United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division
T.R.B., by and through Samantha Green, his mother and natural guardian, Plaintiff,
NANCY ANN BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
CHRISTOPHER L. RAY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
T.R.B. is a minor who has been diagnosed with
“ASD” and alleges disability based on that
diagnosis. See doc. 1 at 3-4. His mother, Samantha
Green, has signed the Complaint on T.R.B.'s behalf.
See Id. at 5. She also seeks leave to pursue
T.R.B.'s case in forma pauperis. Doc. 2. Before
the Court can take any action in this case, it must consider
whether Green may pursue a claim on T.R.B.'s behalf
without legal representation.
a plaintiff may only assert her own rights; she lacks
“standing” to assert a third party's claims.
Standing, in this context, is an aspect of the Court's
subject matter jurisdiction-the Constitutional limits on its
power. See, e.g., Valley Forge Christian College v.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State,
Inc., 454 U.S. 464, 471 (1982) (explaining the
jurisdictional significance of standing). As such, the Court
has an obligation to verify its jurisdiction and
plaintiff's standing. See, e.g., United States v.
Hays, 515 U.S. 737, 742 (1995) (quoting FW/PBS, Inc.
v. Dallas, 493 U.S. 215, 230-31 (1990))
(“‘The federal courts are under an independent
obligation to examine their own jurisdiction, and standing is
perhaps the most important of the jurisdictional
doctrines.'” (quotes and alterations omitted)).
generally the case that a parent, who is not an attorney,
cannot pursue her child's case pro se. See,
e.g., FuQua v. Massey, 615 Fed.Appx. 611, 612 (11th Cir.
2015) (“[W]e have held that parents who are not
attorneys may not bring a pro se action on their
child's behalf.” (quotes and cite omitted)). The
purpose of this rule is to protect the child's interest
in the claim; the concern is that a parent, however
well-intentioned, untrained in the law will not be able to
adequately prosecute the case. See Devine v. Indian River
County School Bd., 121 F.3d 576, 582 (11th Cir. 1997),
overruling in part on other grounds recognized by Kell v.
Smith, 743 Fed.Appx. 292, 294 (11th Cir. 2018) (noting
that general prohibition on parental representation
“helps to ensure that children rightfully entitled to
legal relief are not deprived of their day in court by
unskilled, if caring, parents.”). Unlike the standing
requirement, however, the prohibition on parents prosecuting
their children's claims pro se “is not
ironclad.” Elustra v. Mineo, 595 F.3d 699, 705
(7th Cir. 2010). Courts have allowed non-attorney parents to
prosecute claims pro se when the nature of the claim
suggests that such prosecution represents the best, if not
the only, way to protect the child's rights. See
Machadio v. Apfel, 276 F.3d 103, 107 (2d Cir. 2002)
(allowing non-attorney parent to pursue SSI claim pro
se, in part, because rigid application of the general
rule “would unfairly penalize the children seeking SSI
benefits because their parents will rarely be able to hire
counsel due to the stringent family income limitations to
which the award of SSI benefits are subject.” (cites
courts' general approbation for non-attorney parents'
pursuit of SSI benefits on behalf of their children, the
Court sees no reason to prevent Green's suit on behalf of
T.R.B.. See, e.g., Harris v. Apfel, 209 F.3d 413,
414-417 (5th Cir. 2000) (holding that “the rights of
minors in SSI appeals can be adequately protected without
legal counsel-the proceedings” and a prohibition on
such representation “would jeopardize seriously the
child's statutory right to judicial review under
§405(g).”); see also, e.g., Kennedy o/b/o
C.H.P.K. v. Berryhill, 2019 WL 623855 at * 2 (N.D. Fla.
Jan. 29, 2019) (“The analysis set forth in
Harris is persuasive, and the court finds [the
parent] may proceed pro se on behalf of [the
minor].”); Woods on behalf of A.L.D. v.
