United States District Court, D. Maine
ORDER DENYING LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS AND
RECOMMENDED DISMISSAL OF THE CASE
H. Rich III, United States Magistrate Judge
plaintiff has filed suit under 28 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming
that certain constitutional deprivations were committed
against him by a justice of the Maine Superior Court and that
the State of Maine also is responsible for those alleged
harms. He seeks permission to proceed without
paying fees or costs. I deny the plaintiff's request for
leave to proceed in forma pauperis and recommend
that the court dismiss the action with prejudice, pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
Application To Proceed in Forma Pauperis
forma pauperis status is available under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(a)(1). In his motion to proceed in forma
pauperis, the plaintiff declares under penalty of
perjury that his gross pay or wages are “Not Known,
” but that his take home pay or wages are less than $3,
000.00 per year. ECF No. 4 ¶ 2. The plaintiff lists
Social Security payments of $1, 113.00 per month, and
approximately $2, 350.00 in net income for 2015 from Uber.
Id. ¶ 3.
lists $57.00 in a checking account and a Honda vehicle with a
“negative value” of $22, 000.00. Id.
¶¶ 4-5. These assets are balanced against recurring
monthly expenses of approximately $1, 277.00 for rent and
utilities. Id. ¶ 6. The plaintiff states that
he has no dependents, but that he has financial obligations
in excess of $20, 000.00. Id. ¶¶ 7-8.
These include state tax arrears of approximately $1, 000.00
that he lists as “in dispute, ” a medical bill of
approximately $800.00, and the $18, 800.00 civil judgment
against him that he notes is “the subject of this
suit.” Id. ¶ 8.
typical analysis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, based on the
foregoing figures submitted by the plaintiff, would yield
approval to proceed in forma pauperis. The
plaintiff's application here lists the same Social
Security payments of $1, 113.00 per month, and the same
“net income” of approximately $2, 350.00 in 2015
from Uber, as his application in an earlier case. ECF No. 4,
Doyle v. Town of Scarborough, et al.
(“Scarborough”), No. 2:15-cv-00227-JAW
in that earlier case, the court vacated its grant of in
forma pauperis status after the Town of Scarborough
asserted that information had come to light in a separate
state court proceeding indicating that the plaintiff had
failed to disclose facts concerning his work as an Uber
driver. Scarborough, 2017 WL 118019, at *1, *4 (D.
Me. Jan. 12, 2017) (rec. dec., aff'd Feb. 7,
2017). The town noted that the Maine Superior Court had
determined that the plaintiff had “failed to disclose
relevant information on his application to that Court for
leave to proceed in forma pauperis.” Id. at
of that new information, the court in Scarborough
ordered the plaintiff to file a second application with an
updated affidavit of income and other financial documentation
he deemed relevant. Id. Those documents revealed
that the plaintiff's gross income from Uber was $55,
634.83 in 2015. Id. at *2 & n.1. On January 12,
2017, just two days after the plaintiff filed his complaint
and IFP application in the instant case, Magistrate Judge
Nivison recommended that the court vacate its prior grant of
in forma pauperis status, dismiss the
plaintiff's complaint without prejudice, and order the
plaintiff, if he refiled his claim, to show cause why he
should not be required to pay the filing fee in
Scarborough as a condition to his ability to proceed
in the new action. Id. at *4. Judge Woodcock adopted
that recommended decision on February 7, 2017. ECF No. 65,
case, as in Scarborough, the plaintiff
“materially understated the income earned and available
to him.” Scarborough, 2017 WL 118019, at *2.
That discrepancy prevents this court from finding that there
is reliable information on which to make a finding of poverty
on behalf of the plaintiff. Accordingly, the plaintiff's
leave to proceed in formal pauperis is denied.
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.
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 ...