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Ransom v. Mack

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 10, 2017

CLINTON RANSOM, et al., Plaintiff,
MICHAEL MACK, JR., et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiffs are proceeding in this action pro se. This matter was accordingly referred to the undersigned by E.D. Cal. R. (“Local Rule”) 302(c)(21). Plaintiff Clinton Ransom has requested leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. ECF No. 2. The request will be denied because (1) plaintiff's IFP affidavit fails to establish that he cannot afford the filing fee, and (2) the complaint, in its current form, is frivolous.


         Plaintiff Clinton Ransom filed an application to proceed IFP that is entirely blank. ECF No. 2. To prevail on a motion to proceed IFP, plaintiff need not demonstrate that he is completely destitute, but he must show that because of his poverty, he “cannot pay the court costs and still afford the necessities of life.” Escobedo v. Applebees, 787 F.3d 1226, 1234 (9th Cir. 2015) (citing Adkins v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 335 U.S. 331, 339-40 (1948)). In addition, plaintiff “must allege poverty ‘with some particularity, definiteness and certainty.'” Id. (quoting United States v. McQuade, 647 F.2d 938, 940 (9th Cir.1981)).

         Because plaintiff Ransom filed a blank application, plaintiff's application fails to establish that he is entitled to prosecute this case without paying the required fees. The application will therefore be denied.

         II. SCREENING

         Where “plaintiff's claim appears to be frivolous on the face of the complaint, ” the district court may “deny[] plaintiff leave to file in forma pauperis.O'Loughlin v. Doe, 920 F.2d 614, 617 (9th Cir. 1990). Where, as here, the facially frivolous action has already been filed, the court is “authorized to deny leave to proceed in forma pauperis.” Reece v. State of Wash., 310 F.2d 139, 140 (9th Cir. 1962).

         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). In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court will (1) accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint, unless they are clearly baseless or fanciful, (2) construe those allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and (3) resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor. See Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327; Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art at Pasadena, 592 F.3d 954, 960 (9th Cir. 2010), cert. denied, 564 U.S. 1037 (2011); Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 340 (9th Cir. 2010). However, the court need not accept as true, legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations, or allegations that contradict matters properly subject to judicial notice. See Western Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981); Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir.), as amended, 275 F.3d 1187 (2001).

         Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). Pro se complaints are construed liberally and may only be dismissed if it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief. Nordstrom v. Ryan, 762 F.3d 903, 908 (9th Cir. 2014). A pro se litigant is entitled to notice of the deficiencies in the complaint and an opportunity to amend, unless the complaint's deficiencies could not be cured by amendment. See Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th Cir. 1987).

         A. The Complaint

         The complaint appears to be brought on behalf of four plaintiffs: Clinton Ransom, R.E.R., Robert Lopez, Lorene Thomas, and R.L. ECF No. 1 at 1. The complaint was filed by plaintiff Clinton Ransom. Id. At the top of the complaint plaintiff wrote the word “class.” Id. Under “Basis for Jurisdiction” plaintiff checked the box labeled “Federal question.” Id. at 3. When asked to list the specific federal statutes, federal treaties, and/or provisions of the United States Constitution at issue, plaintiff wrote: “limited warranty in habitable, breach of contract, fraud, assaults and batteries, real property liability, provisional negligence, retaliation, business tort, intentional distress, unsecured mailbox, gov. extortion.” Id. at 4. Under “Statement of Claim” plaintiff alleges that “the property” is roach and bedbug infested and otherwise uninhabitable, and that the owners and staff violate tenants and filed false criminal reports, engaged in illegal evictions and tenant violations, and disregard tenant safety while taking government money. Id. at 6.

         B. Analysis

         As a preliminary matter, the word “class” written at the top of the complaint indicates that plaintiff is attempting to bring a class action. Plaintiff, however, is a non-lawyer proceeding without counsel. It is well established that a layperson cannot ordinarily represent the interests of a class. See McShane v. United States, 366 F.2d 286 (9th Cir. 1966). This rule becomes almost absolute when, as here, the putative class representative is incarcerated and proceeding pro se. Oxendine v. Williams, 509 F.2d 1405, 1407 (4th Cir. 1975). In direct terms, plaintiff cannot “fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class, ” as required by Rule 23(a)(4) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Martin v. Middendorf, 420 F.Supp. 779 (D.D.C. 1976). This action, therefore, will not be construed as a class action and instead will be construed as an individual civil suit brought by Clinton Ransom as sole plaintiff.

         The complaint does not contain a “short and plain” statement setting forth the basis for federal jurisdiction (that is, why the lawsuit is filed in this federal court rather than a state court), or plaintiff's claims (that is, who did what to plaintiff and how he was harmed), even though those things are required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(1), (a)(2). None of the allegations plaintiff has made rely appear to rely on federal ...

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