Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Wojcicki v. SCANA/SCE&G

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division

January 17, 2017

Joseph Edward Wojcicki, Plaintiff,
v.
SCANA/SCE&G, Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION

         Plaintiff Joseph Edward Wojcicki (“Plaintiff”) filed this pro se action (“Complaint”) against Defendants SCANA and SCE&G (collectively known as “Defendants”)[1], alleging violations of the South Carolina Base Load Review Act (“BLRA”) through the raising of electric energy rates. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff seeks monetary damages against Defendants pursuant to the False Claims Act (“FCA”), 31 U.S.C. § 3729. (Id.)

         In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 73.02(B)(2)(g) (D.S.C.), the matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Paige J. Gossett for pre-trial handling. On June 27, 2014, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation (“Report”) recommending the court dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (ECF No. 1), and that the case be unsealed.[2]This review considers Plaintiff's Objections to the Report (“Objections”) filed July 14, 2014. (ECF No. 29.) For the reasons set forth herein, the court ACCEPTS the Magistrate Judge's Report (ECF No. 25), and DISMISSES this action (ECF No. 1) without prejudice and without issuance and service of process.

         I. RELEVANT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         This court concludes, upon its own careful review of the record, that the Magistrate Judge's factual synopsis is accurate and incorporates it by reference. This court will thus focus on the facts pertinent to the analysis of Plaintiff's Objections.

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants improperly used the BLRA as a justification to increase electric energy rates to cover the costs of constructing nuclear units.[3] (ECF No. 1 at 1.) Plaintiff believes Defendants should have secured federal funds instead of raising rates. (Id. at 2.) Plaintiff asserts he provided copies of his evidence to the Attorney General of the United States (“Attorney General”), however, Plaintiff has “not received any confirmation of the [government] investigation.” (Id. at 1.) Plaintiff seeks the maximum award amount pursuant to § 3729. (Id. at 3.)

         On April 1, 2014, pursuant to 31 U.S.C. § 3730(b)(2), the court issued an order granting Plaintiff's Motion to Seal. (ECF Nos. 2, 6.) The order notified Plaintiff that “pro se litigants may not undertake qui tam actions[, ]” McClinton v. Walden University, No. 3:13-0942-MBS, 2014 WL 992780, at *10 (D.S.C. Mar. 12, 2014) (citing United States ex rel. Brooks v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 237 Fed. App'x 802, 803 (4th Cir. 2007)), and allowed Plaintiff twenty-one days to obtain legal representation and complete a proper summons form for the Attorney General. (ECF No. 6 at 1-2.) On April 11, 2014, Plaintiff submitted a Motion for Extension of Time (ECF No. 8), and on May 14, 2014, the court allowed Plaintiff an additional fourteen days to obtain representation and complete a proper summons. (ECF No. 12 at 1.) On May 21, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Appoint Counsel (ECF No. 14), which the court denied on June 27, 2014. (ECF No. 24.)

         The Magistrate Judge's June 27, 2014 Report found that because Plaintiff remained a pro se litigant in a qui tam action, the Complaint should be summarily dismissed. (ECF No. 25 at 4.)

         In response to the Magistrate Judge's Report, Plaintiff filed a timely Objection on July 14, 2014. (ECF No. 29.) In his Objections, Plaintiff argues the Complaint cannot be dismissed because the Attorney General has not consented to its dismissal, (Id. at 1), and takes issue with the Report's language regarding a “lay person.” (Id. at 2-3.) Plaintiff also challenges the Report with various other arguments relating to the scope of the alleged fraud, and the necessity for the alleged victims to get justice. (Id. at 2-11.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The Magistrate Judge's Report is made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Rule 73.02 for the District of South Carolina. The Magistrate Judge's Report is only a recommendation to this court, and has no presumptive weight-the responsibility to make a final determination remains with this court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report to which specific objections are made. Id. The court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the Magistrate Judge's recommendation or recommit the matter with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Objections to a Report must specifically identify portions of the Report and the basis for those objections. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2).

         Pro se complaints must be held to a less stringent legal standard than those complaints or proceedings drafted by lawyers, and a pro se document should be liberally construed by a federal court. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). “Technical niceties” should not defeat a meritorious claim when it can be amended to achieve justice. Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). However, while a pro se complaint may be entitled to “special judicial solicitude, ” federal courts are not required to recognize “obscure or extravagant claims.” Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 390-91 (4th Cir. 1990) (quoting Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1277 (4th Cir. 1985). Furthermore, district courts are not required to “conjure up questions never squarely presented” to the court. Beaudett, 775 F.2d at 1278. A complaint will be dismissed, even under the lens of a liberal interpretation, “if it does not allege ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief.'” Smith v. Smith, 589 F.3d 736, 738 (4th Cir. 2009) (quoting Giarratano v. Johnson, 521 F.3d 298, 302 (4th Cir. 2008)).

         Moreover, “[f]rivolous complaints are subject to dismissal pursuant to the court's inherent authority, even when the plaintiff has paid the filing fee.” Smith v. Kagan, 616 Fed. App'x. 90, 90 (4th Cir. 2015) (citing Mallard v. United States Dist. Court, 490 U.S. 296, 307-08 (1989)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         The Magistrate Judge correctly concluded that Plaintiff's Complaint was subject to dismissal because of Plaintiff's status as a pro se litigant. Plaintiff's Objections do not bring forward any new facts that change this initial conclusion. Despite two court orders informing Plaintiff that he needed to obtain legal representation to proceed with his Complaint (ECF Nos. 6, 12), Plaintiff failed to comply, and continued to proceed pro se. Not only are pro se litigants prohibited from undertaking qui tam actions, see McClinton, ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.