United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
PAIGE J. GOSSETT, Magistrate Judge.
The plaintiff, Isaac Murray ("Plaintiff"), a self-represented litigant, brings this action alleging a breach of trust associated with his hospitalization. (ECF No. 1 at 1, 6.) This matter is before the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e) DSC. Plaintiff seeks to proceed in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915. (ECF No. 2.) Having reviewed the Complaint and motion to proceed in forma pauperis in accordance with applicable law, the court concludes that the Complaint should be summarily dismissed without prejudice and without issuance and service of process and Plaintiff's motion to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee should be denied.
I. Procedural Background
Plaintiff filed an Application to Proceed in District Court Without Prepaying Fees or Costs (Form AO-240), which is construed as a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF No. 2.) In his motion, Plaintiff states that he has received Social Security disability payments in the amount of $100.55 during the past twelve months. ( Id. at 1.) Plaintiff further indicates that the has approximately $5, 000 in a savings or checking account and lists no assets, regular monthly expenses, or debts. ( Id. at 2.)
Plaintiff's Complaint alleges a hospitalization in 1978 and subsequent admission to the South Carolina State Hospital. (ECF No. 1 at 1.) Plaintiff discusses being "in and out of these places" for thirty-five years and wants to know the names of the people that are responsible for his hospitalizations. (Id.) Plaintiff indicates that the "whole world of people have me confined" and wants the defendants to correct the mistakes of mankind. ( Id. at 2-3.) Plaintiff also wants "charges against all of these people" and charges "against the whole world of people" for breach of trust and dereliction of duties. ( Id. at 4, 6.) Plaintiff asks the court to carry out his demand that "all these things are made known to all mankind." ( Id. at 7.) Plaintiff further discusses filing a writ of habeas corpus "for the benefit of all mankind." ( Id. at 5.) Plaintiff's Complaint also alleges that he has "a little over $4, 000" with "no bills to pay and no transportation." (Id.)
A. Motion to proceed in forma pauperis
Grants or denials of applications to proceed in forma pauperis are left to the discretion of federal district courts. See Dillard v. Liberty Loan Corp. , 626 F.2d 363, 364 (4th Cir. 1980). However, there is no clear precedent in the Fourth Circuit concerning a magistrate judge's authority to issue an order denying an application to proceed in forma pauperis.  The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has concluded that a magistrate judge cannot issue an order to deny an application to proceed in forma pauperis. Woods v. Dahlberg , 894 F.2d 187 (6th Cir. 1990). Specifically, the Woods court ruled that a denial of an application to proceed in forma pauperis by a magistrate judge is the functional equivalent of an involuntary dismissal, which cannot be granted by a magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). Id. at 187. The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth and Fifth Circuits have reached similar conclusions. See Lister v. Dep't of the Treasury , 408 F.3d 1309, 1312 (10th Cir. 2005); Donaldson v. Ducote , 373 F.3d 622, 623-25 (5th Cir. 2004). Accordingly, this Report and Recommendation has been submitted to preserve Plaintiff's opportunity to obtain de novo review by the assigned district judge upon proper objections.
A litigant is not required to show that he is completely destitute in order to qualify as an indigent within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Adkins v. E.I. Du Pont de Nemours & Co. , 335 U.S. 331, 337-44 nn.5-10 (1948). Further, "there are no magic formulas' for making the determination that the requisite in forma pauperis status is present, but instead, there is required a careful scrutiny and weighing of all the relevant facts and circumstances involved in each particular situation." Carter v. Telectron, Inc. , 452 F.Supp. 939, 942 (S.D. Tex. 1976) (citation omitted). Citing Adkins and cases in the Third and Fifth Judicial Circuits, Carter set forth a three-part list of discretionary factors to be evaluated under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a): "Is petitioner barred from the Federal Courts by reason of his impecunity? Is access to the courts blocked by the imposition of an undue hardship? Is petitioner forced to contribute his last dollar, or render himself destitute to prosecute his claim?" Carter , 452 F.Supp. at 943 (citations omitted).
Upon review of the information before the court, and mindful of the tests set forth in Carter, the court has concluded that Plaintiff would not be rendered destitute by being required to pay the filing costs of $400 (which includes the $50 administrative fee), nor is there any indication that requiring payment of these costs would impose an undue hardship or effectively block Plaintiff's access to the courts. The "privilege to proceed without posting security for costs and fees is reserved to the many truly impoverished litigants who, within the District Court's sound discretion, would remain without [a] legal remedy if such privilege were not afforded to them." Brewster v. N. Am. Van Lines, Inc. , 461 F.2d 649, 651 (7th Cir. 1972). Therefore, Plaintiff's motion should be denied. (ECF No. 2.)
B. Lack of subject matter jurisdiction
i. Standard of Review
Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of the pro se Complaint. This court is required to liberally construe pro se complaints. Erickson v. Pardus , 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Such pro se complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys, id.; Gordon v. Leeke , 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978), and a federal district court is charged with liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. Hughes v. Rowe , 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980); Cruz v. Beto , 405 U.S. 319 (1972). When a federal court is evaluating a pro se complaint, the plaintiff's allegations are assumed to be true. Erickson , 551 U.S. at 93 (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007)).
Nonetheless, the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a claim cognizable in a federal district court. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. , 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009) (outlining pleading requirements under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for "all civil actions"). The mandated liberal construction afforded to pro se pleadings means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so; however, a district court may not rewrite a complaint to include claims that were never presented, Barnett v. Hargett , 174 F.3d 1128 (10th Cir. 1999), construct the plaintiff's ...