United States District Court, D. Maine
PETER P. TRUMAN, Plaintiff
PAULA ARMSTRONG and EDIE SMITH, Defendants
ORDER GRANTING LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS AND
RECOMMENDED DISMISSAL OF THE CASE
H. Rich III, United States Magistrate Judge
plaintiff has filed suit against two employees in the Maine
offices of United States Senator Angus King claiming that
they discriminated against him because of his disability. I
grant the plaintiff's request for leave to proceed in
forma pauperis, but recommend that the court dismiss the
action with prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
Application To Proceed in Forma Pauperis
forma pauperis status is available under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(a)(1). In his application to proceed in forma
pauperis - that is, without prepaying fees or costs -
the plaintiff lists his total monthly income as $753.00,
consisting entirely of Social Security Disability and
Supplemental Security Income payments. ECF No. 3 ¶ 2.
The plaintiff's only listed asset is a 1996 vehicle with
an approximate value of $300.00, and he states that he has
$175.53 in a bank account. Id. ¶¶ 4-5. The
plaintiff's expenses total $619.00 per month, consisting
of rent, food, and transportation costs. Id. ¶
6. The plaintiff lists no dependents, and no outstanding
financial obligations. Id. ¶¶ 7-8. These
financial circumstances entitle him to proceed in forma
Section 1915(e)(2)(B) Review
Applicable Legal Standard
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. When a party is proceeding in forma
pauperis, however, “the court shall dismiss the
case at any time if the court determines[, ]” inter
alia, that the action is “frivolous or
malicious” or “fails to state a claim on which
relief may be granted” or “seeks monetary relief
against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
[under § 1915] 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); see also Mallard v. United States Dist.
Court S.D. Iowa, 490 U.S. 296, 307-08 (1989)
(“Section 1915(d), for example, authorizes courts to
dismiss a ‘frivolous or malicious' action, but
there is little doubt they would have power to do so even in
the absence of this statutory
considering whether a complaint states a claim for which
relief may be granted, a court must assume the truth of all
well-plead facts and give the plaintiff the benefit of all
reasonable inferences therefrom. Ocasio-Hernández
v. Fortuño-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir.
2011). A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief
can be granted if it does not plead “enough facts to
state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
a pro se plaintiff's complaint is subject to
“less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted
by lawyers, ” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519,
520 (1972), this is “not to say that pro se plaintiffs
are not required to plead basic facts sufficient to state a
claim[, ]” Ferranti v. Moran, 618 F.2d 888,
890 (1st Cir. 1980). To allege a civil action in federal
court, it is not enough for a plaintiff merely to allege that
a defendant acted unlawfully; a plaintiff must affirmatively
allege facts that identify the manner in which the defendant
subjected the plaintiff to a harm for which the law affords a
remedy. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
As noted, the statute that provides for waiver of the filing
fee also requires the court to determine whether the
plaintiff's case may proceed. In other words, the
plaintiff's complaint must be dismissed if the court
finds it to be frivolous or malicious, seeks monetary relief
from a defendant who is immune from such relief, or fails to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B). In this regard, a pro se
plaintiff's complaint must be read liberally. Donovan
v. Maine, 276 F.3d 87, 94 (1st Cir. 2002).
read, the plaintiff's complaint alleges that he reached
out to both the Washington, D.C., and Maine offices of United
States Senator Angus King on multiple occasions in 2013,
offering his services as a volunteer, and that defendants
Paula Armstrong and Edie Smith, members of Senator King's
staff, discriminated against him based on his disability by
failing to give him appropriate volunteer work. Complaint
(ECF No. 1) ¶¶ 1, 4-10. The plaintiff had met
Senator King when the plaintiff was a member of the Maine
House of Representatives from Biddeford from 1975-79 and
Senator King was an attorney and lobbyist. Id.
¶ 1. He had volunteered in 2012 for then-Candidate
King's Senate campaign and had made monetary
contributions to that campaign totaling $1, 000. Id.
¶¶ 1-3. At the outset of the plaintiff's work
as a volunteer for the King campaign, he “let it be
known by letter and via telephone the fact that he was
afflicted with a severe major depression 20 years ago, and
asked whether or not this fact would preclude him from
volunteering for Mr. King in his quest for the U.S.
Senate.” Id. ¶ 11. He states that
“[t]he response from all quarters was an, empathetic
and emphatic, No.” Id.
plaintiff states that, in January 2013, after he wrote to
Senator King offering to volunteer for him doing constituent
work in Maine, he quickly received a phone call from Senator
King's Washington, D.C., staff, accepting the offer and
stating that defendant Edie Smith shortly would be contacting
him with an assignment. Id. ¶ 4. When the
plaintiff asked to volunteer for Senator King after the
senator assumed office, he “let it be known to
all” that his request to volunteer, coupled with his
political donation to the King campaign, “was not, in
any way, a quid pro quo.” Id. ¶ 12.
“The ‘Team' concurred.” Id.
The staff member who phoned the plaintiff to inform him of
the acceptance of his offer told him that Senator King was
“very pleased” and “glad to have a
Volunteer who had political . . . experience, as a public
office holder, and a person who has helped a score of men and
women who sought political office in Maine in their
campaigns.” Id. ¶ 4.
plaintiff heard nothing from Smith as of spring 2013, at
which point he obtained a phone number for her in Augusta,
Maine, and telephoned her. Id. ¶¶ 5-6.
Smith apologized for the delay, stating that organizational
work was still being done and informing the plaintiff that
she was well aware that Senator King had approved his request
to volunteer. Id. ¶ 6. She told him that he
would be doing constituent volunteer work out of Senator