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Carter v. City of Raleigh

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

June 18, 2018

DANIELLE A. CARTER, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF RALEIGH, THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, RALEIGH POLICE DEPARTMENT, WAKE MED FACULTY PHYSICIANS, NC STATE BAR NO. 33930, C.E. WARREN, and JENNIFER COOPER, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND RECOMMENDATION

          ROBERT B. JONES JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter is before the court for a memorandum and recommendation on Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and for frivolity review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). [DE-1]. Plaintiff has demonstrated appropriate evidence of inability to pay the required court costs, but the complaint fails to state a claim over which the court has jurisdiction. Accordingly, it is recommended that the application to proceed in forma pauperis be denied and the complaint be dismissed.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), the court shall dismiss the complaint if it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim for which relief may be granted, or seeks money damages from a defendant immune from such recovery. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i-iii); see Adams v. Rice, 40 F.3d 72, 74 (4th Cir. 1994) (explaining Congress enacted predecessor statute 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d) "to prevent abuse of the judicial system by parties who bear none of the ordinary financial disincentives to filing meritless claims"). A case is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis in either law or fact. See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); McLean v. United States, 566 F.3d 391, 399 (4th Cir. 2009) ("Examples of frivolous claims include those whose factual allegations are 'so nutty,' 'delusional,' or 'wholly fanciful' as to be simply 'unbelievable.'"). A claim lacks an arguable basis in law when it is "based on an indisputably meritless legal theory." Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. A claim lacks an arguable basis in fact when it describes "fantastic or delusional scenarios." Id. at 327-28.

         In determining whether a complaint is frivolous, "a court is not bound, as it usually is when making a determination based solely on the pleadings, to accept without question the truth of the Plaintiff's allegations." Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992). Rather, the court may find a complaint factually frivolous "when the facts alleged rise to the level of the irrational or the wholly incredible, whether or not there are judicially noticeable facts available to contradict them." Id. "The word 'frivolous' is inherently elastic and not susceptible to categorical definition. . . . The term's capaciousness directs lower courts to conduct a flexible analysis, in light of the totality of the circumstances, of all factors bearing upon the frivolity of a claim." Nagy v. Fed. Med. Ctr. Butner, 376 F.3d 252, 256-57 (4th Cir. 2004) (some internal quotation marks omitted). In making its frivolity determination, the court may "apply common sense." Nasim v. Warden., Md. House of Correction, 64 F.3d 951, 954 (4th Cir. 1995).

         In order to state a claim on which relief may be granted, "a complaint must 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) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . .'" Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. While a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, the plaintiff must allege more than labels and conclusions. Id. In the present case, Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and pleadings drafted by a. pro se litigant are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by an attorney. See Hctines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). The court is charged with liberally construing a pleading filed by a pro se litigant to allow for the development of a potentially meritorious claim. See id; Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Noble v. Barnett, 24 F.3d 582, 587 n.6 (4th Cir. 1994). However, the principles requiring generous construction of pro se complaints are not without limits; the district courts are not required "to conjure up questions never squarely presented to them." Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). As part of its frivolity review, the court may consider whether it has subject matter jurisdiction of the case. See Lovern v. Edwards, 190 F.3d 648, 654 (4th Cir. 1999) (holding that "[d]etermining the question of subject matter jurisdiction at the outset of the litigation is often the most efficient procedure"); Wright v. Huggins, No. 5:09-CV-551-D, 2010 WL 2038806, at *2-3 (E.D. N.C. Mar. 11, 2010) (dismissing complaint on basis of lack of subject matter jurisdiction as part of court's frivolity review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915) (citations omitted).

