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Wilson v. Levine

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana

February 25, 2019

CALVIN WILSON, Plaintiff,
v.
HON. STANLEY A. LEVINE, in his official capacity, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          THERESA L. SPRINGMANN CHIEF JUDGE

         The Plaintiff, Calvin Wilson, has filed a Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF No. 1] naming, as the sole Defendant, Allen Superior Court Judge Stanley A. Levine, in his official capacity. The Plaintiff asserts that he has been denied, and continues being denied, access to state court to file a civil action, and that this denial violates the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This matter is before the Court on the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 12].

         DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         A case may be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) when the court lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter. “Subject-matter jurisdiction is the first question in every case, and if the court concludes that it lacks jurisdiction it must proceed no further.” Illinois v. City of Chi., 137 F.3d 474, 478 (7th Cir. 1998). However, a court is not required to “consider subject matter jurisdiction over all other threshold matters, ” but may choose among threshold grounds for denying consideration of a case on its merits. Meyers v. Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wis., 836 F.3d 818, 821 (7th Cir. 2016) (citing Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 584-85 (1999)). When considering a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, a court must accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Alicea-Hernandez v. Catholic Bishop of Chi., 320 F.3d 698, 701 (7th Cir. 2003).

         Additionally, under Rule 8's pleading requirements, a plaintiff must provide a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief” that is sufficient to provide the defendant with “fair notice” of the claim and its basis. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). To assure that a pleading suffices to give effective notice to the opposing party, a complaint must contain facts that are sufficient, when accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). 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. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Pleadings that fail to meet this standard are subject to dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Although the court must accept as true all well-pleaded facts and draw all permissible inferences in the Plaintiff's favor, it need not accept as true “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly 550 U.S. at 555). Legal conclusions can provide a complaint's framework, but unless well-pleaded factual allegations move the claims from conceivable to plausible, they are insufficient to state a claim. Id. at 680. A plaintiff can also plead himself out of court if he pleads facts that preclude relief. See Atkins v. City of Chi., 631 F.3d 823, 832 (7th Cir. 2011).

         B. Complaint Allegations

         On May 31, 2018, the Plaintiff submitted a civil complaint in the Allen Superior Court, in which he alleged violations of federal constitutional rights and state tort laws. (Compl. ¶¶ 9-10.) Accompanying the complaint and the appearance of counsel, was a signed motion for waiver of the filing fee, in which the Plaintiff declared that he did not have assets to pay the state court filing fee. (Id. ¶ 12.) On June 1, 2018, the Allen County Superior Court returned the civil complaint to the Plaintiff. It did not have a case number and had not been filed in court. The reason cited was “Incorrect or missing Fees” with the comment “Filing Fee Waiver Denied by Judge Levine on 6/1/2018.” (Id. ¶ 14.) The appearance of counsel was also returned for “Incorrect or missing Fees.” (Id. ¶ 15.)

         On June 14, 2018, the Plaintiff attempted to file a motion to reconsider the refusal to file and permit the filing of his civil complaint. The motion was served on the Defendant personally. The motion was rejected without filing and returned to the Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 18.)

         On July 9, 2018, the Plaintiff filed a petition for writ of mandamus with the Indiana Supreme Court requesting a writ ordering that his civil complaint be accepted for filing, and that the state court issue an order granting or denying his motion for waiver of the filing fee. (Id. ¶ 19.) On July 12, 2018, the Indiana Supreme Court denied the petition.

         On July 24, 2018, the Plaintiff “attempted again to file his civil complaint, his attorney's appearance, and his motion for fee waiver in the Allen Superior Court.” (Id. ¶ 21.) The Defendant refused the filing and returned it to him without a formal order, or the assignment of a cause number.

         C. Analysis

         The Plaintiff alleges that he has been denied the ability to commence a civil action in the Allen Superior Court. The Indiana Trial Rules set forth the requirements for commencing an action. Specifically, Indiana Trial Rule 3 provides:

A civil action is commenced by filing with the court a complaint or such equivalent pleading or document as may be specified by statute, by payment of the prescribed filing fee or filing an order waiving the filing fee, and, where service of process is required, by furnishing to the ...

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