MANNING v. USA, No. 1:2015cv00884 - Document 6 (Fed. Cl. 2015)

Court Description: REPORTED OPINION and ORDER denying 2 Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis, and dismissing the complaint. The Clerk is directed to enter judgment. No costs. Signed by Judge Charles F. Lettow. (dls) Copy to parties.
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MANNING v. USA Doc. 6 0Rr0r[\|At Itu tbt @nitr! Ststeg g,:*tJ ot fr[trul (Filed: October 2, 2015) @[aims FTLED ocT - 2 206 U.S. COURT OF * * * +,r * * * * + * * * * * * *,fi 1. ** r. :| *** + *** *'1. FEDERAL CLAIMS * {. ) ROBERT LEE MANNING, JR', et aI., ) ) Plaintiffs, ) ) Purported claims ofpatent infringement and taking of intellectual property; application to proceed in forma pauperis; scope and administration of 28 U'S.C $ 1915; frivolous claims ) UNITED STATES, Defendant. ,, ***** *'t :N * * * :t *,1' * * {' * *'r * * * * *'* + *'t :l' * * :i ) ) ) ) ) Robert Lee Manning, pro se, Los Angeles, CA' BenjaminS.Richards'TrialAttomey,CommercialLitisationBranch,CivilDivision' \t;#;"t' D C'' for defindant' With him on the brief United States Department "ri*t'iit, wereBenjaminC.Mizer,frincrpalDeputyA'ssistantAftomeYGeneral'CivilDivision'andJohn Director' Commercial Litigation Branch' Civil Fargo, Director, and Gary L. ;"I;l;", distant D'C' Oiul.ion, United States Department of Justice, Washington' OPINION AND ORDER LETTOW, Judge. damases of more than a trillion dollars Plaintiff Robert Lee Manning, Jr', seeks monetzuy fraud, and discrimination' from the United Srates for i"tri"e;.?ri;i;intellectual iropertyl" weather in", h. i"venred an'intirstellar spaceship and Compl. fl 33.r Mr. Manning property' upon or taken this intellectual st#t ;;;tt;., unA tf,ut tt. Unit"d "ii."g", has infringedthat property, and discriminatedagainst him fraudulently prevented him tiom capitatizing in bu;"ess uJittg tttat pioperty. Compl . fln"'U:?Y]:]j: , as a black man from "onau"tlng r'" rtu' appfiJd for ieave to proceed in forma pauperis" Pl 's Mr. Manning appeaxsprorr, uiJ The govemment opposes the "oPtt"^"]i*' Appl. to Proceed In Forma eoup"is,EcF iqo 2' and dismiss the case as frivolous court has ,nr i"rrrJfiv i" a"ny tn" uplti"ution ";;; "ri5.rr*ii,"iii" $ 1915(eX2XB;6 ;"f''th"tp in opp'n to Mot for Leave to Proceed In under 28 U.S.C. a rMr. Manning also lists NOCH Technological Scientific Research Institute, Inc' as ..[a]n individual under the court's rules, plaintiff, but the court will ignore that inclusion because, but 1a1 not represent a c-orPoration ' ' in any who is not an attomey may rlpresent oneself ' ' ' Claims' Ruit s3'i("lAl ofthe Rules ofthe Court ofFederal " proceeding before *,i, "ou.t.ii Dockets.Justia.com Forma Pauperis, ECF No. 5. The govemment's opposition raises issues about the scope and application of Section 1915. STANDARDS FOR DECISION Section 1915 of Title 28 enables federal courts to allow a person to commence an action without prepayment ofcourt fees, so long as the person provides a swom affidavit establishing his or her inability to pay: Subject to subsection (b), any court ofthe 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 includesastatementofallassetssucy'rprlsonei,possesses|hattheperson isunabletopaysuchfeesorgivesecwitytherefor.SuchaffidavitShall state the naturi of the action, defense or appeal and affrant's beliefthat the person is entitled to redress. 