United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
ORDER DISMISSING PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT WITHOUT
Pamela Pepper, United States District Judge.
himself, the plaintiff filed a complaint on May 2, 2018. Dkt.
No. 1. Nine days later, he filed a motion for leave to
proceed without prepaying the filing fee. Dkt. No. 2. The
court regrets that, due to its heavy case load, it did not
screen the complaint sooner.
Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed Without Prepaying the
court may allow someone to proceed without prepaying the
filing fee if (1) the person shows that he 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).
Plaintiff's Ability to Pay the Filing Fee
plaintiff's motion to proceed without prepaying the
filing fee said that he was single, unemployed and did not
have any dependents whom he was responsible for supporting.
Dkt. No. 3 at 1. He reported receiving $833 per month in
wages or salary, and said that in the twelve months prior to
May 7, 2018, he received $3, 283 in SSI payments.
Id. at 2. The plaintiff stated that he paid $465 a
month in rent and $100 a month in other household expenses
for total expenses of approximately $575 a month.
Id. at 2-3. He stated that he had $120 in savings.
Id. at 3. The plaintiff explained that he was
incarcerated from 2010 to 2017 and lived in a homeless
shelter from September 2017 until April 2018. Id.
Subtracting the plaintiff's monthly expenses from his
monthly income shows that the plaintiff has about $258 a
month in disposable income that he could use to pay at least
part of the $400 filing fee. But the court still must analyze
whether the plaintiff has stated a claim for relief.
the plaintiff has demonstrated a limited ability to pay the
filing feel, the court still 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). For this reason, district courts
“screen” complaints filed by self-represented
plaintiffs to determine whether they must dismiss complaints
under these standards.
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
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).
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[.]”
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2). A plaintiff does not
need to plead every fact supporting his claims; he need only
“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).
plaintiff does not have a lawyer, the court is obliged to
give the plaintiff's allegations, “however
inartfully pleaded, ” a liberal construction. See
Erikson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).
The Plaintiff's Claim
plaintiff's complaint is brief. He asserts that between
November 15, 2017 and January 15, 2018, he cashed four checks
with defendant Chase Bank in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Dkt. No. 1
at 1. He says that Chase Bank charged him an eight-dollar fee
to cash three of the four checks. Id. He says that
Chase Bank told him that it charged an eight-dollar fee to
cash checks that were over fifty dollars. Id. The
plaintiff alleges, however, that when he went to the Chase
Bank in New Berlin, Wisconsin in December of 2017 and tried
to cash a $300 check, that bank did not charge him an $8 fee.
Id. The plaintiff indicated that he had a VISA debit
card and a state ID, and that he showed them to defendant
Tyack at the Chase Bank in Waukesha, but that he did not
receive a reimbursement of his twenty-four dollars.
Id. He asks the court to award him one million
dollars “for the fraudulent acts committed by Chase
bank in damages.” Id. at 2.
plaintiff has filed his complaint in federal court. Federal
courts have limited authority. They have the authority to
decide cases that allege violations of federal law, and to
decide lawsuits between citizens of different states if the
amount in controversy is over $75, 000. The complaint does
not identify any federal law that the defendants allegedly
violated by charging the plaintiff a fee of $8 per cashed
check. His closing paragraph mentions “fraudulent
conduct” by the defendants but does not explain how the
plaintiff believes the defendants defrauded him. The
plaintiff does not allege that he had an account with
defendant Chase Bank of Waukesha; it is common practice for
banks to charge service fees to cash checks for
non-customers. See “Chase Bank Check Cashing
Policy: Limits Fees, Hours, & More…” First
Quarter Finance, available at
(last visited May 8, 2019) (“For non-customers, the fee
is $8 for each cashed ...