United States District Court, D. Maine
ORDER GRANTING LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS AND
RECOMMENDED DECISION AFTER SCREENING COMPLAINT PURSUANT TO 28
U.S.C. § 1915(E)
C. Nivison U.S. Magistrate Judge.
action, Plaintiff Frank Inman, who at the time he filed the
complaint was detained at the Penobscot County Jail, alleges
Defendant Food Express USA, of Rancho Dominguez, California,
misrepresented one of its products.
filed an account activity ledger and certificate of
prisoner's account, which documents suggest that
Plaintiff would qualify to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF
No. 2.) Although Plaintiff has not filed an application to
proceed in forma pauperis, the Court construes
Plaintiff's filing to be a request for in forma pauperis
status and grants Plaintiff leave to proceed without
prepayment of the filing fee.
accordance with the in forma pauperis statute, a preliminary
review of Plaintiff's complaint is appropriate. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2). Following a review of the complaint, I
recommend the Court dismiss the complaint.
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.” 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). “Dismissals [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).
considering whether a complaint states a claim for which
relief may be granted, courts must assume the truth of all
well-plead facts and give the plaintiff the benefit of all
reasonable inferences therefrom. Ocasio-Hernandez v.
Fortuno-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 by 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).
alleges that he purchased a bottle of Defendant's cocoa
butter lotion and thereafter discovered that the product is
not cocoa butter. (Complaint, ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff evidently
asserts that the advertising on the packaging is false or
misleading. Plaintiff alleges he would not have purchased the
product had he known it was not as represented.
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, ' possessing
‘only that power authorized by Constitution and
statute.'” Gunn v. Minton, 568 U.S. 251,
256 (2013) (quoting Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of
America, 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)). “It is to be
presumed that a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction,
and the burden of establishing the contrary rests upon the
party asserting jurisdiction.” Kokkonen, 511
U.S. at 377 (citation omitted). “A court is duty-bound
to notice, and act upon, defects in its subject matter
jurisdiction sua sponte.” Spooner v. EEN,
Inc., 644 F.3d 62, 67 (1st Cir. 2011). A review of
Plaintiff's complaint fails to reveal a basis upon which
this Court could exercise either federal question
jurisdiction or diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1331 and 1332.
to section 1331, federal district courts “have original
jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the
Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.”
28 U.S.C. § 1331. Plaintiff has not asserted a claim
based on the United States Constitution, a federal statute,
or a federal treaty. Plaintiff has thus failed to assert a
claim within the Court's federal question jurisdiction.
to section 1332, federal district courts also have original
jurisdiction “where the matter in controversy exceeds
the sum or value of $75, 000 … and is between citizens
of different States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1).
Although Plaintiff's citizenship is apparently diverse
from that of Defendant, even if Plaintiff's complaint
could be construed to assert a state law claim, Plaintiff has
not alleged a claim where the amount in controversy exceeds
$75, 000. In fact, in his complaint, Plaintiff specifically