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Franklin v. United States

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

September 18, 2019

Landis Deluan Franklin, Plaintiff,
v.
United States of America, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Jacquelyn D. Austin, United States Magistrate Judge.

         Landis Deluan Franklin (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this civil action purportedly against the United States of America. [Doc. 1 at 1-2.] Plaintiff's Amended Complaint was filed on September 16, 2019. [Doc. 1-1.] This matter is before the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2), D.S.C. Having reviewed the Amended Complaint and each of Plaintiff's submissions filed in this case, the undersigned Magistrate Judge finds that this action should be summarily dismissed.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff commenced this action by filing a Complaint against the United States of America. [Doc. 1 at 1-2.] Plaintiff asserted that this Court had diversity jurisdiction over this matter, but he failed to provide any additional allegations or information to support that assertion. [Id. at 3.] In the statement of the claim section of the Complaint, Plaintiff simply alleged: “Status of citizenship as American Indian.” [Id. at 5.] For his relief, Plaintiff stated: “Tax free citizen-foreigner living in US. Refund of Taxes paid.” [Id.] Plaintiff made no other allegations in his Complaint.

         By Order dated August 19, 2019, Plaintiff was directed to file an amended complaint to cure the deficiencies in his original Complaint identified by the Court. [Doc. 10.] Plaintiff's Amended Complaint was filed on September 16, 2019. [Doc. 1-1.] In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff again asserts that the basis for this Court's jurisdiction is diversity of citizenship. [Id. at 3.] Plaintiff makes no other allegations concerning this Court's jurisdiction. In the statement of the claim section of the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges, verbatim,

This is to serve notice of my Nationality proclamation as I did with the Social Security Dept and Highway Dept as well. I ask that this be filed and the correct prot[o]col is follow[ed] as needed.
SF-181 forms have been done.

[Id. at 4.] Plaintiff makes no other allegations in his Amended Complaint. As attachments to the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff has filed several documents, including his birth certificate and a document entitled “Affidavit of Title (Statement of Beneficial Ownership).” [Doc. 1-3 at 3-4.]

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         As a pro se litigant, Plaintiff's pleadings are accorded liberal construction and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). However, even under this less stringent standard, Plaintiff's Complaint is subject to summary dismissal. 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 Plaintiff could prevail, it should do so, but a district court may not rewrite a petition to include claims that were never presented, Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128, 1133 (10th Cir. 1999), or construct Plaintiff's legal arguments for him, Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411, 417-18 (7th Cir. 1993), or “conjure up questions never squarely presented” to the court, Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). 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, 391 (4th Cir. 1990).

         Although the Court must liberally construe the pro se Complaint and Plaintiff is not required to plead facts sufficient to prove his case as an evidentiary matter in his pleadings, the Complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (explaining that a plaintiff may proceed into the litigation process only when his complaint is justified by both law and fact). “A claim has ‘facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'” Owens v. Baltimore City State's Attorneys Office, 767 F.3d 379, 388 (4th Cir. 2014).

         Plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the in forma pauperis statute. This statute authorizes the District Court to dismiss a case if it is satisfied that the action “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, ” is “frivolous or malicious, ” or “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Further, this Court possesses the inherent authority to review a pro se complaint to ensure that subject matter jurisdiction exists and that a case is not frivolous, even if the complaint were not subject to the prescreening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915. See Mallard v. U.S. Dist. Court, 490 U.S. 296, 307S08 (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.”); Ross v. Baron, 493 Fed.Appx. 405, 406 (4th Cir. 2012) (unpublished) (“[F]rivolous complaints are subject to dismissal pursuant to the inherent authority of the court, even when the filing fee has been paid . . . [and] because a court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over an obviously frivolous complaint, dismissal prior to service of process is permitted.”) (citations omitted); see also Fitzgerald v. First E. Seventh Street Tenants Corp., 221 F.3d 362, 364 (2d Cir. 2000) (“[D]istrict courts may dismiss a frivolous complaint sua sponte even when the plaintiff has paid the required filing fee[.]”); Ricketts v. Midwest Nat'l Bank, 874 F.2d 1177, 1181 (7th Cir. 1989) (“[A] district court's obligation to review its own jurisdiction is a matter that must be raised sua sponte, and it exists independent of the ‘defenses' a party might either make or waive under the Federal Rules.”); Franklin v. State of Or., State Welfare Div., 662 F.2d 1337, 1342 (9th Cir. 1981) (providing a judge may dismiss an action sua sponte for lack of subject matter jurisdiction without issuing a summons or following other procedural requirements).

         DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff appears to allege that he is entitled to a refund of his federal income taxes because of his status as an American Indian.[1] [Doc. 1 at 5.] This action is subject to summary dismissal because the ...


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