United States District Court, N.D. Indiana
SUSAN E. PRAMUK, Plaintiff,
TERRY HIESTAND, PATRICK PRAMUK, CHERYL L. MONTALBANO RAHMANY, THE FOOD PANTRY, PORTER COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT, TILTON & TILTON Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAM C. LEE JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
August 26, 2016, Susan E. Pramuk, pro se, filed a
complaint against various defendants in this Court but failed
to pay the filing fee or seek leave to proceed without
prepayment of the filing fee. Pramuk has now filed her
petition for leave to proceed without prepayment of the fee
but, because her Complaint fails to state a claim for relief
her petition will be DENIED and her case DISMISSED.
a plaintiff must pay a statutory filing fee of $400 to bring
an action in federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a).
However, the federal in forma pauperis statute, 28
U.S.C. § 1915, provides indigent litigants an
opportunity for meaningful access to the federal courts
despite their inability to pay the costs and fees associated
with that access. See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S.
319 (1989). To authorize a litigant to proceed in forma
pauperis, the Court must make two determinations: first,
whether the litigant is unable to pay the costs of commencing
the action, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1); and second, whether
the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief
against a defendant who is immune from such relief, 28 U.S.C.
the first inquiry, an indigent party may commence an action
in federal court, without prepayment of costs and fees, upon
submission of an affidavit asserting an inability “to
pay such costs or give security therefor.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(a). Here, the Petitioner states that she receives
$833/month in social security benefits and $873 in spousal
support, for a total of $1, 711 monthly. In addition she
receives, $113.00/month in public assistance to aid her in
groceries. Annualized, this income totals $21, 888. The
poverty guideline for a one person household in Indiana is
$11, 880 per year. HHS Poverty Guidelines, 81 Fed. Reg. 4036
(Jan. 25, 2016). Because Pramuk's stated income is
substantially more than the poverty level, she does not
qualify under the in forma pauperis statute.
inquiry does not end there, however. Even if Pramuk did
qualify for in forma pauperis status, district
courts have an obligation under 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B) to screen complaints before service on the
defendants, and must dismiss the complaint if it is frivolous
or malicious, fails to state a claim for relief, or seeks
monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such
relief. In determining whether the complaint states a claim,
the Court applies the same standard as when addressing a
motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). See Lagerstrom v. Kingston, 463 F.3d 621,
624 (7th Cir. 2006).
federal pleading standards,
a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted
as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face. 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
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 672 (2009)
(quotation marks and internal citations omitted).
Furthermore, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of
the cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements,
do not suffice.” Id. at 678. To survive
dismissal, the plaintiff “must do better than putting a
few words on paper that, in the hands of an imaginative
reader, might suggest that something has happened to
her that might be redressed by the law.”
Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 403 (7th
Cir. 2010) (emphasis in original).
Plaintiff has filed a dozen cases in the past few years,
including against these particular Defendants. Here, the
Plaintiff is suing six defendants, three of whom appear to be
private individuals and some of whom appear to be related to
her. Additionally, she has sued Porter County Superior Court,
an entity not subject to suit, and well as the Broadway
Community Food Pantry, and the law firm of the attorney
appointed as her Guardian Ad Litem.
from suing Superior Court, which is not subject to suit and
thus, not a proper defendant, there are substantial problems
with the remainder of the Complaint. First, the Complaint is
vague and confusing, and does not adequately state a claim
for relief under federal pleading standards. There are a
number of deficiencies. The Plaintiff fails to specify any
date for any of the alleged wrongs she suffered; indeed, each
allegation is lacking in the specificity necessary to
determine whether she has stated a claim. Second, the
Plaintiff has not alleged any facts that would provide a
jurisdictional basis to be in federal court. The Plaintiff
filed her complaint under 42 U.S.C. §1983 but she does
not allege, nor does it appear, that any of the defendants
acted under color of state law. See Dye v. Wargo,
253 F.3d 296, 299 (7th Cir. 2001) (observing that
“[Section] 1983 applies only to a ‘person'
who acts under color of state law.”). Nor is it clear
how these people are alleged to have violated her
constitutional rights. The Plaintiff appears to claim that
the Defendants have defamed her and/or interfered with her
ability to use her home or conduct her business, but she has
not provided enough detail about the underlying events that
happened, or when they happened, that caused her to file this
civil rights case against the Defendants.
even if the Complaint was intended to fall under state law,
there are no allegations that climb to the level of a state
law violation. Rather, the claims made by Pramuk in her
complaint, such as the assertion that one of the defendants
“said I was in gun problems, not so, I am a private
detective” and later in the Complaint that her
“qualifications” are “child psychology,
medical personal [sic], social science/social work; private
detective/private investigator (state), FBI elect, American
psychology association, Cambridge, deputy sheriff”
appear fantastical and delusional.
Court is mindful of the Seventh Circuit's concern that
when a complaint is dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2), if there is no opportunity to amend “an IFP
applicant's case could be tossed out of court without
giving the applicant any timely notice or opportunity to be
heard to clarify, contest, or simply request leave to amend,
” which negatively impacts “fair access to the
courts.” Luevano v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No.
11-1917, 2013 WL 3599156, at *6 (7th Cir. July 16, 2013).
Here, however, there is no reason to believe that the
frivolous factual allegations could be remedied through more
specific pleading; they are inherently frivolous.
Accordingly, the Complaint is dismissed with prejudice and
without leave to amend. See, e.g. Denton, 504 U.S.
at 34 (recognizing that where it appears that frivolous
factual allegations could be remedied through more specific
pleadings, a court of appeals should consider whether the
district court abused its discretion by dismissing the
complaint with prejudice or without leave to amend);
Mathis v. N.Y. Life Ins. Co., 133 F.3d 546, 548 (7th
Cir. 1998) (stating that Denton recognized that
dismissals under materially identical predecessor to §
1915(e)(2)(B) on grounds of frivolousness could be with
prejudice); Holland v. City of Gary, 503 F.
App'x 476, 477-78 (7th Cir. 2013) (finding that the
district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding
through a screening of the plaintiff's complaint under 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) that the plaintiff's
fantastic and delusional allegations lacked any arguable
basis in fact and that an amendment would be futile).
foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES the Plaintiff's
Application to Proceed Without Prepayment of Fees [DE 3], and
DISMISSES WITH PREJUDICE the Complaint [DE 1] as factually
frivolous and failing to state a claim for relief pursuant to