Dioguardi (plaintiff) attempted to import medicinal tonics from Italy. He got into a dispute with his shipper as to how much he owed for the shipment and as a result, the Collector of Customs at the Port of New York (Durning) (defendant) held the tonics for one year and then sold them at public auction pursuant to federal law. Dioguardi brought suit, asserting in his “home drawn” complaint that (1) the Collector sold the bottles to another party for $10 less than the plaintiff bid at the auction, and (2) three weeks before the sale, two cases of the tonics disappeared, presumably at the fault of the Collector. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The plaintiff appealed.