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Iyonsi v. Wal-Mart, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

September 23, 2019

ORIGHOYE DENNIS IYONSI, Plaintiff,
v.
WAL-MART, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER (1) DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND; AND (2) HOLDING IFP APPLICATION IN ABEYANCE PENDING THE FILING OF AN AMENDED COMPLAINT

          J.MICHAEL SEABRIGHT CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On August 12, 2019, pro se Plaintiff Orighoye Dennis Iyonsi (“Plaintiff”) filed a document titled “Brief for the United States as Amicus Curiae, ” which the court construes as a complaint (“Complaint”), and an application to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP Application”). ECF Nos. 1-2. For the reasons set forth below, the court DISMISSES the Complaint with leave to amend because Plaintiff has not established standing to assert his claims in federal court. The court holds in abeyance Plaintiff’s IFP Application pending the filing of an amended complaint.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs Complaint is confusing and contains few discernible facts. Based on the caption, title, format, and attached documents, it is not clear whether Plaintiff is attempting to appeal the July 17, 2019 dismissal by the Hawaii Supreme Court of a similarly-titled petition, or to assert new claims. See ECF No. 1 at PageID #1 (caption identifying this court both as “The United States Federal District Court of Hawaii” and “The State of Hawai'i of Appeals for the Federal District Circuit Court”); id. at PageID #1, 5 (titling his pleading as a “Brief); id. at PageID #2 (including a section titled “Questions Presented”); id. at PageID #13 (attaching a “Notice of Appeal”); and id. at PageID #15 (attaching a July 17, 2019 order by the Hawaii Supreme Court denying a petition also titled “Brief for the United States as Amicus Curiae”). This court is not an appellate court and lacks jurisdiction to hear appeals of state court rulings, thus the court liberally construes Plaintiff’s pleading not as an appeal, but as a complaint asserting claims on his behalf.

         So construed, as best as the court can discern, the Complaint alleges that Defendant Wal-Mart, Inc. (“Wal-Mart”) places refunds for returned goods that were purchased by credit card or debit card back on those cards, or, if the card is not present, on a store gift card, or, if purchased with a debit card, under certain circumstances, cash may be provided. ECF No. 1 at PageID #10-11. The Complaint implies that Wal-Mart restricts purchases made by Electronic Benefit Transfer (“EBT”) cards and does not apply the same refund policies for returned goods purchased by EBT cards.[1] The Complaint alleges that Wal-Mart discriminates against EBT card holders in violation of the card holders’ unspecified constitutional rights and federal antitrust law set forth in 15 U.S.C. Chapter 1. Plaintiff does not seek any specific relief.

         III. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

         The court must screen the Complaint for each civil action commenced pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a), governing IFP proceedings. The court must sua sponte dismiss a complaint or claim that is “frivolous or malicious[, ] . . . fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted[, ] or . . . seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); see Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (stating that 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) “not only permits but requires” the court to sua sponte dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint that fails to state a claim).

         Screening under § 1915(e)(2) involves the same standard of review as that used under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012). Under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must “contain 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 UMG Recordings, Inc. v. Shelter Capital Partners LLC, 718 F.3d 1006, 1014 (9th Cir. 2013) (recognizing that a complaint that fails to allege a cognizable legal theory or alleges insufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory fails to state a plausible claim) (citing Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep’t, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990)). However, although the court must accept as true allegations of material fact, it is “not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Wood v. Moss, 572 U.S. 744, 755 n.5 (2014) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). That is, conclusory statements, “unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation[s], ” and factual allegations that only permit the court to infer “the mere possibility of misconduct” fall short of meeting the plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; see also Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216-17 (9th Cir. 2011); Moss v. U.S. Secret Serv., 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009).

         In addition, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 requires that a complaint contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . and . . . “a demand for the relief sought, ” and that “[e]ach allegation . . . be simple, concise, and direct.” Fed R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)-(3), (d)(1). That is, to state a plausible claim, a plaintiff must allege a factual and legal basis for each claim, such that each defendant is provided fair notice of what each claim is and the grounds upon which each claim rests. See Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-57, 562-563. The court may dismiss a complaint for violation of Rule 8 if a defendant would have difficulty responding to its claims, see Cafasso, U.S. ex rel. v. Gen. Dynamics C4 Sys., Inc., 637 F.3d 1047, 1059 (9th Cir. 2011), even if the complaint is not “wholly without merit, ” McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1179 (9th Cir. 1996).

         Further, the court may dismiss sua sponte a complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Fiedler v. Clark, 714 F.2d 77, 78-79 (9th Cir.1983); Belleville Catering Co. v. Champaign Mkt. Place, L.L.C., 350 F.3d 691, 693 (7th Cir. 2003) (“[I]nquiring whether the court has jurisdiction is a federal judge’s first duty in every case.”); Bernhardt v. Cty. of L.A., 279 F.3d 862, 868 (9th Cir. 2002) (“Federal courts are required sua sponte to examine jurisdictional issues such as standing.”) (citations omitted); Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3).

         Plaintiff is appearing pro se; consequently, the court liberally construes the Complaint. See Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted); see also Eldridge v. Block, 832 F.2d 1132, 1137 (9th Cir. 1987) (per curiam). The court must grant leave to amend if a pro se plaintiff might be able to correct the defects in the complaint, Lopez, 203 F.3d at1130, but if a claim or complaint cannot be saved by amendment, dismissal with prejudice is appropriate, Sylvia v. Landfield Tr. v. City of L.A., 729 F.3d 1189, 1196 (9th Cir. 2013).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff’s Complaint is deficient in several respects. First, and most fundamentally, Plaintiff has failed to establish that he has standing to assert his claims. Second, the Complaint fails to comply with Rule 8. Third, the Complaint fails to state a plausible claim for relief. The court addresses these points in turn.

         A. ...


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