United States District Court, D. Maine
ORDER GRANTING LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS AND
RECOMMENDED DISMISSAL OF THE CASE
H. Rich III United States Magistrate Judge.
se plaintiff, Kira Nicole Todd, seeks in forma
pauperis status in connection with her complaint that
“[t]he Buxton authorities or the State of Maine stole
[her] horse” as the result of an “entirely
incorrect” charge of cruelty to animals. [Complaint]
(ECF No. 1) at 1; Application To Proceed in District Court
without Prepaying Fees or Costs (“IFP
Application”) (ECF No. 3). I grant the plaintiff's
request for leave to proceed in forma pauperis but
recommend that the court dismiss the action without 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 her IFP Application, the plaintiff
declares under penalty of perjury that she has monthly income
of $750 in Supplemental Security Income benefits, $350 in
cash or in a checking or savings account, regular monthly
expenses for property taxes and utilities, and debts or
financial obligations in the form of several fines from the
State of Maine court. See IFP Application. These
financial circumstances entitle her to proceed in forma
Section 1915(e)(2)(B) Review A. Applicable Legal
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).
plaintiff, a resident of Buxton, Maine, alleges that the
“local authorities” initially took her horse, a
valuable young stallion, because they did not like the
shelter that she had provided for him. Complaint at 1; ECF
No. 5 at Page ID # 8. She states that she boarded her horse
in another town while she fixed her barn, but the “then
chief of police took him anyway[.]” Complaint at 1.
After she fixed the barn, the “authorities”
refused to return the horse pending the outcome of an animal
cruelty case against her. Id. Although she
“won” the case and her horse was returned to her,
the authorities seized him again to pay for their expenses.
Id. at 1-2. She alleges that her court-appointed
lawyer informed her that “they wanted me to pay
restitution and all costs of their boarding[, ]” and
that she “was made to sign a document giving release of
ownership, and not able to ever have a horse in
Maine[.]” Id. at 2. She states that she
understood from her lawyer that, if she did not sign,
“they would put me in jail for a year, and take my
house[.]” Id. She alleges that she informed
the judge that she had signed the document under threat, but
he did nothing. Id. She alleges that she has proof
that “basically they stole my horse, and want me to pay
for it, [a]nd as mentioned above, threatened me if I decided
to plea for a jury court.” Id. at 3. She adds
that when she asked for a lawyer to appeal, the lawyer never
returned her calls, and the court would not designate another
court-appointed lawyer. Id.
not clear from the face of the plaintiff's complaint
whether she “won” her animal cruelty case in the
sense that she was not convicted of the crime. In an attempt
to clarify the status of that case, I entered an order on
December 21, 2018, directing the plaintiff to file, no later
than January 4, 2019, the name and docket number of the state
court case(s) referenced in her complaint and copies of any
records of those state court proceedings that were in her
possession. See ECF No. 6.
January 2, 2019, the plaintiff filed 207 pages of documents,
a number of which are duplicates, pertaining to State v.
Todd, YRKCD-CR-2017-22739 (Me.), in which she was
charged with the Class D misdemeanor of cruelty to animals in
violation of 17 M.R.S.A. § 1031. See ECF No. 7
at Page ID # 21. While the plaintiff supplied the docket
number of her case, nothing in her filing clarified whether
she was convicted of that charge, and her materials
understandably did not include a copy of the state court
docket sheet. At my request, the Clerk's Office obtained
a copy, of which I take judicial notice. However, that
document, as well, does not clarify whether the plaintiff was
convicted of the animal cruelty charge. I have assumed,
favorably to the plaintiff, that she “won” ...