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Hackett v. O'Donnell

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

August 10, 2018

MAUREEN O'DONNELL, et al., Defendants.


          Derrick K. Watson United States District Judge.


         On August 2, 2018, Plaintiff Clifford Ray Hackett, proceeding pro se, filed (1) a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) against Maureen O'Donnell, Gina Reyes, Bryan Pickering and Jacqueline Hackett (Dkt. No. 7); and (2) an incomplete, unsigned Declaration in Support of Request to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (“IFP Application”).[1] Dkt. No. 8. As best the Court can discern, Hackett seeks damages for unspecified violations of law, stemming from his divorce proceedings with Jacqueline. FAC at 1. The FAC, like his original Complaint, fails to include factual allegations demonstrating that Hackett's rights have been violated or that he is plausibly entitled to relief from any Defendant.[2] Because Hackett fails to state a cognizable claim for relief or establish this Court's subject matter jurisdiction, the FAC is DISMISSED with leave to amend pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), with instructions below. The unsigned IFP Application is DENIED without prejudice, pending the filing of an amended complaint.


         Because Hackett is appearing pro se, the Court liberally construes his filings. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Eldridge v. Block, 832 F.2d 1132, 1137 (9th Cir. 1987) (“The Supreme Court has instructed the federal courts to liberally construe the ‘inartful pleading' of pro se litigants.”) (citing Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982) (per curiam)). The Court recognizes that “[u]nless it is absolutely clear that no amendment can cure the defect . . . a pro se litigant is entitled to notice of the complaint's deficiencies and an opportunity to amend prior to dismissal of the action.” Lucas v. Dep't of Corr., 66 F.3d 245, 248 (9th Cir. 1995); see also Crowley v. Bannister, 734 F.3d 967, 977-78 (9th Cir. 2013). Although he is proceeding pro se, Hackett is familiar with his federal court filing and pleading responsibilities, given his prior actions in this district.[3]

         I. Plaintiff's IFP Application Is Denied Without Prejudice

         Federal courts can authorize the commencement of any suit without prepayment of fees or security by a person who submits an affidavit that demonstrates an inability to pay. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). “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 v. E.I. Du Pont de Nemours & Co., 335 U.S. 331, 339 (1948)); see also United States v. McQuade, 647 F.2d 938, 940 (9th Cir. 1981) (The affidavit must “state the facts as to affiant's poverty with some particularity, definiteness and certainty.”) (internal quotation omitted).

         When reviewing an application filed pursuant to § 1915(a), “[t]he only determination to be made by the court . . . is whether the statements in the affidavit satisfy the requirement of poverty.” Martinez v. Kristi Kleaners, Inc., 364 F.3d 1305, 1307 (11th Cir. 2004). While Section 1915(a) does not require a litigant to demonstrate absolute destitution, Adkins, 335 U.S. at 339, the applicant must nonetheless show that he is “unable to pay such fees or give security therefor.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a).

         The Court, once more, cannot properly evaluate Plaintiff's IFP Application because it is deficient. In this instance, Hackett submitted an unsigned Declaration on a form provided by the State of Hawaii Family Court, Third Circuit, rather than the form previously provided by this Court. Although Hackett indicates that he is unemployed, has received no income during the past twelve months from any other source, and has no money in a checking or savings account, Hackett failed to provide any additional information in support of his request. For example, Hackett again failed to indicate whether he has additional assets, dependents, debts or liabilities. Moreover, he omitted information that was included on his previous IFP request, which was likewise deemed deficient. Compare Dkt. Nos. 2 and 8.[4] Under these circumstances, the Court is unable to determine whether Hackett has made the required showing under Section 1915 to proceed without prepayment of fees, and therefore denies his IFP Application without prejudice. If Hackett elects to file an amended complaint, as discussed below, he may submit a complete, fully executed IFP Application on the court's form or pay the civil filing fee in full. The failure to do so will result in the dismissal of this action without further consideration of the merits of Hackett's claims.

         II. The FAC Is Dismissed With Leave to Amend

         Upon review of the FAC, the Court finds that Hackett fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or to establish a basis for the Court's subject matter jurisdiction. As discussed below, even liberally construed, the FAC again fails to allege any discernable basis for judicial relief against any party.

         A. Standard of Review

         The Court subjects each civil action commenced pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) to mandatory screening and can order the dismissal of any claims it finds “frivolous, malicious, failing to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeking monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         Dismissal is proper when there is either a “‘lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged.'” UMG Recordings, Inc. v. Shelter Capital Partners, LLC, 718 F.3d 1006, 1014 (9th Cir. 2013) (quoting Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990)). A plaintiff must allege “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also Weber v. Dep't of Veterans Affairs, 521 F.3d 1061, 1065 (9th Cir. 2008). This tenet-that the court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in the complaint-“is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Accordingly, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555); see also Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011) (“[A]llegations in a complaint or counterclaim may not simply recite the elements of a cause of action, but must contain sufficient allegations of underlying facts to give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself effectively.”).

         “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Factual allegations that only permit the Court to infer “the mere possibility of misconduct” do not show that the pleader is entitled to relief as required by Rule 8. Id. at 679. For the reasons that follow, Hackett fails to meet this standard.

         B. The FAC Fails to State a Cognizable Claim for Relief

         Even given a liberal construction, the allegations in the Complaint fail to state a plausible claim against any defendant. As before, the Court observes that Hackett previously filed at least one action raising similar claims based upon his child support obligations against many of these same defendants, which was summarily dismissed pursuant to the court's Section 1915 screening.[5] Assuming the truth of his allegations, dismissal of the Complaint is nevertheless necessary due to the ...

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