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McDaniel v. Herald Sun News

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 11, 2017

RONNIE LEE McDANIEL, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
HERALD SUN NEWS, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          DEBORAH BARNES, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Ronnie Lee McDaniel is proceeding in this action pro se. This matter was referred to the undersigned in accordance with Local Rule 302(c)(21) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Pending before the court are plaintiffs' complaint and plaintiff Ronnie Lee McDaniel's motion to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. (ECF Nos. 1 & 2.) Therein, plaintiff McDaniel alleges that the defendants wrongfully accused him of being a child molester.

         The court is required to screen complaints brought by parties proceeding in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); see also Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1129 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). Here, plaintiffs' complaint is deficient. Accordingly, for the reasons stated below, plaintiffs' complaint will be dismissed with leave to amend.

         I. Plaintiffs' Applications to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

         Filing fees must be paid unless each plaintiff applies for and is granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Here, plaintiff RMDI Industries has not paid the applicable filing fees. Nor can plaintiff RMDI Industries proceed in forma pauperis. In this regard, the statute that permits a party to proceed in forma pauperis only extends to individuals, not to artificial entities. Rowland v. Calif. Men's Colony, 506 U.S. 194, 196 (1993).

         Plaintiff McDaniel's in forma pauperis application does make the financial showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). However, a determination that a plaintiff qualifies financially for in forma pauperis status does not complete the inquiry required by the statute. “‘A district court may deny leave to proceed in forma pauperis at the outset if it appears from the face of the proposed complaint that the action is frivolous or without merit.'” Minetti v. Port of Seattle, 152 F.3d 1113, 1115 (9th Cir. 1998) (quoting Tripati v. First Nat. Bank & Trust, 821 F.2d 1368, 1370 (9th Cir. 1987)); see also McGee v. Department of Child Support Services, 584 Fed.Appx. 638 (9th Cir. 2014) (“the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying McGee's request to proceed IFP because it appears from the face of the amended complaint that McGee's action is frivolous or without merit”); Smart v. Heinze, 347 F.2d 114, 116 (9th Cir. 1965) (“It is the duty of the District Court to examine any application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis to determine whether the proposed proceeding has merit and if it appears that the proceeding is without merit, the court is bound to deny a motion seeking leave to proceed in forma pauperis.”).

         Moreover, the court must dismiss an in forma pauperis case at any time if the allegation of poverty is found to be untrue or if it is determined that the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against an immune defendant. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). A complaint is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis 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). Under this standard, a court must dismiss a complaint 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; 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e).

         To state a claim on which relief may be granted, the plaintiff must allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In considering whether a complaint states a cognizable claim, the court accepts as true the material allegations in the complaint and construes the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. Trustees of Rex Hosp., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976); Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, the court need not accept as true conclusory allegations, unreasonable inferences, or unwarranted deductions of fact. Western Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981).

         The minimum requirements for a civil complaint in federal court are as follows:

A pleading which sets forth a claim for relief . . . shall contain (1) a short and plain statement of the grounds upon which the court's jurisdiction depends . . ., (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, and (3) a demand for judgment for the relief the pleader seeks.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a).

         II. Plaintiffs' Complaint

         The complaint asserts that this action is brought by two plaintiffs-Ronnie Lee McDaniel and RMD Industries. However, the complaint is Dated:ly by plaintiff McDaniel. In this regard, the right to represent oneself pro se is personal to the plaintiff and does not extend to other parties. Simon v. Hartford Life, Inc., 546 F.3d 661, 664 (9th Cir. 2008); see also Russell v. United States, 308 F.2d 78, 79 (9th Cir. 1962) (“A litigant appearing in propria persona has no authority to represent anyone other than himself.”). A non-attorney “has no authority to appear as an attorney for others than himself.” C.E. Pope Equity Trust v. U.S., 818 F.2d 696, 697 (9th Cir. 1987). Individuals who are representing themselves in this court may not delegate the litigation of their claims to any other individual. Local Rule 183(a).

         Moreover, a corporation or other entity may appear only by an attorney. See Local Rule 183(a). Unlicensed laypersons, including the owners of companies, officers of a corporation, partners of a partnership, and members of an association may not represent their entities “pro se.” Rowland, 506 U.S. at 201-02 (“It has been the law for the better part of two centuries . . . that a corporation may appear in the federal courts only through licensed counsel . . . . [T]hat rule applies equally to all artificial entities.”); United States v. High Country Broadcasting Co., Inc., 3 F.3d 1244, 1245 (9th Cir. 1993) (affirming district court's entry of default judgment ...


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