United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division
REGINALD V. JOHNSON, II, Plaintiff,
GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF BEHAVIORAL HEALTH AND DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES, Defendant.
se plaintiff Reginald Johnson files this action
challenging an adverse decision concerning his state-provided
disability services. Doc. 1 at 2. He seeks both injunctive (a
“Writ of Mandamus”) and monetary relief.
Id. at 2-3. He also seeks to proceed in forma
pauperis (IFP). Doc. 3.
must supplement his IFP motion. The Court grants IFP status
if a plaintiff demonstrates that he cannot, because of his
poverty, afford to pay the costs of litigation and still
provide for himself and any dependents. See 28
U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1); Adkins v. E.I. Dupont de
Nemours, 335 U.S. 331, 339-40 (1948); Martinez v.
Kristi Kleaners, Inc., 364 F.3d 1305, 1307 (11th Cir.
2007). While a plaintiff need not be absolutely destitute in
order to proceed IFP, the fact that financing his own
litigation may cause some difficulty is not sufficient to
relieve a plaintiff of his obligation to pay his own way
where it is possible for him to do so without undue hardship.
Adkins, 335 U.S. 339-40.
IFP motion states that he receives disability payments and
has “other sources” of income. Doc. 3 at 1. The
motion purports to attach a “disability check and child
support payments, ” but no such document is attached.
Id. His listed expenses include expected items like
food and medication (“herbal supplements”), but
also “rentassistance.” Id. at 2. It is
unclear whether he receives such assistance, in
which case it should be listed as income, or
provides such assistance. In either case, the amount
is relevant to the Court's evaluation of his IFP request.
Finally, he states that he has $517 in cash or in a checking
or savings account. Id. It is thus possible that
Johnson is indigent, but he must clarify his income and
expenses. Accordingly, he must supplement his IFP motion
within 14 days, providing all of
the information requested on the Court's form, or pay the
filing fee. The Clerk is DIRECTED to send a
blank IFP motion form with this Order for Johnson's
Johnson's Complaint states that “[a]s a result of
plaintiff's severe impairments and delays, [he] is
requesting that his mother, Ella Johnson, be allowed to speak
and represent on his behalf to the court.” Doc. 1 at 1.
The law is clear, however, that a non-attorney parent
“has no right to represent a child in an
action in the child's name.” Whitehurst v.
Wal-Mart, 306 F. App'x 446, 449 (11th Cir. 2008).
“The right to appear pro se . . . is limited
to parties conducting ‘their own cases, ' and does
not extend to non-attorney parties representing the interests
of others. Consequently, we have held that ‘parents who
are not attorneys may not bring a pro se action on
their child's behalf.'” FuQua v.
Massey, 615 F. App'x 611, 612 (11th Cir. 2015)
(quoting Devine v. Indian River Cnty. Sch. Bd., 121
F.3d 576, 581 (11th Cir. 1997), overruled in part on other
grounds by Winkelman ex rel. Winkelman v. Parma City Sch.
Dist., 550 U.S. 516, 535 (2007)). Thus, while it is
clearly permissible for Johnson's mother to informally
assist him in preparing his pleadings, and she might even
provide interpretive services should an oral presentation be
necessary, she may not make decisions about how the case is
summary, within 14 days of the date of this Order, Johnson
must supplement his motion to proceed IFP, providing a
complete statement of his income and expenses.
Failure to comply with this Order will result in a
recommendation of dismissal on abandonment grounds.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(b).
 Although the Court needs additional
information before proceeding to consider the substantive
issues in this case, it is not convinced that plaintiff has
stated a viable claim. First, it appears that claims for
money damages, including punitive damages, against the State
of Georgia, or its agencies, are precluded by the Eleventh
Amendment and the State's sovereign immunity. See,
e.g., Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller, et
al., 13 Fed. Prac. & Proc. Juris § 3524 (3d ed.
2017) (since 1890 federal courts have recognized that states
are not subject to suit in federal court for damages).
Injunctive relief may be available under the exception
recognized in Ex parte Young. See, e.g.,
209 U.S. 123 (1908); Rosie D. ex rel. John D. v.
Swift, 310 F.3d 230, 237-38 (1st Cir. 2002) (holding
“that the Eleventh Amendment does not prevent Medicaid
beneficiaries from seeking prospective injunctive relief
against state officials in a federal court.”). Despite
the existence of the exception, it is not clear that
Johnson's pleading is sufficient to establish its
application. See, e.g., Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida
Dept. of Revenue, 750 F.3d 1238, 1243-44 (11th Cir.
2014) (explaining that plaintiff could not avoid Eleventh
Amendment / sovereign immunity-based defense by
characterizing a suit to recover money damages as a suit for
injunctive relief); Summit Medical Assocs, P.C. v.
Pryor, 180 F.3d 1326, 1337 (11th Cir. 1999)
(noting limitations of Ex parte Young exception).
Despite those substantive concerns, the questions concerning
Johnson's IFP request must be resolved first.
 If the statement of impairment is
intended, not just to notify the Court that she intends to
informally help her son, but to plead his legal incompetence,
a different issue is presented. If Johnson's mother
contends that he is not competent to control the conduct of
this case, she should so notify the Court. Such notice, or
other indication that Johnson is not competent, triggers the
Court's responsibility and authority under Fed.R.Civ.P.
17(c). Cf. Berrios v. New York City Housing Auth.,
564 F.3d 130, 135 (2d Cir. 2009) (“Where the owner of a
claim is a minor or incompetent person, therefore, unless
that claimant is properly represented by a guardian ad litem,
next friend, or other suitable fiduciary, and that