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Jordan v. District 5 Foundation for Educational Excellence

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

February 12, 2019

Diana Jordan, Plaintiff,
v.
District 5 Foundation for Educational Excellence, Defendant.

          ORDER

          JOSEPH F. ANDERSON, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Diana Jordan (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, [1] filed this civil action on October 29, 2018, requesting the Court to order a “forensic accounting” to determine whether District 5 Foundation for Educational Excellence (“Defendant”) wrongly denied Plaintiff's request for money to replace a heat pump coil in her house. (ECF No. 1). Thereafter, Plaintiff filed an Application to Proceed in District Court without Prepaying Fees or Costs (Form AO-240) (“Application”). (ECF No. 3). In her Application, Plaintiff states she is unemployed. (ECF No. 3 at 1). She further indicates she has $10.50 in a checking or savings account and that she owns a home valued at $120, 000 and a vehicle valued at $1, 500. (ECF No. 3 at 2). Finally, Plaintiff states she does not have any debts or monthly expenses, and she lists one dependent. (ECF No. 3 at 2).

         In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e) (D.S.C.), this case was referred to a Magistrate Judge for Review. The Magistrate Judge assigned to this action[2]prepared a thorough Report and Recommendation (“Report”), opining that Plaintiff's Application should be dismissed and that Plaintiff should have fourteen (14) days from the date of an order denying her Application to submit the $400 filing fee. (ECF No. 8 at 6). The Report sets forth, in detail, the relevant facts and standards of law on this matter, and this Court incorporates those facts and standards without a recitation. (ECF No. 8). The Magistrate Judge required Plaintiff to file objections by November 15, 2018, (ECF No. 8 at 7), and Plaintiff timely filed her Objections, (ECF No. 11). Plaintiff also filed a Motion for Expedited Ruling as to her Application. (ECF No. 13). Accordingly, the Application is ripe for review.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The district court is required to conduct a de novo review only of the specific portions of the Magistrate Judge's Report to which objections are made. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); see also Carniewski v. W.Va. Bd. of Prob. & Parole, 974 F.2d 1330 (4th Cir. 1992). In the absence of specific objections to portions of the Magistrate Judge's Report, this Court is not required to give an explanation for adopting the Report. See Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983). Thus, the Court must only review those portions of the Report to which Plaintiff has made specific written objections. Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 316 (4th Cir. 2005).

         “An objection is specific if it ‘enables the district judge to focus attention on those issues- factual and legal-that are at the heart of the parties' dispute.'” Dunlap v. TM Trucking of the Carolinas, LLC, No. 0:15-cv-04009-JMC, 2017 WL 6345402, at *5 n.6 (D.S.C. Dec. 12, 2017) (citing One Parcel of Real Prop. Known as 2121 E. 30th St., 73 F.3d 1057, 1059 (10th Cir. 1996)). A specific objection to the Magistrate Judge's Report thus requires more than a reassertion of arguments from the Complaint or a mere citation to legal authorities. See Workman v. Perry, No. 6:17-cv-00765-RBH, 2017 WL 4791150, at *1 (D.S.C. Oct. 23, 2017). A specific objection must “direct the court to a specific error in the magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982).

         “Generally stated, nonspecific objections have the same effect as would a failure to object.” Staley v. Norton, No. 9:07-0288-PMD, 2007 WL 821181, at *1 (D.S.C. Mar. 2, 2007) (citing Howard v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991)). The Court reviews portions “not objected to-including those portions to which only ‘general and conclusory' objections have been made-for clear error.” Id. (emphasis added) (citing Diamond, 416 F.3d at 315; Camby, 718 F.2d at 200; Orpiano, 687 F.2d at 47).

         Where an objection is “nonspecific, unrelated to the dispositive portions of the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, or merely restate[s] . . . claims, ” the Court need not conduct any further review of that objection. Field v. McMaster, 663 F.Supp.2d 449, 452 (D.S.C. 2009); see also McNeil v. S.C. Dept. of Corrections, No. 5:12-2880-MGL, 2013 WL 1102881, at *1 (D.S.C. Mar. 15, 2013) (finding petitioner's objections to be without merit where the objections were “non-specific, unrelated to the dispositive portions of the Magistrate Judge's Report, and consist[ed] of a reassertion of the arguments” made in the petition); Arbogast v. Spartanburg Cty., No. 07:11-cv-00198-GRA, 2011 WL 5827635, at *2 (D.S.C. Nov. 17, 2011) (finding that plaintiff's objections were not specific where the objections were “general and conclusory in that they merely reassert[ed] that his conviction was wrongful.”).

         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). A litigant is not required to show she 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, 339-40 (1948). However, the “privilege to proceed without posting security for costs and fees is reserved to the many truly impoverished litigants who . . . would remain without legal remedy if such privilege were not afforded to them.” Brewster v. North Am. Van Lines, Inc., 461 F.2d 649, 651 (7th Cir. 1972). In Carter v. Telectron, Incorporated, the court enunciated three legal tests used to determine whether a person should proceed in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915:

(1) Is the litigant barred from the federal courts by the reason of her “impecunity”?
(2) Is her access to the courts blocked by the imposition of an undue hardship?
(3) Is the litigant forced to contribute her last dollar, or render herself destitute, to prosecute her claim?

Carter v. Telectron, Inc., 452 F.Supp. 939, 943 (S.D. Tex. 1976); see also Murray v. Gossett, C/A No. 3:13-2552-CMC-SVH, 2013 WL 5670907, at *2 (D.S.C. Oct. 17, 2013) (adopting and ...


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