Commissioner of Social Security, 2018 WL 773925 at * 3
(S.D. Ohio Feb. 8, 2018) (Report and Recommendation declining
to recommend dismissal of minor's Social Security appeal
brought by pro se parent on standing grounds, based
on “the same policy considerations” recognized in
the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this case, it
must consider whether to allow Green to pursue it in
forma pauperis (IFP). In her IFP motion, Green indicates
that she receives no income from pay or wages. See
doc. 2 at 1. The Court assumes, therefore, that she is
unemployed. She does indicate that she receives some
“[d]isability, or worker's compensation payments,
” and “child support.” Id. Despite
the motion form's clear instruction to “describe .
. . and state the amount” of any non-employment income,
she has not. See Id. She does list monthly expenses
that may exhaust the funds she receives from those sources,
but, in the absence of any indication of their amount, the
Court cannot be sure.
litigant whose filing fees and court costs are assumed by the
public . . . lacks an economic incentive to refrain from
filing frivolous, malicious, or repetitive lawsuits.”
Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989).
Courts thus deploy appropriate scrutiny. See Hobby v.
Beneficial Mortg. Co. of Va., 2005 WL 5409003 at *7
(E.D. Va. June 3, 2005) (debtor denied IFP status where,
although she was unable to find employment as a substitute
teacher, she had not shown she is unable to work and earn
income in other ways); In re Fromal, 151 B.R. 733,
735 (E.D. Va. 1993) (denying IFP application where debtor was
licensed attorney and accountant and she offered no reason
why she cannot find employment), cited in In re Zow,
2013 WL 1405533 at * 2 (Bankr. S.D. Ga. Mar. 4, 2013)
(denying IFP to “highly educated” bankruptcy
debtor who, inter alia, had “not shown he is
physically unable to work or earn income in other
ways.”); Nixon v. United Parcel Serv., 2013 WL
1364107 at *1-2 (M.D. Ga. Apr. 3, 2013) (court examined
income and expenses on long-form IFP affidavit and determined
that plaintiff in fact had the ability to pay the court's
plaintiff need not be absolutely destitute in order to
proceed IFP, Adkins v. E.I. Dupont de Nemours, 335
U.S. 331, 339 (1948), 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 to do so without undue hardship.
Thomas v. Secretary of Dep't of Veterans
Affairs, 358 Fed.Appx. 115, 116 (11th Cir. 2009) (the
Court has wide discretion in ruling on IFP application, and
should grant the privilege “sparingly” in civil
cases for damages). Two important points must be underscored.
First, proceeding IFP is a privilege, not an entitlement.
See Rowland v. Cal. Men's Colony, Unit II Men's
Advisory Council, 506 U.S. 194, 198 (1993). And second,
courts have discretion to afford litigants IFP status;
it's not automatic. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1) (courts
“may authorize the commencement” of IFP
actions); Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31
(1992); see also Marceaux v. Democratic Party, 79
Fed.Appx. 185, 186 (6th Cir. 2003) (no abuse of discretion
when court determined plaintiff could afford to pay the
filing fee without undue hardship because he has no room and
board expenses, owns a car, and spends the $250.00 earned
each month selling plasma on completely discretionary items);
Lee v. McDonalds Corp., 231 F.3d 456, 458 (8th Cir.
2000) (the decision of whether to grant or deny IFP status
under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 is discretionary).
Green must supplement the motion to proceed IFP or pay the
Court's filing fee. She is DIRECTED to
either pay or submit a supplement to the motion, providing
all the required information, within 30 days of the
date of this Order. Failure to comply will result in
a recommendation of dismissal on abandonment
grounds. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 41. The Clerk
is DIRECTED to include a blank copy of the
Court's IFP (Form AO 240) motion form with this Order for
 Green, on plaintiff's behalf,
submitted unredacted copies of psychological reports dated
2013, 2016, and 2018. The most recent uses “ASD”
as an abbreviation for the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum
Disorder. See doc. 1-1 at 17. Green is advised,
however, that further filings should avoid specifically
identifying T.R.B. by name.
 Given that the application lists
T.R.B.'s full name, the Clerk is
DIRECTED to SEAL that
application and restrict access to ...