1915 injects an element 28 U.S.C. g 1915(a)(1) (emphasis added).2 Paragraph (a)(1) of Section the,word of confusion into application of this statutory provision by altemating between ;per*n" and "prisoner" when referring t o in forma pauperls applicability ' ,See Schage.ne.v' 3 1915(e)' inited States,iZ f.a. Ct. 661, 662 (1997). This ambiguity extends to Subsection which authorizes federal courts to dismiss frivolous or malicious actions: (eX1) ' . . any frling fee, or any portion^thereof, that may have been thatiJia. iir. court shalidismiss the case at any time ifthe court determines (A) the allegation ofpoverly is untrue; or (B) the action or aPPeal(i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) f'ails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune iijXo,*itfttt-Aing ftom such relief. " 2By its terms, Subsection 1915(a) applies only to a "court of the United states Pursuant for the g 2503(d), the court of FiierJ claims is a "court of the united states" to 2g u.s.'c. prrp"t""fi""rio.tt9iS. SeeMatthewsv'{JnitedStates'72Fed'CI 274'277(2006)' sSectionlgl5distinguishesbetweenpersonsandprisonersthroughout.Someprovisions persons' Subsection l9i5(b) creates a apply only to prisoners, whereas others apply to all fees from prisoners based to assess #;ii;1" fo, prisorrer filers, requiring ihi courtparagraph and collect does not,use_the- term 1915(b)(1) on a formula incorporating pri.one.s' a-ccorrrrts. .'oerson,,at all, but in.tead.eiers only to a "prisoner.'; In contrast, Paragraph 1915(e)(1) permits ,f;.o,,rt;;;;;*i."""t"r fo. "a"y persot';'and does not use the term "prisoner'" 28 U.S.C. $ 1915(e). Nonetheless, the scope of the statute becomes evident upon an examination of the origin and chain of amendments made to the text over time. A, lltho Is a " Person" within the Meaning of Section I91 5? The current version of Section 1915 is the product of several amendments made by Congress as part of the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995.4 The prior statute, enacted in 1948, allowed for filing by "a person." Indeed, since 1892 the United States Code has provided avenues for in forma paupens filings. See Ben. C. Duniway, The Poor Man in the Federal Courts, 18 Stan. L. Rev. 1270 (1966). The 1892 statute applied to citizen-plaintiffs, providing that "any citizen ofthe United States, entitled to commence any suit or action in any court ofthe United States, may commence and prosecute to conclusion any such suit or action without being required to pt.puy f."t or costs." Act of July 20, 1892, ch. 209, $1, 27 Stat.252.s Congress re*tote th" statute in 1948, expanding it to cover all persons, including defendants, and codifying it at Section 1915 in Title 28: "Any 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 and costs or security therefor, by a person who makes affidavit that ne is uniUte to payl, 28 U.S.C. $ 1915(a) (1995) (originally enacted as Act ofJune 25, 1948, ch. 646,62Stat.giq(1948Act")(emphasisadded). Thelg48Actthusappliedbroadlyto persons. see McTeague y. sosnowski,617 F.2d 1016, 1019 (3d Cir. 1980) (applyingthe 1948 to a non-prisonei frling;; see a/so Duniway, supra, at 1286 (observing the unique problem of frivolous prisoner filings under the statute). ict when congress enacted the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995, it did not re-write v. Lacy'88 Section 1915 but instead amended it to add rules for prisoner filings. see Leonard Act's F.3d 181, 133-84 (2d Cir. 1996) (\lewman, J.) (providing a line-by-line listing of the 1995 the phrase "such prisoner. revisions to the text of section 1915). The 1995 Act inserted in the original possesses" into Paragraph 1915(aXi) while also leaving intact the requirement ,,u p"rr-on-" file an or her inability to pay. Id. ln the "affidavit" regarding his i9+8 e"t thut in Lacy, the court evin inserted a notation of"sic" next to the phrase Second Circuit's opinion .,such prisoner" inihe court's quotation of Paragraph 1915(a)(1), signaling that the court thought Id.;see also schagene' 37 Fed. cl. at652n2 that the reference to,,such prisoner" was * "rro.. prisoner" (commenting that there are actually two errors in Paragraph 