United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
SARA M. CARROLL and ANDREW MORENO, Plaintiffs,
FIRST CHOICE HOUSING, LLC Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
A. BRADY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Carroll and Andrew Moreno, Plaintiffs proceeding pro se,
filed a Civil Complaint (ECF No. 1) against First Choice
Housing, LLC. Plaintiffs also filed a Motion to Proceed
in forma pauperis (ECF No. 2). For the reasons set
forth below, the Plaintiffs' Motion is DENIED. The
Plaintiffs' Complaint is DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), and they are GRANTED additional
time to amend their Complaint, accompanied either by the
statutory filing fee or another Motion to Proceed in
forma pauperis. If the Plaintiffs fail to amend their
Complaint within the time allowed, the Clerk will be directed
to close this case without further notice to the Plaintiffs.
a plaintiff must pay a statutory filing fee to bring an
action in federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). However,
the federal in forma pauperis (IFP) 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 IFP, a court
must make two determinations: first, whether the litigant is
unable to pay the costs of commencing the action, §
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, § 1915(e)(2)(B).
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 fees or give security therefor.” Id.
inquiry does not end there, however. In assessing whether a
plaintiff may proceed IFP, a court must look to the
sufficiency of the complaint to determine whether it can be
construed as stating a claim for which relief can be granted
or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune
from such relief. Id. §1915(e)(2)(B). District
courts have the power under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) to
screen complaints even before service of the complaint on the
defendants and must dismiss the complaint if it fails to
state a claim. Rowe v. Shake, 196 F.3d 778, 783 (7th
Cir. 1999). Courts apply the same standard under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B) as when addressing a motion to dismiss
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Luevano
v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 722 F.3d 1014, 1018, 1027 (7th
state a claim under the federal notice pleading standards, a
complaint must set forth a “short and plain statement
of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Factual allegations are
accepted as true and need only give “‘fair notice
of what the...claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.'” EEOC v. Concentra Health Serv.,
Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776-77 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007)). However, a plaintiff's allegations must show
that his entitlement to relief is plausible, rather than
merely speculative. Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d
1074, 1083 (7th Cir. 2008).
summary, Plaintiffs' Complaint alleges that Defendant
wrongfully had them evicted from their home in February 2019.
The exact allegations are difficult to follow, but Plaintiffs
appear to allege that Defendant failed to address issues with
the property, misallocated rent payments, and had
Plaintiffs' natural gas shut off. Plaintiffs are further
aggrieved by the judicial eviction process, during which they
claim that Defendant introduced false
Complaint does not identify any federal cause of action, nor
does it allege facts from which a federal cause of action is
evident. Instead, the Complaint appears to be a collateral
attack against the eviction proceedings in the Allen County
Superior Court. Under the Rooker-Feldman Doctrine,
this Court does not have jurisdiction to review or reverse
orders issued in state court or state administrative
proceedings. See Gilbert v. Ill. Bd. of Educ., 591
F.3d 896, 900 (7th Cir. 2010); Lewis v. Anderson,
308 F.3d 768, 771-72 (7th Cir. 2002). In essence, the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine “prevents a
state-court loser from bringing suit in federal court in
order to effectively set aside the state-court
judgment.” Gilbert, 591 F.3d at 900. The
doctrine applies “even though the state court judgment
might be erroneous or even unconstitutional.”
Id. “[A] plaintiff may not seek a reversal of
a state court judgment simply by casting his complaint in the
form of a civil rights action.” Ritter v.
Ross, 992 F.2d 750, 754 (7th Cir. 1993). A federal court
is free to entertain claims that are independent of any state
court proceedings. Gilbert, 591 F.3d at 900. Here,
however, the Court cannot discern any such independent claims
from Plaintiffs' Complaint-at least not any that give
fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which
it rests. Accordingly, the Court dismisses these claims for
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
the foregoing, Plaintiffs' request to proceed without
prepayment of fees is denied, and the Complaint is dismissed
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). The Court
grants the Plaintiffs until November 29, 2019, to file an
amended complaint. See Luevano, 722 F.3d at 1022
(stating that a litigant proceeding under IFP statute has the
same right to amend a complaint as fee-paying plaintiffs
have). When drafting their amended complaint, Plaintiffs
should state the key facts supporting their claim, rather
than provide vague recollections. Additionally, Plaintiffs
are advised that this Court cannot review the merits of the
state court eviction proceedings or alter any judgment handed
down in those proceedings. Along with an amended Complaint,
Plaintiff must also file a new Motion to Proceed in forma
pauperis or pay the filing fee.
Plaintiff does not file an amended complaint by November 29,
2019, the Court will direct the Clerk to close this case.
Should they choose, Plaintiffs are permitted to pursue his
claims in state court. See Doe-2 v. McLean Cty. Unit
Dist. No. 5 Bd. of Dirs., 593 F.3d 507, 513 (7th Cir.
foregoing reasons, the Court:
(1) DENIES Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to Proceed in