United States District Court, D. Maine
RECOMMENDED DECISION AFTER REVIEW PURSUANT TO 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)
C. Nivison U.S. Magistrate Judge
action, Plaintiff Christopher Austin alleges Defendants,
evidently in connection with child support-related
proceedings in state court, have unlawfully garnished his
wages and “frozen” his driver's license and
bank account, without due process. (Complaint, ECF No. 1.) He
also asserts the governing law is biased against
non-custodial parents. (Id.)
filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No.
5), which application the Court granted (ECF No. 6). In
accordance with the in forma pauperis statute, a preliminary
review of Plaintiff's complaint is appropriate. 28 U.S.C.
a review of the complaint and the attachments to the
complaint, I recommend the Court dismiss Plaintiff'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. 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). “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).
challenges income withholding, license suspension, credit
bureau reporting and other child support enforcement actions
undertaken by the Maine Division of Support Enforcement and
Recovery, a subdivision of the Department of Health and Human
Services. (See ECF No. 2-9, p.6.) Plaintiff asserts, in
conclusory fashion, that Defendants have violated his rights
to due process and equal protection. Plaintiff attached to
his complaint numerous documents, many of which are copies of
statutes, regulations, and court decisions. In one of the
attachments, Plaintiff includes a “statement of claim,
” in which he challenges the process by which he was
assessed a child support debt, and appears to assert the
administrative agency is racially biased. (ECF No. 3-7.) In
another statement, Plaintiff details some of his interaction
with certain representatives of the Maine Department of
Health and Human Services who were involved in the efforts to
collect child support from Plaintiff. (ECF No. 3-10.)
Plaintiff's claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
cites 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as a basis for this Court's
jurisdiction. Pursuant to the federal civil rights statute:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance,
regulation, custom, or usage ... subjects, or causes to be
subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person
within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any
rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution
and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action
at law ....
42 U.S.C. § 1983.
1983 “‘is not itself a source of substantive
rights,' but merely provides ‘a method for
vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.'”
Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994)
(quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n.3
(1979)). To maintain a claim under section 1983, a plaintiff
must establish: “1) that the conduct complained of has
been committed under color of state law, and 2) that this
conduct worked a denial of rights secured by the Constitution
or laws of the United States.” Barreto-Rivera v.
Medina-Vargas, 168 F.3d 42, 45 (1st Cir. 1999).
alleged, Defendants' conduct was under color of state
law. The issue is whether Plaintiff has alleged sufficient
facts to assert an actionable claim based on the denial of