United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
JEANINE L. JACKSON, Plaintiff,
CT CORPORATION SYSTEM, SIMON PROPERTY GROUP INC., SOUTHRIDGE LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, JEREMY BERMKE, JAMEY STREMPLER, MARY MOKWA, SOUTHRIDGE MALL INC., and JOHN DOE, Defendants.
Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge
October 11, 2019, the plaintiff, Jeanine L. Jackson
(“Jackson”), filed a pro se complaint
and a petition to proceed in forma pauperis. (Docket
#1 and #2). Notwithstanding the payment of any filing fee,
the Court must dismiss a complaint filed in forma
pauperis if it raises claims that are “frivolous
or malicious, ” if it fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §
alleges that she is African American and lives in Milwaukee.
(Docket #1 at 2). Until earlier this year, she owned a retail
business called Ludajs located in Southridge Mall in
Glendale, Wisconsin. Id. According to Jackson,
Southridge Mall is owned and operated by the Simon Property
Group (“Simon Property”), located in
Indianapolis, Indiana. Id. at 3. Defendants Jeremy
Bermke (“Bermke”), Jamey Strempler
(“Strempler”), and Mary Mokwa
(“Mokwa”) are employees of Simon Property.
Id. They work, and presumably live, in Wisconsin.
first entered into a lease agreement with Simon Property for
her retail space (a push-cart in the center of the mall) in
March 2019. Id. at 4. She paid rent weekly.
Id. In May 2019, she deposited a check for the week
of May 13 in the mall management drop box, but it was not
cashed promptly. Id. at 5. Jackson faults Strempler
for this oversight. Id. Because the delay was
causing issues for Jackson in regard to her business bank
account, she took matters into her own hands; on May 20, she
withdrew funds from her account and paid Strempler personally
with a money order. Id. On May 24, another mall
official, Mike Asmondy (“Asmondy”), told Jackson
that her rent check for the week of May 13 had bounced.
Id. Jackson told him about the delay in her check
being cashed and that she paid instead by money order.
Id. It is unclear whether Asmondy and Strempler
actually accepted the money order, but in any event, they
insisted that because the payment was late, Jackson would
have to pay a $100 “return check fee.”
Id. Jackson was permitted to renew her lease on the
promise that she would pay the amount then overdue, which was
$400. Id. at 6.
2019, Jackson still had not paid back all of the overdue
amount. Id. at 7. Strempler told her that if she did
not pay the remaining $250, her lease would not be renewed.
Id. Jackson refused to pay because, according to
Jackson, it was “[Strempler's] negligence that
caused this entire situation[.]” Id. At this
point, Mokwa pulled Jackson aside, and Jackson explained her
side of the story to Mokwa. Id. at 7-8. Mokwa agreed
to waive the $100 fee previously imposed, but insisted that
from then on, Jackson would have to pay rent up front,
i.e., without a grace period. Id. at 8.
Jackson takes umbrage with this because other tenants in the
mall are given five-day grace periods to pay rent.
August 2019, Jackson entered a new lease arrangement whereby
her weekly rent was due on Wednesdays. Id. at 9. On
Wednesday, August 21, she deposited in the drop box a rent
check that was $80 short. Id. On August 23, Bermke
approached Jackson at her push cart in the middle of the mall
and berated her for submitting a rent check for less than the
full amount due without speaking to him first. Id.
at 10. He insisted that she pay the remaining $80 that day,
and she refused, saying she would pay on Monday. Id.
Bermke threatened not to renew her lease. Id.
Because all of this took place in public, in front of
customers, Jackson says she felt humiliated and belittled.
Id. Jackson also claims that Bermke would not have
yelled at her in that way if she were a man. Id. She
was so rattled by the interaction that she could not operate
her business on August 26 and 27. Id. at 11. Jackson
informed Mokwa, Strempler, and Bermke that, going forward,
she would only communicate with them in writing. Id.
August 28, Mokwa sent Jackson a “notice to cure”
letter, stating that if Jackson did not pay the $80 balance
within ten days she would be evicted. Id. at 12.
Jackson believes she was not actually in default at that
time, because she had a five-day grace period that extended
her payment deadline to September 1. Id. Jackson
paid the $80 balance on September 9. Id.
September 12, the defendants' legal counsel provided
Jackson with a notice that her lease would be terminated if
her weekly rent was not paid by September 17. Id.
Jackson claims not to have been in default at this time,
either, because the five-day grace period meant her rent was
due September 15. Id. at 12-13. Jackson apparently
did not pay, because on October 9, she removed her belongings
from Southridge Mall and ceased doing business there.
Id. at 13. Although her allegation on this point is
vague, it appears that Southridge Mall had initiated eviction
proceedings against Jackson, but she moved out of the
building before a court ever ordered her to leave.
these allegations, Jackson seeks to bring claims that she
describes as economic interference, tortious interference,
negligence, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional
distress, right to privacy, negligent supervision, and
discrimination. Id. at 2.
Jackson's allegations were sufficient to state a claim
under any of her theories of relief, which is doubtful, this
case could not proceed here; it does not invoke the subject
matter jurisdiction of the federal courts. Federal courts are
courts of limited jurisdiction, and may only hear cases in
two primary categories: 1) those raising issues of federal
law, known as “federal question” jurisdiction,
and 2) those between parties who are citizens of different
states and which involve an amount in controversy exceeding
$75, 000.00, known as “diversity” jurisdiction.
See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1332(a).
Jackson's allegations do not invoke either form of
jurisdiction. She does not allege violation of any federal
law, meaning federal question jurisdiction is not available.
The parties are not completely diverse (most of them being
citizens of Wisconsin) and Jackson does not allege injuries
exceeding the amount in controversy threshold, so diversity
jurisdiction is not available either.
Jackson's complaint must be dismissed without prejudice
for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Her motion to
proceed in forma pauperis will be denied as moot.
IT IS ORDERED that this action be and the
same is hereby DISMISSED without prejudice
for lack of subject matter jurisdiction; and
IS FURTHER ORDERED that the plaintiff's motion
for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (Docket #2)