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Brown v. Johnson

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

August 12, 2014

MICHAEL W. BROWN, Plaintiff,
CATHY H. JOHNSON, et al., Defendants.


L. PATRICK AULD, Magistrate Judge.

This case comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Application for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (Docket Entry 1), filed in conjunction with Plaintiff's pro se Complaint (Docket Entry 2), and Plaintiff's Motion for Temporary Restraining Order (Docket Entry 4). The Court will grant Plaintiff's request to proceed as a pauper for the limited purpose of recommending dismissal of this action, under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), for failure to state a claim. Given that recommendation of dismissal, the Court should deny as moot Plaintiff's Motion for Temporary Restraining Order.


"The federal in forma pauperis [IFP'] statute, first enacted in 1892 [and now codified at 28 U.S.C. § 1915], is intended to guarantee that no citizen shall be denied access to the courts solely because his poverty makes it impossible for him to pay or secure the costs.'" Nasim v. Warden, Md. House of Corr. , 64 F.3d 951, 953 (4th Cir. 1995) (en banc) (quoting Adkins v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co. , 335 U.S. 331, 342 (1948)). "Dispensing with filing fees, however, [is] not without its problems. Parties proceeding under the statute d[o] not face the same financial constraints as ordinary litigants. In particular, litigants suing [IFP] d[o] not need to balance the prospects of successfully obtaining relief against the administrative costs of bringing suit." Nagy v. Federal Med. Ctr. Butner , 376 F.3d 252, 255 (4th Cir. 2004).

To address this concern, the IFP statute provides, in relevant part, that "the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that -... (B) the action or appeal -... fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted...." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). A complaint falls short when it does not "contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (emphasis added) (internal citations omitted) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). This standard "demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Id . In other words, "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id.[1]


Plaintiff's Complaint names Cathy H. Johnson and Monta Davis Oliver, both employees of the Yadkin County Department of Social Services, as Defendants. (Docket Entry 2 at 1-2.)[2] It asserts that Defendants improperly failed to consider his applications for two North Carolina energy assistance programs (see id. at 2-3) and that Defendants failed to assist him after the disconnection of his electricity service (id. at 4-6). Based on those allegations, Plaintiff's Complaint alleges violations of his procedural due process rights and asserts claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985(3), and 1986, as well as state-law claims for libel, misconduct in public office, negligence, and interference with contract rights. (Id. at 3-5.) In support of Plaintiff's claims, the Complaint offers the following factual allegations:

1) "[o]n or about 02/10/2014, [Plaintiff] went to the Yadkin County Department of Social Services office and applied for the North Carolina Energy Programs Plan" (id. at 2);

2) "[Defendant] Johnson is the [Plaintiff's] case worker.... [and] [Defendant] Oliver [is] [Defendant] Johnson[']s supervisor" (id. at 3-4);

3) "[Plaintiff was] approved for L[ow] I[ncome] E[nergy] A[ssistance] P[rogram] ["LIEAP"] funding found in section[] 300 of the Energy Manual.... [and] C[risis] I[ntervention] P[rogram] ["CIP"] funding found in section[] 400 of the Energy Manual" (id. at 2-3);

4) "[Plaintiff was] not considered, nor denied, nor approved for potential services found in section[] 200 of the Energy Manual.... [or] in the Home Energy Assistance Program" (id. at 3);

5) "[o]n or about 04/09/2014, [Plaintiff] received from Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corporation, a termination notice of disconnect date of 05/08/2014, for not receiving payment for the March bill" (id. at 6);

6) "[Plaintiff] had to borrow money to pay $154.40 dollars [] which should have been payed by the North Carolina Energy Programs, to avoid a disconnect" (id.);

7) "[o]n or about 05/09/2014, [Plaintiff] contacted by phone, [Defendant] Oliver... and discussed [Plaintiff's] considerations of denial or approval for potential services from federal, and state, and[/]or other ...

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