No matter how smart you think you are, leave the drafting of appellate complaints to a lawyer. Don’t file pro-se in appeals court.
The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a complaint by the United States Court of Federal Claims on March 9.
The dismissal was affirmed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim.
Appellant Carlo E. Johnson, a former member of the U.S. Air Force, was arrested in 1994 and was convicted in state court of criminal conspiracy. He was discharged from the Air Force.
In 2010, he filed a pro-se complaint against the U.S., alleging wrongdoing associated with his imprisonment. The case was dismissed by the Court of Federal Claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. This was affirmed by the current court.
Johnson kept filing claims and in 2011, the Court of Federal Claims ordered the clerk not to accept any more submissions from Mr. Johnson related to that specific case (in which he was unrepresented by an attorney).
So, Johnson started a new case. In a new complaint, filed in March 2011, Johnson alleged wrongful arrest by the Pennsylvania Police Department, claiming that he was arrested under a "fake warrant" with a "fake complaint" filed against him. He alleged several other wrongs related to his trial and arrest however, he failed to contain any reference to violations of federal law, the actual arrest or to any federal trial held.
In short, his complaint was exactly that -- a list of complaints and grievances, without proper correlation of facts to a valid claim of a violation of any law.
Given that he was arrested by Pennsylvania officials and was convicted by a state court, the Federal Circuit held that the Feds had no subject matter jurisdiction on Johnson's complaints.
As a pro-se complaint, his complaint was held to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." (Haines v. Kerner).
Even with less stringent standards, his case lacked proper jurisdiction and the Federal Circuit affirmed the lower court's ruling.
- Johnson v. United States (Federal Circuit Court of Appeals)
- Federal or State Court -- Subject Matter Jurisdiction (FindLaw)
- Federal Circuit Court of Appeals Cases and Resources (FindLaw)