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Bryant v. Federal Communication Commission

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

October 5, 2018

Anthony G. Bryant, Plaintiff,
Federal Communication Commission, Social Security Administration Department of Justice, and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., 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 Civil 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 Amended Complaint (DE#9) should be summarily dismissed with 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, 490 U.S. at 326. “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 v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); 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

         In his Complaint (DE# 1), Plaintiff named the following four federal agencies as Defendants: the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”), Social Security Administration, Department of Justice, and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (“FDIC”). He checked the box for federal question jurisdiction and stated that the basis for jurisdiction as: “Communication Decency Act, Email Privacy Act, Cloud Act 2018, U.S.A. Freedom Act.” (Id. at 3, ¶ II).

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

Communication Decency Act, Cloud Act, Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998, 116109 Social Security Administration 2008 Bank of America, Charlotte NC.

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

Federal Communication Commission Articles in Post and Courier, Bank of America lending to Communication Decency Act, Cloud Act. U.S. Patriot via IRS 6109 ...

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