United States District Court, D. Maine
RECOMMENDED DECISION AFTER SCREENING PLEADING
PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915
C. Nivison U.S. Magistrate Judge
action, Plaintiff Bradley Paul Williams alleges that
Defendants violate the Constitution when a bail commissioner
fee is paid in Maine and not refunded following dismissal of
the charge that required the posting of bail.
filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis, which
application the Court granted. (ECF Nos. 3, 4.) In accordance
with the in forma pauperis statute, a preliminary review of
Plaintiff's complaint is appropriate. 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2). Following that review, I recommend the Court
dismiss Plaintiff's complaint.
asserts he was arrested and detained in Belfast for mailing a
court document to the opposing party in a state court
protection from harassment proceeding. (Complaint at 4,
ECF No. 1.) The bail commissioner set bail at $500 and
imposed a $60 fee, which amounts Plaintiff paid.
(Id.) More than a year later, the state dismissed
the charges against Plaintiff. Plaintiff received a refund of
the $500 bail, but not the $60 fee. (Id.)
requests a refund of the $60 fee. He also asks the Court to
overturn "the offensive laws, " to order refunds
for everyone who has paid the bail commissioner's fee,
and to award punitive damages. (Id. at 5.) The $60
bail commissioner fee paid by Plaintiff is the maximum fee
permitted by Maine law. 15 M.R.S. §
federal in forma pauperis statute, 28 U.S.C. §
1915, is designed to ensure meaningful access to the federal
courts for those persons unable to pay the costs of bringing
an action. Because the waiver of fees might encourage some
individuals to file suit regardless of the merits, the
statute authorizes the court to dismiss actions that fail to
state a viable claim or that present frivolous, malicious, or
repetitive claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
"Dismissals on these grounds are often made sua
sponte prior to the issuance of process, so as to spare
prospective defendants the inconvenience and expense of
answering such complaints." Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989).
Standard of Review
deciding whether to dismiss a claim or action for failure to
state a claim, the court must accept as true the factual
allegations of the complaint, draw all reasonable inferences
in favor of the plaintiff that are supported by the factual
allegations, and determine whether the complaint, so read,
sets forth a plausible basis for recovery. Trans-Spec
Truck Serv., Inc. v. Caterpillar Inc., 524 F.3d 315, 320
(1st Cir. 2008). To assert a civil action in federal court, a
plaintiff cannot simply allege that a defendant acted
unlawfully; a plaintiff must affirmatively allege facts that
identify the manner by which the defendant subjected the
plaintiff to a harm for which the law affords a remedy.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).
the plaintiff is a pro se litigant, the court will review his
or her complaint subject to "less stringent standards
than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). Additionally, the
pleadings of pro se plaintiffs are generally interpreted in
light of supplemental submissions. Wall v. Dion, 257
F.Supp.2d 316, 318 (D. Me. 2003).
42 U.S.C. § 1983, an individual may bring an action in
federal court against another person who subjects him to the
deprivation of a federal right through an exercise of state
authority.42 U.S.C. § 1983;
Gutierrez-Rodriguez v. Cartagena, 882 F.2d 553, 559
(1st Cir. 1989). Accordingly, in this case, this Court's
jurisdiction is founded on § 1983. In order to maintain
a § 1983 action in federal court against those who
exercise state authority, Plaintiff must assert a claim that
describes a deprivation of a federal right. Baker v.
McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 145 n.3 (1979) (explaining that
section 1983 "is not itself a source of substantive
rights, but a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere
conferred by those parts of the United States Constitution
and federal statutes that it describes").
Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits a state
from depriving a person of "life, liberty, or property,
without due process of law." U.S. Const. amend. XIV,
§ 1. The analysis of a due process claim proceeds in two
stages. The Court first considers "whether there exists
a liberty or property interest of which a person has been
deprived, " and if so, it then considers "whether
the procedures followed by the State were constitutionally
sufficient." Swarthout v. Cooke, 562 U.S. 216,
219 (2011). "[T]he processes required by the Clause with
respect to the termination of a protected interest will vary
depending upon the importance attached to the interest and
the particular circumstances under which the deprivation may
occur." Walters v. Nat'l Ass'n of Radiation
Survivors, 473 U.S. 305, 320 (1985).
alleges facts related to his payment of a $60 fee, through
which payment, together with the cash bail, Plaintiff secured
his release on bail. Plaintiff, therefore, has not alleged a
denial of his liberty. Indeed, given that Plaintiff alleges he
was arrested on a "Friday night" (i.e., after
regular court hours), the bail commissioner system allowed
Plaintiff to secure his pretrial release without spending one
night in detention.
Plaintiff was not deprived of his liberty, the issues are
whether the $60 bail commissioner fee is refundable and, if
not, whether the loss of the fee is a non de minimis
deprivation of property amounting to a punishment for being
arrested. Plaintiff alleges that the bail commissioner simply
arrived at the county jail, determined how much money
Plaintiff had in his wallet ($560), set the bail at $500, and
took the remaining $60 as his fee. (Complaint at 4.)
Plaintiff further contends that there is no means of
recovering the $60 bail commissioner fee through any
postdeprivation procedure, particularly as bail commissioners
are immune under state law against civil liability pursuant
to 15 M.R.S. § 1023(3). (Id. at 5.)