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Brown. v. Southern Illinois University in Carbondale

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

April 17, 2017



          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge

         Curtis Darnell Brown, Jr., a pro se Plaintiff, [1] filed the complaint in this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff also has filed a Motion for Leave to proceed in Forma Pauperis (“IFP”) (Doc. 2) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915.

         Section 1915 is meant to ensure that indigent litigants have meaningful access to the federal courts, and it applies to non-prisoner plaintiffs and prisoners alike. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989); Floyd v. United States Postal Serv., 105 F.3d 274, 275-77 (6th Cir. 1997) (overruled on other grounds) (“[T]he only logical interpretation of the statute is that non-prisoners have the option to proceed in forma pauperis under § 1915(a).”). Under § 1915, an indigent party may commence a federal court action, without paying required costs and fees, upon submission of an affidavit asserting inability “to pay such fees or give security therefor” and stating “the nature of the action, defense or appeal and the affiant's belief that the person is entitled to redress.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). Plaintiff has done so in this case, but the Court's inquiry does not end there.

         Section 1915(e)(2) requires careful threshold scrutiny of the complaint filed by an IFP plaintiff. A court can deny a qualified plaintiff leave to file IFP or dismiss a case if the action is clearly frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim, or is a claim for money damages against an immune defendant. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). An action fails to state a claim if it does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to rlief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). An action is frivolous if it “lack[s] an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). A claim is legally frivolous if it is “based on an indisputably meritless legal theory.” Id. at 327-328. A claim is factually frivolous if it is “clearly baseless, ” “fanciful, ” “fantastic, ” “delusional, ” “irrational, ” or “wholly incredible.” Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 24, 32-33 (1992). See also Felton v. City of Chicago, 827 F.3d 632, 635 (7th Cir. 2016).

         In evaluating whether a complaint is factually frivolous for purposes of the in forma pauperis statute, the Court need not “accept without question the truth of the plaintiff's allegations.” Denton, 504 U.S. at 34. Instead, the statute “accords judges not only the authority to dismiss a claim based on an undisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 325.

         For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's complaint does not survive review under the above standard.

         The Complaint

         According to the complaint, Plaintiff, who was a student at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois (“SIUC”), was wrongfully arrested “during finals week.” (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff alleges that his wrongful arrest is the result of a conspiracy or “plot” involving employees at SIUC, as well as “Beyonce Knowles Carter and many other celebrities and famous wealthy people like the Rocefeller [sic] Family.” (Doc. 1, pp. 1, 5-6).

         The purpose of the conspiracy was to prevent Plaintiff from graduating and to allow him to sell cocaine on behalf of SIUC as a way to pay for the basketball program at SIUC (or as a way to pay Plaintiff for playing basketball for SIUC). (Doc. 1, pp. 5-6; Doc. 1-1 p. 1). Plaintiff specifically alleges as follows with regard to the alleged conspiracy:

•The “entire city of Carbondale was taken over by wealthy celebrities and famous people in a proxy to seduce [Plaintiff] to sell cocaine for the institution.” (Doc. 1, p. 5).
• “SIU has offered to give [Plaintiff] cocaine in order to play college basketball for the institution. I have refused and because of this they have been taking actions towards me to mess up my career aspirations.” (Doc. 1-1, p. 1).
• “[M]ajor recording artist[s] like Beyonce have traveled to the school to harass me and steal my copyrighted work using it for her Lemonade album.” (Doc. 1-1, p. 1).

         Plaintiff alleges he has been wrongfully arrested multiple times, including a wrongful arrest for damage to a vending machine, all in furtherance of the conspiracy. Id. At least one of the wrongful arrests involved a misdemeanor that resulted in Plaintiff serving time in jail. (Doc. 1, p. 6). In addition to the loss of liberty, Plaintiff contends the conspiracy prevented him from graduating, left him homeless, and has interfered with his ability to locate employment. (Doc. 1, Doc. 1-1, p. 2).

         A two-page handwritten note attached to the complaint as an exhibit states that Plaintiff currently has an active case due to an arrest at Rehn Hall - Case Number 16-cm-258, Jackson County, Illinois. (Doc. 1-1). A review of publicly available Court records reveals that in 2016 Plaintiff was charged with two class A misdemeanors in Case Number ...

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