1915(a)(1) because "such in the statute). As *u, arl -d the word "and" should appear after the word "possesses" ".ro, have observed, "the purpose oithe [Prison Litigation Reform Act], as-reflected by other courts to affect filings by its title, is to curtail inmate litigafion," implying that Congress did not intend of Litigation Reform Act of 1995 was actually enacted in 1996 as Title.VIII Pub. L' No 104-134' the Omnibus Consolidaied Rescissions and Appropriations Act of 1996, aThe Prison 110 Stat. 1321. sln his article, Judge Duniway traced the history of informa pauperis stat$es in the VII in England. English-speaking nat'ions iack to u ,Ltut" adopted during the reign ofHenry Hen' 7 , c' l2)' See-Duniway, tipro, ut 1271 (citing Act 1494, ' ll non-prisoners. Floydv. UnitedStates Postal Sent.,105F.3d274,275 (6th Cir. 1997) (citing H.R. Rep. No. 104-378, at 166, for the proposition that the act was intended "to discourage frivolous and abusive prison lawsuits"). In light ofthis evolution of Section 1915, it would be improper to assume that by adding the phrase "such prisoner" in Paragraph 1915(a)(1), Congress intended to repeal by implication the century-old authorization for in forma pauperis filing by persons generally. See Powell v. Hoover,956 F. Supp. 564,566 (M.D. Pa. 1997) ("The appearance ofthe phrase 'such prisoner,' without more, cannot reasonably be interpreted as effecting such a sweeping change.").6 Accordingly, Section 1915 should be applied to prisoners and non-prisoners alike, and the phrase "such prisoner" should be interpreted as "such person." Floyd,105F.3daI277;see also Salgado-Toribio v. Holder, Tl3 F.3d 1267,1270 (lOth Cir. 2013); Martinez v. Kristi Kleaners, [nc.,364 F.3d 1305, 1306 n.1 (11th Cir. 2004); Haynes v. Scott, I l6 F.3d 137, 140 (5th Cir. 1997). The Federal Circuit has in effect endorsed this construction of Section 1915 in a nonprecedential decision. See Jackson v. United States, Fed. Appx. _, _,2015WL2343625,at *2 (Fed. Cir. May 18, 2015) (affirming a Court of Federal Claims dismissal of a non-prisoner's complaint for frivolousness under Subparagraph 1915(e)(2)(B)); see also Dziekonski v. United States, 120 Fed. Cl. 806, 81 I (2015) (granting an application to proceed in forma pauperis vrder Paragraph 1915(aX1)); Hayesv. United States,7l Fed. CI.366,368 (2006) (same). _ B. llrhat Is a Frivolous Cqse? Although Section 1915 removes the burden ofpaying filing fees in appropriate cases, it imposes limitations affecting certain tlpes of claims. Of relevance here, a "court shall dismiss the case at any time" if the action or appeal to be filed informa paupens "is frivolous or malicious." 28 U.S.C. g 191 5(e)(2)(B)(i). In contrast to a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, which requires the court to assume the truth of allegations in the complaint, Clause 1915(eX2XBXi) gives courts "the unusual power to pierce the veil ofthe complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless." -/ardy v. obama,60l Fed.Appx.620,623 (1OrhCir.2015)(quotingNeitzkev. lltilliams,490u.s.319, 327(1959)):Brodzkiv.TribuneCo.,48lFed.Appx.705,706(3dCir.2012)(same)' A "finding of fa"tual frivolousness is appropriate when the facts alleged rise to the level ofthe *2 (quotl'ng Denton v' inational or wholly incredible." Jacl<son,2015 WL 2343625, at Hernandez,so4 u.s. 25,33 (1992)) (affirming dismissal of a complaint "seeking $10 billion tiom the United States for the use of [plaintiffs] purported hurricane prevention device."). claims of this sort rest on "allegations that are fanciful, fantastic, and delusional." Denton,504 U.S. at 33 (intemal citations and quotation marks omitted); see also Jones v. United States,l22 Fed. cl. 543, 545-46 (2015) (dismissing a frivolous claim by a prisoner, based upon screening conducted pursuanr to 28 U.S.C. $ 1915A); McCultough v. {Jnited States,76 Fed. Cl. 1' 3 (2006) (dismissing a factually frivolous claim by a non-prisoner). The court may not, however, dismiss a complaint merely because the allegations are .,improbable" or,,uniik"ly." Denton,504 U.S. at33; seealsoNealv. IJnited states,No. 13-31C, 6Acceptance of an implied repeal of the preexisting version of Section 191 5(a) would be stronslv disfavored. see Foreman v. (Jnited states,60 F.3d 1559, 1563 (Fed. Cir. 1995). 