United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
CORDON BAKER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Dianne Skipper seeks, through counsel, judicial review of the
Commissioner's administrative decision denying benefits.
Skipper has submitted an Application to Proceed Without
Prepaying Fees or Costs (Form AO 240), also known as a motion
for leave to proceed in forma pauperis
(“IFP”). See 28 U.S.C. § 1915. At
the undersigned's direction, Skipper supplemented that
motion with a long-form application (Form AO 239).
Skipper's supplemented motion is now before the
undersigned. See Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(b)
(D.S.C.). For the following reasons, the undersigned
recommends the Court deny Skipper's motion.
plaintiff may pursue a civil action in federal court without
prepayment of the filing fee if she submits an affidavit that
identifies all her assets and demonstrates she cannot afford
to pay the required filing fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1).
The purpose of the IFP statute is to assure that indigent
persons have equal access to the judicial system by allowing
them to proceed without having to pay the filing fee.
Bruce v. Samuels, 136 S.Ct. 627, 629 (2016). A
plaintiff does not have to prove she is “absolutely
destitute” to obtain IFP status. Adkins v. E.I. Du
Pont de Nemours & Co., 335 U.S. 331, 339
(1948). Rather, IFP status is available to a person who
proves that, because of her poverty, she cannot pay the court
costs and still be able to provide herself and her dependents
life's necessities. Id.
whether someone should be granted IFP status is not a
formulaic exercise. Anderson v. Greenville Cty. Sch.
Dist., No. 6:19-cv-93-DCC-JDA, 2019 WL 1644966, at *2
(D.S.C. Jan. 17, 2019) (quoting Carter v. Telectron,
Inc., 452 F.Supp. 939, 942 (S.D. Tex. 1976)), report
and recommendation adopted, 2019 WL 1620967 (D.S.C. Apr.
16, 2019). Instead, the Court must carefully scrutinize all
the relevant facts in each case. Id. (quoting
Carter, 452 F.Supp. at 942).
reports she has no money in the bank, but her husband has
$697.00 in two bank accounts, as well as $266, 442.00 in a
401(k) account. (Dkt. No. 8-1 at 2.) The Skippers have two
vehicles-a 2015 truck worth $30, 000 and a 2005 sedan worth
$1, 500-as well as a 2019 camper worth $38, 000.00.
(Id. at 3.) They also own a house worth $195,
000.00. (Id.) They do not have any dependents. (Dkt.
No. 4 at 2.)
states her husband's average monthly gross income was $6,
350.00 last year. (Dkt. No. 8-1 at 1.) She qualifies that,
however, by stating her husband was working “quite a
bit of overtime” last year, and the opportunity for him
to continue picking up overtime work has diminished; he is
now expected to gross $4, 027.00 per month going forward.
(Id. at 1, 6.) According to Skipper, her
husband's work earnings are their only income source.
(See Id. at 1-2.)
reports she and her husband's total monthly expenses
total $4, 375.06. (Dkt. No. 8-1 at 5.) Those expenses include
$1, 040.00 for mortgage, taxes, and property insurance;
$383.00 for utilities, including $82.00 for satellite
television; $50.00 for home maintenance; $500.00 for food;
$50.00 for clothes; $400.00 for medical and dental expenses;
$240.00 on transportation costs; $130.00 on recreation and
entertainment; $257.50 for insurance; $114.00 for taxes on
the two vehicles and the camper; $488.56 for installment
payments on the truck; $354.00 for installment payments on
the camper; $240.00 for credit card payments; and $128.00 in
checking account overdraft fees. (Id. at 4; Dkt. No.
4 at 2.)
on the information before the Court, Skipper does not appear
to be eligible for IFP status. She and her husband's
assets include a brand-new recreational camper that has
significant value. Nothing suggests the Skippers need the
camper for shelter; to the contrary, presumably they live in
the house they own. The monthly payment on the camper nears
the $400.00 in fees Skipper would have to pay to file her
case. Moreover, it appears the Skippers spend an average of
$128.00 per month on overdraft fees, and another $130.00 on
recreation and entertainment. They could pay the Court's
filing fees by avoiding those unnecessary costs for two
months. Finally, the Skippers' home and 401(k) account
each have significant value; presumably, if need be, they
could cover the filing fees with a small loan against those
assets. It therefore does not appear that paying the $400
would render Skipper destitute or force her to forego a basic
“‘privilege to proceed [IFP] is reserved to the
many truly impoverished litigants, who, within the District
Court's sound discretion, would remain without [a] legal
remedy if such privilege were not afforded to
them.'” Anderson, 2019 WL 1644966, at *2
(quoting Brewster v. N. Am. Van Lines, 461 F.2d 649,
651 (7th Cir. 1972)). The information Skipper has provided
demonstrates she is not in that situation. Therefore, the
undersigned recommends that the Court deny Skipper's IFP
motion (Dkt. No. 4) and give her thirty days thereafter to
pay the filing fees.
IS SO RECOMMENDED.
parties' attention is directed to the
Important Notice on the next page.
of Right to File Objections to Report ...