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Swayne v. Equifax Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

June 13, 2019

MARCUS SWAYNE, Plaintiff,
v.
EQUIFAX, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

          MARC T. TREADWELL, JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Marcus Swayne has moved to proceed in forma pauperis. Doc. 2. As discussed below, the Plaintiff's motion to proceed IFP (Doc. 2) is GRANTED, and the Plaintiff's complaint (Doc. 1) is DISMISSED without prejudice pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act.[1]

         I. DISCUSSION

         Motions to proceed IFP are governed by the PLRA, specifically 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a), which provides:

[A]ny court of the United States may authorize the commencement, prosecution or defense of any suit, action or proceeding, civil or criminal, or appeal therein, without prepayment of fees or security therefor, by a person who submits an affidavit that includes a statement of all assets such prisoner possesses[2] that the person is unable to pay such fees or give security therefor.

         When considering a motion to proceed IFP filed under § 1915(a), the Court must first determine whether the Plaintiff is unable to pay court costs and fees and is therefore a pauper under § 1915, and then determine whether the claim asserted is frivolous or malicious. Procup v. Strickland, 760 F.2d 1107, 1114 (11th Cir. 1985).

         A. Financial Status

         To show poverty, a plaintiff need not show in the affidavit that he is “absolutely destitute.” Martinez v. Kristi Kleaners, Inc., 364 F.3d 1305, 1307 (11th Cir. 2004) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Instead, “[s]uch an affidavit will be held sufficient if it represents that the [plaintiff], because of his poverty, is unable to pay for the court fees and costs, and to support and provide necessities for himself and his dependents.” Id. (quotation marks and citation omitted). However, this statute “should not be a broad highway into the federal courts.” Attwood v. Singletary, 105 F.3d 610, 613 (11th Cir. 1997) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Section 1915(a) “conveys only a privilege to proceed without payment to only those litigants unable to pay costs without undue hardship.” Mack v. Petty, 2014 WL 3845777, at *1 (N.D.Ga. 2014) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). The district court is given wide discretion to decide IFP cases and should grant the privilege sparingly, especially in civil cases for damages. Martinez, 364 F.3d at 1306 (citation omitted).

         In this case, the Plaintiff has submitted an affidavit showing that he is unable to pay the court fees. In his motion to proceed IFP, the Plaintiff states that he receives a monthly income in the amount of $1, 500, with his spouse earning a monthly income of $1, 600, for a total household income of $3, 100.00 per month.[3] Doc. 2 at 1-2. The Plaintiff's apparent household gross annual income of $38, 000 is above the federal poverty guideline for a household of two, which is currently $16, 910.[4] The Plaintiff does not expect any major changes to his household income during the next twelve months. Id. at 2.

         Nonetheless, to determine indigent status, the Court must also compare the Plaintiff's assets and liabilities.[5] See Thomas v. Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit, 574 Fed.Appx. 916, 917 (11th Cir. 2014) (citation omitted) (holding that a court must compare the applicant's assets and liabilities to determine whether the poverty requirement has been satisfied because an annual income exceeding the poverty guideline is “insufficient” on its own as a reason to deny an IFP motion). The Plaintiff's financial affidavit shows assets of a home, valued at $140, 000; a 2009 Ford F150, valued at $3, 000; and a 2015 Toyota Highlander valued at $2, 500. Doc. 2 at 3. The Plaintiff's household monthly expenses, including the mortgage payment, utilities, maintenance, food, and insurance, are between $3, 300 and $3, 400.[6] Id. at 4-5.

         It appears the Plaintiff's household monthly expenses exceed the household monthly income. Accordingly, having read and considered the Plaintiff's financial affidavit, the Court concludes the Plaintiff is unable to pay the costs and fees associated with this lawsuit, and his motion to proceed IFP (Doc. 2) is GRANTED.

         B. Frivolity Review

         Section 1915 does not create an absolute right to proceed IFP in civil actions. “Where the IFP affidavit is sufficient on its face to demonstrate economic eligibility, the court should first docket the case and then proceed to the question of whether the asserted claim is frivolous.” Martinez, 364 F.3d at 1307 (internal quotation marks, alterations, and citation omitted). When allowing a plaintiff to proceed IFP, the Court shall dismiss the case if the Court determines that the complaint (1) “is frivolous or malicious;” (2) “fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted;” or (3) “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         A claim is frivolous if it “has little or no chance of success, ” meaning that it appears “from the face of the complaint that the factual allegations are ‘clearly baseless' or that the legal theories are ‘indisputably meritless.'” Carroll v. Gross, 934 F.2d 392, 393 (11th Cir. 1993). “A dismissal under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) for failure to state a claim is governed by the same standard as a dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).”[7]Thomas v. Harris, 399 Fed.Appx. 508, 509 (11th Cir. 2010) (citing Mitchell v. Farcass, 112 F.3d 1483, 1490 (11th Cir. 1997)). However, because the Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, his “pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys and will, therefore, be liberally construed.” Hughes v. Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1160 (11th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation ...


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