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Waterman v. White

United States District Court, D. Maine

February 26, 2019

JAKE GEYER WATERMAN, Plaintiff
v.
PAUL G. WHITE INTERIOR SOLUTIONS, Defendant

          ORDER ON MOTION FOR IN FORMA PAUPERIS STATUS AND RECOMMENDED DECISION ON 28 U.S.C. § 1915(E)(2) REVIEW

          John H. Rich III John H. Rich III United States Magistrate Judge.

         The pro se plaintiff, Jake Geyer Waterman, seeks in forma pauperis status in connection with his complaint against his former employer, defendant Paul G. White Interior Solutions (“Paul White Interior”), for violation of his rights pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq., and for defamation. Complaint for a Civil Case (“Complaint”) (ECF No. 1) at Page ID ## 4, 9; Application To Proceed in District Court without Prepaying Fees or Costs (“IFP Application”) (ECF No. 4). I grant the plaintiff's request for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and recommend, following review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), that the court permit this case to proceed.

         I. Application To Proceed in Forma Pauperis

         In 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 he has take-home pay of $78 weekly, has had no other income for the past 12 months, has $250 in cash or in a checking or savings account, has nothing of value, and has $9, 910 in overdue bills. See IFP Application. These financial circumstances entitle him to proceed in forma pauperis.

         II. Section 1915(e)(2)(B) Review

         A. Applicable Legal Standard

          The 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); see also Mallard v. U.S. 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 provision.”).[1]

         When 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 (2007).

         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), 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. Me., 276 F.3d 87, 94 (1st Cir. 2002).

         B. Factual Background

         The plaintiff alleges the following:

Paul White Interior fired him for taking five working days off to care for his father, who had a medical emergency (a terminal illness). See Complaint at Page ID # 5.

         The plaintiff's father suffers from degenerative bone disease, polythycemia blood disease, and a ruptured aorta. See id. at 7. The plaintiff's stepmother received a call from the doctor stating that if his father “did not ...


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