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Morrill v. Skolfield

United States District Court, D. Maine

May 31, 2018

HEATHER SKOLFIELD, et al., Defendants



         In each of the above-captioned actions, Plaintiff Daniel Morrill challenges the constitutionality of the statutes pursuant to which the Maine state court imposed certain restrictions on him in the context of protection from abuse proceedings initiated by Defendant Heather Skolfield, which restrictions include a prohibition on Plaintiff's ability to possess a firearm and a limitation on his ability to file further actions against Defendant Skolfield. Plaintiff also seeks injunctive relief to prevent the Maine Attorney General and Commissioner of Public Safety, also named as defendants, from enforcing the restrictions.

         In addition to his complaints, in each case, Plaintiff filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 4), an ex parte motion for leave to file his complaint[1] (ECF Nos. 5/6), [2] and an ex parte motion for a temporary restraining order. (ECF Nos. 6/7.) The Court granted Plaintiff's motions to proceed in forma pauperis. (Order, ECF Nos. 7/8.) Plaintiff also filed a motion to combine federal cases, which motion is docketed in case number 18-213. (ECF No. 5.) In accordance with the in forma pauperis statute, a preliminary review of Plaintiff's complaints is appropriate. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

         Following a review of Plaintiff's complaints, I recommend the Court dismiss Plaintiff's complaints, and moot the motions for leave to file complaint, the motions for temporary restraining order, and the motion to combine federal cases.

         Standard of Review

         When a party is proceeding in forma pauperis, “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).

         When 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 (2007). “The relevant question ... in assessing plausibility is not whether the complaint makes any particular factual allegations but, rather, whether ‘the complaint warrant[s] dismissal because it failed in toto to render plaintiffs' entitlement to relief plausible.'” Rodríguez-Reyes v. Molina- Rodríguez, 711 F.3d 49, 55 (1st Cir. 2013) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 569 n. 14). Although 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), the complaint may not consist entirely of “conclusory allegations that merely parrot the relevant legal standard, ” Young v. Wells Fargo, N.A., 717 F.3d 224, 231 (1st Cir. 2013). See also Ferranti v. Moran, 618 F.2d 888, 890 (1st Cir. 1980) (explaining that the liberal standard applied to the pleadings of pro se plaintiffs “is not to say that pro se plaintiffs are not required to plead basic facts sufficient to state a claim”).

         In addition to stating a plausible claim, Plaintiff must assert a claim within the Court's subject matter jurisdiction. “Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They cannot act in the absence of subject matter jurisdiction, and they have a sua sponte duty to confirm the existence of jurisdiction in the face of apparent jurisdictional defects.” United States v. Univ. of Mass., Worcester, 812 F.3d 35, 44 (1st Cir. 2016).

         Factual Background

         Case No. 1:18-cv-00169

         In November 2012, Defendant Skolfield filed a complaint for protection from abuse against Plaintiff. Following a final hearing in January 2013, the Maine District Court found Plaintiff had stalked Defendant Skolfield, and imposed a two-year protective order that included a prohibition on the possession of firearms. (Complaint ¶¶ 9 - 18, ECF No. 1; Order, ECF No. 1-2)

         In April 2015, Defendant Skolfield filed another complaint against Plaintiff for protection from abuse. The state court again entered a two-year protective order based on a finding that Plaintiff had stalked Defendant Skolfield; the court prohibited Plaintiff from possessing firearms. (Id. ¶¶ 25 - 35; Order, ECF No. 1-8.) In December 2015, the court modified the protective order to prohibit Plaintiff from initiating legal proceedings against Defendant Skolfield in any court in the State of Maine, without prior court approval. (Complaint ¶¶ 38 - 39; Orders, ECF Nos. 1-9, 1-10.)

         In May 2016, Defendant Pine Tree Legal Assistance entered an appearance for Defendant Skolfield, and filed a motion to extend the protective order. (Complaint ¶¶ 42 - 43.) In the proceeding, Plaintiff filed a motion to remove the prohibition against possession of firearms on the ground that he and Defendant Skolfield were never in a domestic relationship described under 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(32) or 19-A M.R.S. § 4002. (Id. ¶ 44.) On May 15, 2017, following a hearing, the court found that Plaintiff had stalked Defendant Skolfield for 20 years, and extended the order and the existing prohibitions for a period of ten years. (Id. ¶¶ 53, 54, 58, 59; Hearing Transcript, ECF No. 1-14 at 67-68; Order, 1-15.) Plaintiff appealed to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court (“Law Court”); the Law Court affirmed the District Court's order. (Complaint ¶¶ 63 - 64; Mem. Dec. dated March 6, 2018, ECF No. 1-17.)

         Case No. 1:18-cv-00213

         Plaintiff's more recent complaint repeats most of the background factual allegations found in his prior complaint. Plaintiff further notes that on May 16, 2018, the Law Court denied ...

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