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Foster v. U.S. Social Security Administration

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston

November 3, 2017

CARL C. FOSTER, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S. SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION OF WEST VIRGINIA DISABILITY DETERMINATION SECTION, Defendant.

          PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

          Dwane L. Tinsley, United States Magistrate Judge.

         On December 2, 2014, the plaintiff, Carl C. Foster, filed a Complaint (ECF No. 2) and an Application to Proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 1).[1] This matter is assigned to the Honorable John T. Copenhaver, Jr., United States District Judge, and it is referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for submission of proposed findings and a recommendation for disposition, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B).

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This is one of eight Complaints filed by the plaintiff in this federal court since August of 2014. The instant Complaint asserts that, in 2007, the plaintiff was diagnosed with affective and somatoform disorders and was found to be permanently disabled and awarded Social Security benefits. (ECF No. 2 at 1).[2] The plaintiff further alleges that he is “continually harassed, demeaned, and threatened” by employees of the Social Security Administration's Disability Determination Section. (ECF No. 2 at 1). The Complaint further alleges that “this behavior is due to disability & religious discrimination also attainder and reprisal.” (Id. at 2). The plaintiff's Complaint further states that he is alleging “collusion and RICO violations.” (Id. at 3). However, the Complaint makes no specific request for relief.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Because the plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the court is obliged to construe his pleadings liberally. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 521 (1972). Nevertheless, as the party asserting jurisdiction, the burden of proving subject matter jurisdiction lies with the plaintiff. McNutt v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 189 (1936).

         Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs the requirements for stating a proper claim for relief:

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, unless the court already has jurisdiction and the claim needs no new grounds for jurisdiction to support it, 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. Relief in the alternative or of several different types may be demanded.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a) (Emphasis added). A district court must dismiss a claim if, at any time, it appears that the court lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter of the claim. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3); Duffield v. Memorial Hosp. Ass'n, 361 F.Supp. 398 (S.D. W.Va. 1973), aff'd sub. nom. Duffield v. Charleston Area Medical Ctr., 503 F.2d 512 (4th Cir. 1974); see also Bolin v. Chavez, 210 F.3d 389 (10th Cir. 2000) (permitting sua sponte dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(h)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure).

         Additionally, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), because the plaintiff is proceeding without prepayment of fees and costs, the court is obliged to screen the case to determine if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         A “frivolous” case has been defined as one which is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25 (1992). A “frivolous” claim lacks "an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989).

         Pro se complaints are held to less stringent standards than those drafted by attorneys, and the court is obliged to construe liberally such complaints. However, in Bell Atlantic Corp v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007), the Supreme Court observed that a case should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if, viewing the well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint as true and in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the complaint does not contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” While the complaint need not assert “detailed factual allegations, ” it must contain “more than labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Id. at 555.

         The Supreme Court elaborated on its holding in Twombly in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009), a civil rights case. The Court wrote:

Two working principles underlie our decision in Twombly. First, the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice. [Twombly, 550 U.S.] at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (Although for the purposes of a motion to dismiss we must take all of the factual allegations in the complaint as true, we “are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation” (internal quotation marks omitted). Rule 8 . . . does not unlock the doors of discovery for a ...

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