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Sherwood Associates Limited Partnership v. Jackson

United States District Court, D. Maine

April 5, 2019



          John H. Rich III United States Magistrate Judge.

         Pro se defendant Olanian Jackson seeks in forma pauperis status in connection with his notice of removal of a Maine state court forcible entry and detainer (“FED”) action. See Notice of Removal (ECF No. 1); Application To Proceed in District Court Without Prepaying Fees or Costs (“IFP Appl.”) (ECF No. 3). In addition, the plaintiff has filed motions to substitute parties and to dismiss this case. See Motion To Substitute Parties (ECF No. 11); Motion To Dismiss (ECF No. 12). For the reasons that follow, I grant the defendant's request for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and recommend that the court (i) dismiss this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and (ii) deem the plaintiff's motions to dismiss and to substitute parties moot.

         I. Application To Proceed in Forma Pauperis

         In forma pauperis status is available under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). In his application to proceed in forma pauperis, the defendant declares, under penalty of perjury, that he has monthly income of $994 in Social Security disability payments, $25 in cash or in a checking or savings account, regular monthly expenses totaling $1, 071.90, and a 1999 Jeep Cherokee worth $500. See IFP Appl. These financial circumstances entitle him to proceed in forma pauperis, and his application is granted.

         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). Actions removed by pro se plaintiffs or defendants from state court to federal court also are subject to section 1915(e)(2)(B) review. See, e.g., Wells Fargo Bank NA v. Carr, Civil Action No. 18-9066 (JLL), 2018 WL 2192715, at *1 (D.N.J. May 14, 2018) (removal of state court action by defendant); Grantham v. U.S. Bank Nat'l Ass'n, No. 5:14-CV-00485-BR, 2015 WL 3618617, at *1 (E.D. N.C. June 9, 2015) (removal of state court action by plaintiff).

         B. Factual Background

         This case commenced on June 12, 2017, with the filing by the plaintiff landlord of an FED action in the Maine District Court to evict the defendant from his apartment on the bases that he had:

(1) used the apartment for unlawful purposes or engaged in unlawful activities in the unit by growing and possessing marijuana; (2) refused access to the bedroom in the apartment used as a marijuana grow room; (3) installed a lock on the bedroom without permission; (4) threatened physical harm to property staff seeking to inspect the bedroom; (5) smoked marijuana in his apartment in violation of a no smoking policy; and (6) grew and possessed marijuana in violation of a zero tolerance drug policy.

Sherwood Assocs. LP v. Jackson, 2019 ME 17, ¶¶ 5-6, copy attached as ECF No. 1-5 to Notice of Removal.

         The Maine District Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, determining that the defendant had violated his lease by refusing access to the unit, placing a lock on a part of the unit without written permission, intimidating staff, and possessing marijuana in the unit. See id. ¶ 6. The court further found that the notice to quit served upon the defendant was legally sufficient and that there was no evidence of retaliation or discriminatory practices on the landlord's part. See id.

         The defendant appealed that decision to the Maine Superior Court, which determined that his affidavit “did not raise a genuine issue of material fact that would entitle him to a jury trial and that he had not properly raised any errors of law.” Id. ¶¶ 7-8. After the Maine Superior Court denied two requests for reconsideration, the plaintiff, represented by new counsel, appealed to the Law Court. See id. ¶ 8.

         By decision dated January 29, 2019, the Law Court affirmed the judgment of the Superior Court, holding that (i) the evidence was sufficient to support the FED judgment, (ii) the plaintiff landlord provided proper notice to quit the premises, and (iii) there were sufficient bases for the termination of the lease for material noncompliance with its terms apart from the defendant's possession of marijuana, as a result of which the Law Court did not reach the question of ...

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