United States District Court, S.D. California
ORDER: (1) DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND;
and (2) DENYING WITHOUT PREJUDICE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR
LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS [ECF No. 2]
Nita L. Stormes United States Magistrate Judge
the Court is Plaintiff Helen Skylar's complaint seeking
judicial review of the Social Security Administration's
decision and motion for leave to proceed in forma
pauperis (“IFP”). ECF Nos. 1-2. After due
consideration and for the reasons set forth below, the Court
DISMISSES Plaintiff's complaint with
leave to amend and DENIES WITHOUT PREJUDICE
the motion to proceed IFP.
Screening Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)
complaint filed pursuant to the IFP provisions of 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(a), is subject to a mandatory and sua
sponte review by the Court. Lopez v. Smith, 203
F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000). The Court must dismiss the
complaint if it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary
relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B). Social security appeals are not exempt
from this § 1915(e) screening requirement. Hoagland
v. Astrue, No. 1:12cv00973-SMS, 2012 WL 2521753, at *1
(E.D. Cal. June 28, 2012); see also Calhoun v.
Stahl, 254 F.3d 845, 845 (9th Cir. 2001) (per curiam)
(noting section 1915(e)(2)(B) is “not limited to
prisoners”); Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1129
(“section 1915(e) applies to all in forma pauperis
screening, all complaints must contain a “short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Although
detailed factual allegations are not required,
“[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009). A complaint in a social security appeal is “not
exempt from the general rules of civil pleading.”
Hoagland, 2012 WL 2521753, at *2.
courts within the Ninth Circuit have set forth the following
basic requirements for complaints to survive the Court's
§ 1915(e) screening:
First, the plaintiff must establish that she has exhausted
her administrative remedies pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), and that the civil action was commenced within sixty
days after notice of a final decision. Second, the complaint
must indicate the judicial district in which the plaintiff
resides. Third, the complaint must state the nature of the
plaintiff's disability and when the plaintiff claims she
became disabled. Fourth, the complaint must contain a plain,
short, and concise statement identifying the nature of the
plaintiff's disagreement with the determination made by
the Social Security Administration and show that the
plaintiff is entitled to relief.
See, e.g., Montoya v. Colvin, No.
16cv00454-RFB-NJK, 2016 WL 890922, at *2 (D. Nev. Mar. 8,
2016) (collecting cases); Graves v. Colvin, No.
15cv106-RFB-NJK, 2015 WL 357121, *2 (D. Nev. Jan. 26, 2015)
the fourth requirement, “[e]very plaintiff appealing an
adverse decision of the Commissioner believes that the
Commissioner was wrong.” Hoagland, 2012 WL
2521753, at *3. Thus, a complaint merely stating that the
Commissioner's decision was wrong or that “merely
parrots the standards used in reversing or remanding a
case” is insufficient to satisfy a plaintiff's
pleading requirement. See, e.g., Cribbet v.
Comm'r of Social Security, No. 12cv1142-BAM 2012 WL
5308044, *3 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 29, 2012); Graves, 2015
WL 357121, at *2. Instead, “[a] complaint appealing the
Commissioner's denial of disability benefits must set
forth a brief statement of facts setting forth the reasons
why the Commissioner's decision was wrong.”
Hoagland, 2012 WL 2521753, at *2; see also
Harris v. Colvin, No. 14cv383-GW (RNB), 2014 WL 1095941,
*4 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 17, 2014) (dismissing complaint which it
did not “specify . . . the respects in which [the
plaintiff] contends that the ALJ's findings are not
supported by substantial evidence and/or that the proper
legal standards were not applied”); Gutierrez v.
Astrue, No. 11cv454-GSA, 2011 WL 1087261, *2 (E.D. Cal.