2013 WL 1801673, at *3 (Fed. Cl. Apr. 29,2013) ("[T]he court must exercise caution, and cannot dismiss an informa pauperls complaint 'simply because the court finds the plaintiff s allegations unlikely."') (quoting McCullough, T6 Fed. Cl. at 3 (in tum quoling Denton,504 U.S. at 33). C. If a Case Is Frivolous, Should the Court Grant or Deny the In Forma Pauperis Application? Courts are split as to whether an in forma pauperis application should be granted or denied if the court finds the filing is frivolous. Compare Kenney v. Prime Recruitors Trucking Co.,61l Fed. Appx. 370 (8th Cir. 2015) (reversing district court's denial of application because of frivolous claims), wirlr Wartman v. Branch 7, Civil Div., Cnty. Court,510 F.2d 130' 134 (7th Cir. 1975) ("[A] districtjudge should deny leave to proceed in forma pauperis if an action rs frivolous or malicious."). The text of the statute, however, requires that the court deny ut informa pauperis application if, in connection with or prior to ruling on the application, the court finds the case is frivolous. Paragraph 1915(e)(2) provides plainly the court "shall" dismiss the case "at any time" if the court determines the complaint is "frivolous or malicious." 28 u.s.c. $ 1915(e)(2). The phrase ,,at any time" indicates that the court is not restricted as to when the case may be iismissed. Tie only condition is that the court find the action to be frivolous. And, the court has no discretion once it determines a filing is frivolous because a frivolous case "shall" be dismissed. The Federal Circuit has emphasized this "obligat[ion] to dismiss" complaints that are factually frivolous. Jackson,2015WL2343625,at+2(citingNeitzke,4g0 u.s. at327 (1989)). This result is supported by the Supreme Court',s opinion in Neitzke, which observed that ,,[d]ismissals on these sponte prior to the issuance of 1'friuoloustress] grounds are often made sza such process, so as to spare prospective defendants the inconvenience and expense of answering complaints." Neitzke,490 U.S. at 324. Paragraph 1915(eX2) thus serves as a screenmg mecilanism to preserve public resources, becirrse ifthe application "is granted and the complaint -be 7 dismissed until summons has issued." fl/arlman' 510 F.2d at 134 filed, the matte; caffiot consequently, the court is not persuaded by the Eighth circuit's holding in Kenney,6ll examining the Fed. Appx. at j70, tfiat the in forma piuperis application must be decided prior to n'2 (8th comptuint for frivolousnes s. Kenney ciies Foriiter v. Catif, AdultAuth.,5l0 F.2d 58, 60 cir. iszs) for support, but the Forester opinion is inapposite because it interpreted the 1948 version of section'1915, which provided merely that courts "may" dismiss frivolous in forma ?Additionally, the Fifth Circuit has held that "dismissals under the in forma pauperis F.3d 1504, 1505-06 (5th statute are . . . deniais of informa pauperis status." Marts v. Hines,ll7 a dismissal Cir.1997)(en banc) (citing Dentin,5b4 U.S. at 34 (explaining that "dismissal is not pauperis statute" that 'do€s not on the meriis, but rather an exercise . . . under the in forma prejudicethefilingofapaidcomplaintmakingthesam^eallegations,'))'.Typically,burnot paupe.rls filings, e*clusi.,rely, such dismissals .uy i"*" as resiudicata for subsequent in forma making the same but they effect no prejudice to the subsequent frling ofa fee-paid complaint allegations." 