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Benwell v. Astrue

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS


September 10, 2009

CHRISTINE A. BENWELL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herndon, Chief Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

On April 14, 2009, Christine A. Benwell, by and through her attorney, filed a complaint against the Commissioner of Social Security, for judicial review of an administrative agency's decision (Doc. 3). Specifically, Benwell seeks judicial review of the Commissioner's decision denying applications for a period of disability, for disability insurance benefits and for supplemental security income. Now before the Court is Benwell's motion to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 4). Because the Court finds that Benwell is indigent, the Court grants the motion.

By granting a motion for pauper status, a court authorizes a lawsuit to proceed without prepayment of fees. The Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), significantly changed the district court's responsibilities in reviewing pro se complaints and in forma pauperis motions. The Seventh Circuit has clarified that the PLRA "changed § 1915 not only for cases brought by prisoners, but in some respect for all indigent litigants." Hutchinson v. Spink, 126 F.3d 895, 899 (7th Cir. 1997). Under the PLRA, the Court must screen any indigent's complaint (those filed by prisoners and non-prisoners alike) and dismiss the complaint if (a) the allegation of poverty is untrue, (b) the action is frivolous or malicious, (c) the action fails to state a claim upon which can be granted, or (d) the action seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

Benwell's motion survives § 1915(e)(2) review. She signed a declaration contained in her motion to proceed in forma pauperis documenting her poverty. The action appears to be neither frivolous nor malicious. At this point, the Court cannot conclude that the complaint fails to state a claim or that the named defendant is immune from suit.

Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Benwell's application to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 4). If a summons is to be issued, Benwell's attorney will prepare the summons and the USM-285 forms for Defendant, the United States Attorney and the Attorney General and forward these documents to the Clerk of the Court for issuance. Once a summons, if any, is issued, the Court DIRECTS the United States Marshal to obtain service on same. Costs of service shall be borne by the United States of America.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

David R. Herndon Chief Judge United States District Court

20090910

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