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Bryant v. Environmental Protection Agency

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

October 2, 2018

Anthony G. Bryant, Plaintiff,
Environmental Protection Agency, Attorney General of United States, U.S. Attorney for the District of S.C., and Internal Revenue Service, Defendants.



         Anthony Bryant (“Plaintiff”) is a nonprisoner litigant who is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1) and Local Rule 73.02(B)(2) (D.S.C.), the United States Magistrate Judge is authorized to review the record and to submit findings and recommendations to the United States District Judge. Upon review, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the Complaint should be summarily dismissed without prejudice, and without issuance and service of process, for the following reasons:

         I. Relevant Law

         A. Liberal Construction

         Pro se pleadings are given liberal construction and are held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). However, “[t]he ‘special judicial solicitude' with which a district court should view ... pro se filings does not transform the court into an advocate. United States v. Wilson, 699 F.3d 789, 797 (4th Cir. 2012), cert. denied, 133 S.Ct. 2401 (2013). Only those questions which are squarely presented to a court may properly be addressed.” Weller v. Dept. of Soc. Servs., City of Baltimore, 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990). Giving “liberal construction” does not mean that the Court can ignore a prisoner's clear failure to allege facts that set forth a cognizable claim. “Principles requiring generous construction of pro se complaints ... [do] not require ... courts to conjure up questions never squarely presented to them.” Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1088 (1986).

         B. Standard of Review

         Upon application, an indigent litigant may commence an action “in forma pauperis” in federal court without prepaying the administrative costs of proceeding with the lawsuit. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). To protect against possible abuses of this privilege, the statute allows the court to dismiss the case upon finding that the action is “frivolous or malicious, ” “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, ” or “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B). A finding of frivolity can be made where the complaint lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992). Under 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B), a claim based on a meritless legal theory may be dismissed sua sponte “at any time.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326 (1989). “Rule 12(b)(6) authorizes a court to dismiss a claim on the basis of a dispositive issue of law.” Id.

         C. Inherent Authority to Dismiss Frivolous Case

          The United States Supreme Court has observed that federal district courts possess inherent authority to dismiss a frivolous case. See Mallard v. United States District Court, 490 U.S. 296, 307-08 (1989) (“Section 1915(d) ... authorizes courts to dismiss a ‘frivolous or malicious' action, but there is little doubt they would have power to do so even in the absence of this statutory provision.”); see also Hagans v. Lavine, 415 U.S. 528, 536-537 (1974) (holding that federal district courts may dismiss claims that are “so attenuated and unsubstantial as to be absolutely devoid of merit”).

         Consistent with such authority, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that “frivolous complaints are subject to summary dismissal pursuant to the inherent authority of the court.” Ross v. Baron, 493 Fed.Appx. 405, 406 (4th Cir. Aug. 22, 2012); and see, e.g., Cabbill v. United States, No. 1:14-cv-4122-JMC-PJG, 2015 WL 6905072, *5 (D.S.C. Nov. 9, 2015) (same), appeal dism'd, 2016 WL 1085106 (4th Cir. Mar. 21, 2016); Anderson v. Patterson, No. 6:16-761-MGL-JDA, 2016 WL 1743095 (D.S.C. April 12, 2016), adopted by 2016 WL 1732763 (D.S.C. May 2, 2016). “A suit is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis in law or fact.” Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 325; McLean v. United States, 566 F.3d 391, 399 (4th Cir. 2009).

         Therefore, the present Complaint is subject to review pursuant to the inherent authority of this Court to ensure that subject matter jurisdiction exists and that the case is not frivolous. See e.g., Carter v. Ervin, No. 0:14-cv-00865-TLW-PJG, 2014 WL 2468351, *3 (D.S.C. June 2, 2014), appeal dism'd, 585 Fed.Appx. 98 (4th Cir. 2014); Mayhew, 2014 WL 468938 at *1, fn.1 (exercising inherent authority to summarily dismiss a frivolous case).

         II. Allegations of the Complaint

         The Complaint's “Statement of the Claim” consists of the following (verbatim):

Filed 1978 Inspector General complaint EPA 1974 Privacy Act consent form U.S.C. 241 and 242 color of the law after filling 1978 Inspector General complaint Justice Department IRS 6109, 6702

(DE# 1 at 5, ¶ III). For relief, Plaintiff demands (verbatim):

$300, 000 EPA FBI and Homeland Security twenty two Agencies Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Postal Service U.S. Attorney of South Carolina

(Id., ¶ IV “Relief”).

         Plaintiff attaches 85 pages of exhibits to his Complaint, including a 2013 “Arrest warrant/Bench warrant/Commitment Recall Authorization” (DE# 1-1 at 7); a copy of a nonsensical letter (dated 12/3/2011) that he wrote to AUSA Beth Drake (DE# 1-1 at 11-12); other nonsensical letters to state and federal offices (DE# 1-1 at 23-24); newspaper articles on varying topics whose relevance to this case cannot be discerned, such as articles about prison cellphones (DE# 1-1 at 36); notices of public meetings and monthly agendas (DE# 1-2 at 33); an unsigned draft contract (DE# 1-2 at 1-10); various letter requests by Plaintiff to governmental agencies for information; ...

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