1d. pauperis cases. Forester concluded that the 1948 Act gave courts "discretion" and thus that the "better practice" was to grant the application first, so that an appellate record could be developed. See Forester,5 l0 F.2d at 60. But today, Paragraph 1915(e)(2) provides that cowts "shall" dismiss Nr informa pauperis filing if it is frivolous, lails to state a claim, or is against an immune defendant. It leaves little room for discretion.o D. Summary of Paragraph l9l5(e)(2) Section 1915 applies to all informa pauperrs filings, not only prisoner frlings. If at any time the court determines the case to be frivolous or malicious, it must dismiss the case 28 U.S.C. $ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i). And if the informa pauperus application has not already been granted, the court cannot grant the application after finding the case to be frivolous or malicious' instead, it must deny the application and dismiss the case. If the court cannot make an initial determination of frivolousness, it may be appropriate to grant the in forma pauperls application, only to dismiss the case later upon makingiuch a finding. But if the application is pending when the court determines the case is frivolous, it may not be granted ANALYSIS Mr.Manninggenerallyallegesthathehasinventedaninterstellarspaceshipandthatthe tax-returns as United States has sornehow taken oi infringed upon his intellectual property, citing that Mr.I4anning widence of the spaceship. Compl. ffl 4, 10, 16. The complaint also alleges compensating him' has built a "weatirer machine" that ttri Unitea States has used without Compl'fll2.Theseallegationsarefactuallyfrivolouswithinthemeaningof23U.S.C. (dismissing_case as-frivolous when S iSfjt.XZXSlti). SeeJackson,ZOtsWL2343625,at*2 .".pf"iri^i[gJ ownership of ievice that prevents hurricanes). Similarly, Mr. Manning's with this purported aifejations of iraud on the part of govemm"tttul u"tott in connection based inr.ifr"*ut property a.e wiihout aiy factual foundation, as is his claim of discrimination on his race. sOne could argue that the language in Subsection 1915(e) that the-court "shall dismiss the that the application has been case" presumes that a-"case" has been fiied' and thus implies be further argue that the text in subsection 1g 15(e) that the case shall !i^t"a. o". might ,,[n]otfothstanding fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid" have paid i'as ir.st be"en gianted, because it assumes the litigant might proper to dismiss a "pplication demonstrates that it is a riduced fee. However, the use of the wJtd ".uy" may have been i.guraf"., ofa filing fee. Thus, the referenci to "any filing fe9 ' ,1lrat ,,even though an initial examination did not result in a finding "u* is best read as meanlng that paid,' r.ir"ltv or malice, if it should later be detJrmined that the action is frivolous or malicious Eismissed iny filing ;;;i;;;i"i;li" ii not realize a of the complaint )' I|/artman,s10 F.2d ar 132. A court may ganted But pauperis hasbeen case is frivolous until after the apptication to proceed informa to be frivolous prior to ruling on the this does not change the f'act thai if the court irnds the case r)o Oou1rrls-application, the court must deny the application' ,r,.* -"it" a dismissal in 6 Because the court finds that Mr. Manning's claims are frivolous, it is obligated to dismiss the case and to deny his application to proceed in forma pauperis. CONCLUSION For the reasons stated, the plaintiff s application to proceed informa pauperis is DENIED and the complaint is DISMISSED. The clerk shall enter judgment in accord with this disposition. No costs. It is so ORDERED. Charles F. Lettow