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Hull v. Freemasons

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 15, 2016

DAVID HULL, Plaintiff,
v.
FREEMASONS, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          ALLISON CLAIRE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff is proceeding in this action pro se. This matter was referred to the undersigned by E.D. Cal. R. 302(c)(21). Plaintiff has requested leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Plaintiff’s in forma pauperis application makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). Accordingly, the application will be granted.

         Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint the same day the undersigned issued Findings and Recommendations based upon the original complaint. See ECF Nos. 4 (Findings & Recommendations), 5 (First Amended Complaint), 6 (Exhibits). The undersigned will therefore consider the First Amended Complaint to be the operative complaint, and vacate the original Findings and Recommendations.

         I. SCREENING

         A determination that a plaintiff qualifies financially for in forma pauperis status does not complete the inquiry required by the statute. The federal in forma pauperis statute authorizes federal courts to dismiss a case if the action is legally “frivolous or malicious, ” fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are “clearly baseless.” Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. Thus, the term “frivolous, ” when applied to a complaint, “embraces not only the inarguable legal conclusion, but also the fanciful factual allegation.” Id. at 325.

         In addition, Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that a complaint provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The complaint must “give the defendant fair notice of what the ...claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Plaintiff must set forth “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Aschroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

         Normally, the court “must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56). However, “a finding of factual frivolousness is appropriate when the facts alleged rise to the level of the irrational or the wholly incredible, whether or not there are judicially noticeable facts available to contradict them.” Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992). Therefore, the in forma pauperis statute “accords judges . . . the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Id. Among those “are claims describing fantastic or delusional scenarios, claims with which federal district judges are all too familiar.” Id. at 328. This portion of the statute “is designed largely to discourage the filing of, and waste of judicial and private resources upon, baseless lawsuits that paying litigants generally do not initiate because of the costs of bringing suit and because of the threat of sanctions for bringing vexatious suits under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11.” Id. at 327.

         The court does not exercise this “unusual power” lightly or often. Indeed, the court takes very seriously the following admonition of the Supreme Court:

An in forma pauperis complaint may not be dismissed, however, simply because the court finds the plaintiff's allegations unlikely. Some improbable allegations might properly be disposed of on summary judgment, but to dismiss them as frivolous without any factual development is to disregard the age-old insight that many allegations might be “strange, but true; for truth is always strange, Stranger than fiction.” Lord Byron, Don Juan, canto XIV, stanza 101 (T. Steffan, E. Steffan & W. Pratt eds. 1977).

Denton, 504 U.S. at 33 (emphases added). Nevertheless, when it is appropriate to do so - that is, when the allegations go well beyond “unlikely” or “improbable” and enter the realm of “irrational, ” “wholly incredible” or “delusional” - the court carries out the intent of the law, and dismisses claims meeting the Neitzke standard. Denton, 504 U.S. at 33 (“a finding of factual frivolousness is appropriate when the facts alleged rise to the level of the irrational or the wholly incredible”).

         II. THE COMPLAINT

         A. Short and Plain Statement

         Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint (“Complaint”) contains 708 pages of allegations, followed by over 2, 300 pages of exhibits. See ECF Nos. 5, 5-1, 5-2, 5-3, 6. The Complaint is in plain violation of the requirement that it be a “short and plain statement” of ...


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