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Bradley v. U.S. Federal Government

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

April 23, 2019




         This case is before the court on the application [DE #1] by Plaintiff Clifford Bradley to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1) and for frivolity review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), the matter having been referred to the undersigned by the Honorable Terrence W. Boyle, Chief United States District Judge. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis is allowed, and it is recommended that Plaintiff's claims against Defendant be dismissed.

         IFP MOTION

         The standard for determining in forma pauperis status is whether “one cannot because of his poverty pay or give security for the costs . . . and still be able to provide himself and dependents with the necessities of life.” Adkins v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 335 U.S. 331, 339 (1948). Based on the information contained in Plaintiff's affidavit, the court finds that Plaintiff has demonstrated appropriate evidence of inability to pay the required court costs. Thus, Plaintiffs application to proceed in forma pauperis is ALLOWED.


         I. Background

         Plaintiff seeks to sue the United States Government for the denial of Social Security disability benefits and for the denial of assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) after Hurricane Matthew in 2016. (Prop. Compl. [DE #1-1] at 2.) Plaintiff states that the Social Security Administration has denied his claims for disability benefits “for almost eight years now.” (Id.) Plaintiff also complains of being rejected by creditors and FEMA for damage caused to his home following Hurricane Matthew. (Id.) Plaintiff states his “home is in dire need of repairs and I can't even qualify for any financing.” Plaintiff seeks $1 million dollars in relief (Id. at 3.)

         II. Standard for Frivolity Review

         Notwithstanding the determination that Plaintiff is entitled to in forma pauperis status, the court is required to dismiss all or part of an action found to be frivolous or malicious, which fails to state a claim on which relief can be granted, or which seeks money damages from a defendant immune from such recovery. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); Michau v. Charleston County, 434 F.3d 725, 728 (4th Cir. 2006). A case is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis in either law or fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Pro se complaints are entitled to a more liberal treatment than pleadings drafted by lawyers. See White v. White, 886 F.2d 721, 722-23 (4th Cir. 1989). However, the court is not required to accept a pro se plaintiffs contentions as true. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992). The court is permitted to “pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327.

         Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires a complaint to give a “short plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8. The statement must give a defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). “A plaintiff must offer more detail . . . than the bald statement that he has a valid claim of some type against the defendant.” Trulock v. Freeh, 275 F.3d 391, 405 (4th Cir. 2001); see also White, 886 F.2d at 723 (affirming district court's dismissal of plaintiffs suit as frivolous where plaintiffs complaint “failed to contain any factual allegations tending to support his bare assertion”). While the court must read the complaint carefully to determine if the plaintiff has alleged facts sufficient to support his claims, White, 886 F.2d at 724, the court is not required to act as the pro se plaintiffs advocate or to parse through volumes of documents or discursive arguments in an attempt to discern the plaintiffs unexpressed intent, Williams v. Ozmint, 716 F.3d 801, 803 (4th Cir. 2013).

         III. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         “Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and are empowered to act only in those specific situations authorized by Congress.” Bowman v. White, 388 F.2d 756, 760 (4th Cir. 1968). The presumption is that a federal court lacks jurisdiction in a particular case unless it is demonstrated that jurisdiction exists. See Id. The plaintiff bears the burden of proving the existence of subject matter jurisdiction. See Evans v. B. F. Perkins Co., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999) (citation omitted).

         The doctrine of sovereign immunity bars a plaintiff from bringing suit for money damages against the federal government absent the government's unequivocal consent to be sued. United States v. Mitchell, 445 U.S. 535, 538 (1980). “To sustain a claim that the Government is liable for awards of monetary damages, the waiver of sovereign immunity must extend unambiguously to such monetary claims.” Armstead v. Nagin, No. 2:05-CV-6438-SRD, 2006 WL 3861769, at *5 (E.D. La. Dec. 29, 2006).

         A. Social ...

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