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Uko v. Iris Program

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

June 11, 2018

NKEREUWEM T. UKO, Plaintiff,



         On September 19, 2017, the plaintiff, who is representing himself, filed a complaint against the State of Wisconsin IRIS (Include, Respect, I Self-Direct) Program. Dkt. No. 1. The plaintiff also asked the court for leave to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee. Dkt. No. 2. The court finds that the plaintiff does not have sufficient income to pay the filing fee, but will require her to file an amended complaint.

         I. Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed Without Prepayment of the Filing Fee

         The court may allow a litigant to proceed without prepayment of the filing fees if two conditions are met: (1) the litigant is unable to pay the filing fee; and (2) the case is not frivolous nor malicious, does not fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted, and does not seek monetary relief against a defendant that is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§1915(a) and (e)(2).

         A. Plaintiff's Ability to Pay the Filing Fee

         The plaintiff states that she is unemployed, single and financially responsible for her sixty-year old daughter. Dkt. No. 2. She receives a $733 Social Security payment each month, and shares monthly rent payment (she does not say how much it is) with her daughters. Id. at 2. The plaintiff says that her monthly expenses (which include $150 in “family obligations” to someone in Nigeria) total $600, and she has a total of $100 in her checking account. Id. at 3. According to the plaintiff, the electrical company disconnected her electricity on June 13, 2017 and had not reconnected the electricity by the date of filing (September 19, 2017). Dkt. No. 2-2. Based on her affidavit and attachments, the court is satisfied that the plaintiff cannot pay the filing fee.

         B. Screening

         Although plaintiff has demonstrated that she cannot pay the filing fee, the court must dismiss a complaint if a plaintiff raises claims that are legally “frivolous or malicious, ” that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §1915A(b).

         A claim is legally frivolous when “it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). The court may, therefore dismiss a claim as frivolous where it “is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory” or where the “factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. “Malicious, ” although sometimes treated as a synonym for “frivolous, ” “is more usefully construed as intended to harass.” Lindell v. McCallum, 352 F.3d 1107, 1109-10 (7th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted).

         To state a claim under the federal notice pleading system, a plaintiff must provide a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is entitled to relief[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A plaintiff does not need to plead every fact supporting his claims; he only has to “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). That said, a complaint that offers only “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Rather, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, that is plausible on its face.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “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.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The complaint allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted).

         If a plaintiff wishes to proceed on a claim that someone violated her civil rights under 42 U.S.C. §1983, she must allege facts sufficient to support the inference that: 1) she was deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and 2) the person or persons who deprived her of that right was a person acting under color of state law. Buchanan-Moore v. Cty. of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Kramer v. Vill. of N. Fond du Lac, 384 F.3d 856, 861 (7th Cir. 2004)); see also Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). The court gives a pro se plaintiff's allegations, “however inartfully pleaded, ” a liberal construction. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

         C. The Substance of the Plaintiff's Complaint

         As noted above, Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) states that a complaint “must contain . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” There is a reason that the rule specifies a “short and plain” statement. “Rule 8(a) requires parties to make their pleadings straightforward, so that judges and adverse parties need not try to fish a gold coin from a bucket of mud.” U.S. ex rel. Garst v. Lockheed-Martin Corp., 328 F.3d 374, 378 (7th Cir. 2003). The plaintiff cannot leave the court “to guess what claims [she] intends to assert against which defendants.” Dunigan v. St. Clair Cty. Jail Med. Staff, No. 15-CV-487, 2015 WL 2455505, *2 (S.D. Ill. May 22, 2015). “[L]ength may make a complaint unintelligible, by scattering and concealing in a morass of irrelevancies the few allegations that matter.” Kadamovas v. Stevens, 706 F.3d 843, 844 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Garst, 328 F.3d at 378). “District judges are busy, and therefore have a right to dismiss a complaint that is so long that it imposes an undue burden on the judge, to the prejudice of other litigants seeking the judge's attention.” Id.

         Although the complaint itself is only five pages long, the plaintiff has attached an additional one hundred and nineteen pages of exhibits and lower court decisions. Dkt. No. 1. The plaintiff's supporting brief, dkt. no. 4, contains ninety-four pages of exhibits. As the Seventh Circuit indicated in Kadamovas, if the plaintiff has included factual allegations that ...

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