         II. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff filed a form complaint containing pre-generated typewritten allegations of employment discrimination in a fill-in-the-blank format, supplemented with Plaintiff's handwritten information. Compl. [DE-1-1]. In her complaint, Plaintiff also lists several federal laws that she asserts apply to her case: the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution, the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, federal laws that prohibit discrimination based on disability, national origin, race, sex, religion, marital status, and public income receivership status, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Act, Criminal Interference with Right to Fair Housing, 42 U.S.C. § 3631, Conspiracy Against Rights, 18 U.S.C. § 241, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act ("HIPAA"), and the Privacy Act of 1974; hate crimes; defamation; grief and continuous abuse, harassment, and retaliation actions; police misconduct; criminal violations of civil rights; violations of civil rights of institutionalized persons; violations of Equal Employment Opportunity; and violations of educational opportunities. Compl. [DE-1-1] at 5-7, 11.

         Plaintiff's assertions appear to stem from an alleged altercation between herself and Defendant Cooper, to which Defendant Warren of the Raleigh Police Department responded. Id. at 5-7. Plaintiff alleges that, during this encounter, Defendant Warren "responded [with] physical force to [her] body, and turned [her] head to force [her] eyes to open and acknowledge the officer," while Defendant Cooper "remained sitting on [Plaintiff's] spine," "causing thoracic injuries." Id. at 7, 10. Plaintiff alleges Defendant Warren made statements insinuating Plaintiff has a mental disability. Id. Plaintiff was then transported to WakeMed Hospital, where she was called a "ho" and told not to laugh by a paramedic. Id. at 7-8. Plaintiff states Defendant Warren accompanied Plaintiff to the hospital, where he told her to "not be a problem," laughed at Plaintiff, told her to "calm down," and complained that Plaintiff's blood had stained his uniform. Id. at 8. While in the hospital, Plaintiff "was injected with an unknown substance" after she had "refused to consume bad harmful drugs that were defective." Id. at 9. Plaintiff also alleges, separate and apart from this incident, that the Raleigh Police Department "continued to interfere with [her] housing rights by failing to protect [her] life from bodily harm." Id. Further, she alleges that on April 1, 2018, an "unknown police officer from the Raleigh Police Department, in uniform, entered [her] room at a Comfort Inn" and forced her to remove the bedsheets so that he could "see [her] nakedness." Id. at 10.

         A. Defendants

         In the caption of her complaint, Plaintiff has named six defendants: Jennifer Cooper ("Cooper"), the Raleigh Police Department, the State of North Carolina, the City of Raleigh, Officer C.E. Warren, and Wake Med Faculty Physicians.[1] However, her application to proceed in forma pauperis, the civil cover sheet, and the proposed summonses only list the City of Raleigh as a defendant. [DE-1, 1-2, 1-3, 1-4, 1-5].

         1. Claims of Employment Discrimination

         Plaintiff's complaint consists of a court-issued fill-in-the-blank form intended to address claims of employment discrimination. Compl. [DE-1-1]. For example, in paragraph 3, Plaintiff alleges, "[t]his action is brought pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for employment discrimination." Id. at 2. At paragraph five, Plaintiff has checked the box indicating she is "not presently employed by the defendant," and has provided "N/A" in the space left blank for the dates of her employment, as well as the three alleged bases of her termination. Id. at 3. Further, at paragraph eleven, the form states the following: "I filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner regarding defendant(s) alleged discriminatory conduct on or about" followed by a space for Plaintiff to provide the date she filed her discrimination charge with the EEOC. Rather than provide such date, Plaintiff has indicated "N/A." Plaintiff responds the same when prompted to attach a copy of the Notice of Right to Sue letter issued by the EEOC and when she received the letter. Id. at 6. Reading her complaint liberally, Plaintiff appears to identify the bases of her employment discrimination as: disability, national origin, race, religion, sex, perceived disability, color, marital status and poverty. Compl. [DE-1 -1 ] at 2-3.

         Title VII makes it "an unlawful employment practice for an employer ... to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a). The Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") broadly protects the employment rights of the disabled. 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a). Before a plaintiff may file a suit under either Title VII or the ADA, she is required to exhaust her administrative remedies by filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. Sydnor v. Fairfax Cty., Va., 681 F.3d 591, 593 (4th Cir. ...


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