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 Linda Penkul seeks in forma
pauperis status in connection with her complaint
challenging a reduction by the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) in her monthly Supplemental Security
Income (“SSI”) benefit payments. See
Complaint for Review of a Social Security Disability or
Supplemental Security Income Decision
(“Complaint”) (ECF No. 1) at Page ID # 9;
Application To Proceed in District Court Without Prepaying
Fees or Costs (“IFP Appl.”) (ECF No. 3). For the
reasons that follow, I grant the plaintiff's request for
leave to proceed in forma pauperis and
recommend that the court dismiss this 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 application to proceed in forma
pauperis, the plaintiff declares, under penalty of
perjury, that she has monthly income of $488 in SSI benefits
and $10 in public assistance, has $50 in a bank account, and
has monthly expenditures of $488 for utilities, $99 for
medical and dental expenses, $161 for insurance, $2, 763 for
taxes, and $27 for department store charges. See IFP
Appl. at 1-2, 4. Her expenses, hence, greatly exceed her
monthly income. While she lists assets of a home worth $190,
000 and a 2014 Dodge Charger worth $14, 000, see id.
at 3, her lack of liquid assets and negative cash flow
qualify her for IFP status, see, e.g., Taylor v. Sup. Ct.
of N.J., 261 Fed.Appx. 399, 401 (3d Cir. 2008) (lower
court abused its discretion in denying plaintiff IFP status
when, while plaintiff had assets including a home worth
approximately $90, 000 and was not “absolutely
destitute, ” he, his wife, and six children were living
below the applicable federal poverty guideline, and he had
shown that he was “indigent” and unable to pay
court fees) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Section 1915(e)(2)(B) Review
Applicable Legal Standard
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. U.S. Dist. Ct. 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.”).
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
complaint, filed on January 17, 2019, the plaintiff sought
review of an SSA overpayment decision dated September 11,
2018. See Complaint at Page ID # 5. She alleged that
she had timely requested reconsideration but that, as of
January 15, 2019, the SSA had issued no decision with respect
to that request. See Id. at Page ID ## 5-6.
February 11, 2019, the plaintiff filed a copy of an SSA
notice of reconsideration dated February 5, 2019, denying her
appeal and advising that she had 60 days within which to seek
a hearing before an administrative law judge if she disagreed
with its decision. See ECF No. 7-1 at Page ID #
February 15, 2019, the plaintiff filed a copy of an SSA
notice dated February 12, 2019, stating that her monthly SSI
payment would be $566 in March 2019 and that she would
receive $553.10 on or about March 1, 2019, and on the first
of each month thereafter. See ECF No. 8-1 at Page ID
# 166. That notice stated that the plaintiff had 60 days
within which to request reconsideration of that
determination. See id. at Page ID # 167. Most
recently, on March 11, 2019, the plaintiff filed a copy of an
SSA letter dated March 4, 2019, responding to a request that
she had made for information from her record. See
ECF No. 10-1 at Page ID # 175.