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Vangsness v. Bernard Frank Vangsness, Carpenter McGuire & Dewulf LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

October 3, 2014



THOMAS O. RICE, District Judge.

BEFORE THE COURT is Plaintiff's Petition for Writ of Mandamus (ECF No. 4) and Habeas Corpus Petition for Emergency Declaratory and Injunctive Relief (ECF No. 6). Mr. Vangsness is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis; Respondents have not been served.


Plaintiff, currently a prisoner at the Spokane County Detention Center, has filed a writ of mandamus seeking equitable or injunctive relief and appointment of counsel.[1] ECF No. 4 at 4. Plaintiff alleges violation of the following: Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteen Amendments to the U.S. Constitution; Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.; Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq. ; and Unfair Practice in a Real Estate Transaction, RCW § 49.60.224. Id. at 3-4. However, based on this Court's reading of Plaintiff's submission, Plaintiff is seemingly alleging that he is the true owner of his intestate grandfather's property, and Defendants' removal of Plaintiff from that property was improper. Id. at 1-3.


A. Writ of Mandamus

Plaintiff petitions this court for a writ of mandamus for injunctive and equitable relief. ECF No. 4. District courts may grant writs when necessary or appropriate in aid of their jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1651. The writ of mandamus is a "drastic and extraordinary' remedy reserved for really extraordinary causes.'" Cheney v. U.S. Dist. Court for D.C., 542 U.S. 367, 380 (2004) (internal citation omitted). To satisfy the issuance of a writ, the party seeking the writ must satisfy the following three conditions: (1) no other adequate remedy is available; (2) the right to the writ is "clear and indisputable;" and (3) the court, in its discretion, determines that a writ is appropriate under the circumstances. Id. at 380-81. Plaintiff's submission has undoubtedly failed to satisfy these standards.

More plausibly, Plaintiff intended his submission to constitute an initial pleading to commence an action in federal court. Thus, this court will construe Plaintiff's submission as such.

B. Jurisdiction

"It is a fundamental precept that federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction." Owen Equip. & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 374 (1978) (limits on federal jurisdiction "must be neither disregarded nor evaded"); see also United States v. Bravo-Diaz, 312 F.3d 995, 997 (9th Cir. 2002) ("a court of the United States may not grant relief absent a constitutional or valid statutory grant of jurisdiction"). Thus, it is presumed that a federal court lacks jurisdiction "unless the contrary affirmatively appears." Stock West, Inc. v. Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, 873 F.2d 1221, 1225 (9th Cir. 1989). A court may consider subject matter jurisdiction sua sponte. United Investors Life Ins. Co. v. Waddell & Reed Inc., 360 F.3d 960, 967 (9th Cir. 2004) (the district court had a duty to establish subject matter jurisdiction over the removed action sua sponte, whether the parties raised the issue or not). If the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.

Generally, subject matter jurisdiction is established (1) when there is diversity of citizenship under 28 U.S.C. § 1332; or (2) where a claim arises under federal law. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(c). Under federal question jurisdiction, federal district courts have original jurisdiction over all claims "arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Whether a suit arises under federal law is determined by the well-pleaded complaint rule, which provides that federal jurisdiction exists "only when a federal question is presented on the face of the plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint." Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987).

Although Plaintiff alleges numerous actions arising under federal law, he fails to provide sufficient facts to support these claims. First, the Constitution generally inhibits the powers of governments and their agencies, not private persons. See Naoko Ohno v. Yko Yasuma, 723 F.3d 984, 993 (9th Cir. 2013) ("[M]ost rights secured by the Constitution are protected only against infringement by governments, " so that "the conduct allegedly causing the deprivation of a federal right [must] be fairly attributable to the State.'") (citing Lugar v. Edmonson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 936-37 (1982)). Plaintiff's constitutional claims fail to meet this state action requirement. Second, Plaintiff's Americans with Disabilities Act and Fair Housing Act claims are unsupported by the facts alleged and undoubtedly fail to meet federal pleading standards. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Plaintiff generally asserts that both federal claims prohibit discrimination based on disability; however, he fails to identify how these claims apply to the particular facts alleged. ECF No. 4 at 3.

Unless it is absolutely clear that amendment would be futile, a pro se litigant must be given the opportunity to amend his complaint to correct any deficiencies. Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th Cir. 1987); Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130-31 (9th Cir. 2000)(en banc). It is clear to this Court that Plaintiff will not be able to correct his deficiencies in order to establish federal jurisdiction in this case.

Because Plaintiff's claims supporting federal question jurisdiction are unsupported, this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's action. Accordingly, Plaintiff's ...

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