. See Bell v. Bon Secours Hospital, C.A. No. 16-11669-ADB (D. Mass.). Because venue was improper in the District of Massachusetts, the Court ordered that the action be transferred to the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, where the defendant resided and where the alleged event in question occurred. The case was subsequently dismissed by the court in Maryland after Bell did not respond to an order requiring her to amend her complaint. See Bell v. Bon Secours Hospital, C.A. No. 16-02995-JFM (D. Md.). The copy of the order of dismissal that had been mailed to Bell at her Boston address was returned to the District of Maryland with a written comment on the envelope: “Don't live in Maryland but Massachusetts for several years. Return to Sender. Illegal transfer by Boston, MA circuit court.” Id. [ECF No. 13].

         In the present action, Bell claims that C.A. No. 16-11669-ADB was “illegally transferred” to Maryland even though she was residing in Boston. [ECF No. 1 at 3].[2] In her prayer for relief, she insists that “venue [is] to remain is Eastern Div. MA U.S. District Court.” Id. at 6. In a separate motion [ECF No. 2] she asks, inter alia, that venue remain in this Court. She states that this Court imposed a “hardship” on her by “illegally transferring” C.A. No. 16-11669-ADB to the District of Maryland.

         II. Discussion

         Despite Bell's insistence that this action remain in the District of Massachusetts, venue in this district remains improper. The plaintiff may be improperly conflating or confusing venue with other doctrines that must be considered in determining whether an action may be brought in a federal district court, and, if so, the district in which it may be filed.

         A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         Subject matter jurisdiction concerns the types of cases that a federal district court has the power to adjudicate, or, in other words, a court's “power to issue [an] order.” U.S. Catholic Conf. v. Abortion Rights Mobilization, Inc., 487 U.S. 72, 77 (1988). “‘Federal courts are of limited jurisdiction, ' possessing ‘only that power authorized by Constitution and statute.'” Gunn v. Minton, 568 U.S. 251, 256 (2013) (quoting Kokkonen v. Guardian of Life Ins. Co. of America, 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)). Congress has given federal district courts original jurisdiction over claims arising under federal law, see 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and claims between parties of diverse citizenship where the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, see 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The requirement of subject matter jurisdiction cannot be waived by the parties, and “[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).

         Here, it appears that Bell is asserting claims arising under federal law and state law. She also represents that complete diversity of citizenship exists and that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. Thus, for purposes of this order, the Court will assume that it has subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1332.

         B. Personal Jurisdiction and Venue

         If the requirements of federal subject matter jurisdiction are met, a court must also consider whether the action has been filed in the appropriate geographical location. This inquiry is determined by the doctrines of personal jurisdiction and venue.

         1. ...

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