Mar. 23, 2011) (dismissing complaint which did not
“provide any substantive reasons” for appealing
the ALJ's decision and did not “identif[y] any
errors in [the] decision”). The plaintiff must provide
a statement identifying the basis of the plaintiff's
disagreement with the Social Security Administration's
determination and must make a showing that she is entitled to
relief, “in sufficient detail such that the Court can
understand the legal and/or factual issues in dispute so that
it can meaningfully screen the complaint pursuant to §
1915(e).” Graves, 2015 WL 357121, at *2.
these standards in mind, the Court turns to Plaintiff's
complaint and finds that it fails to meet these pleadings
requirements. Plaintiff's complaint recites the legal
standards and findings of the ALJ, but fails to provide
substantive reasons for why the conclusion was wrong.
Plaintiff alleges that “[t]here is no substantial
medical or vocational evidence in the record to
support” the ALJ's finding on disability, that
“[t]here is no substantial evidence to support”
the ALJ's finding that Plaintiff could perform
substantial gainful activity, and that “[t]he evidence
in the record supports only a finding that Plaintiff is
disabled.” ECF No. 1 at 2-3. None of these statements
provide any factual underpinning as to why the decision was
in error. See Harris, 2014 WL 1095941, *4;
Gutierrez, 2011 WL 1087261, *2. Similarly, Plaintiff
also alleges that “[n]ew and material evidence . . .
exists and warrants a remand” but fails to identify
this alleged evidence. ECF No. 1 at 3. Moreover, the Court
notes that Plaintiff's complaint appears to be a form
complaint that has been used in several other cases in this
district alone and has been similarly screened out on
Accordingly, the Court finds that Plaintiff's complaint
fails to state a claim for relief and
DISMISSES the complaint with leave to amend.
Plaintiff may correct the deficiencies in her complaint to
comply with the requirements as set forth above, and file an
amended complaint on or before September 16,
Motion to Proceed IFP
well-settled that a party need not be completely destitute to
proceed IFP. Adkins v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours &
Co., 335 U.S. 331, 339-40 (1948). The determination of
indigency falls within the district court's discretion.
See Cal. Men's Colony v. Rowland, 939 F.2d 854,
858 (9th Cir. 1991) (noting “Section 1915 typically
requires the reviewing court to exercise its sound discretion
in determining whether the affiant has satisfied the
statute's requirement of indigency”), rev'd
on other grounds, 506 U.S. 194 (1993). “An
affidavit in support of an IFP application is sufficient
where it alleges that the affiant 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, 335 U.S. at 339). At the same time,
however, “the same even-handed care must be employed to
assure that federal funds are not squandered to underwrite,
at public expense . . . the remonstrances of a suitor who is
financially able, in whole or in material part, to pull his
own oar.” Temple v. Ellerthorpe, 586 F.Supp.
848, 850 (D.R.I. 1984). Finally, the facts as to the
litigant's indigency must be stated “with some
particularity, definiteness and certainty.” United
States v. McQuade, 647 F.2d 938, 940 (9th Cir. 1981).
Plaintiff submits an affidavit stating that she receives $1,
742 a month in disability benefits. ECF No. 2 at 2. She
claims she has no cash, but failed to fill in the section
regarding any monies in financial institutions. Id.
She claims assets including a home valued at $850, 000 and a
vehicle valued at $8, 500. Id. at 3. She claims the
following monthly expenses: a mortgage of $2, 732.00,
utilities of $706, home maintenance of $140, food of $400,
medical/dental expenses of $100, credit card payments of
$300, and a housekeeper for $150-for a total of $4, 528 in
monthly expenditures. Id. at 4-5.
this financial information as background, the Court finds
that IFP status is not appropriate at this time. A court may
deny IFP status to an applicant who can pay the filing fee
with acceptable sacrifice to other expenses. See Bloom v.
San Diego Cty. Offices of Health & Human Servs., No.
07-CV-1692 W (RBB), 2007 WL 2782562, at *1 (S.D. Cal. Sept.
25, 2007); Ali v. Cuyler, 547 F.Supp. 129, 130 (E.D.
Pa. 1982). Here, it appears that Plaintiff claims significant
assets, including her home and car, and includes monthly
expenses that may fall outside of what constitutes the
“necessities of life.” Even though
Plaintiff's claimed sole source of income is
significantly less than her claimed monthly expenses, the
Court has not been provided with any explanation on how she
is able to sustain this financial discrepancy without ...