United States District Court, E.D. New York
May 8, 2004.
CATHERINE H. MEGNA, Representing Sarah A. Megna, Plaintiff, -against- U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY and NORTHROP-GRUMMAN CORPORATION, Defendant
The opinion of the court was delivered by: ARTHUR SPATT, District Judge
DECISION AND ORDER
Catherine H. Megna ("Catherine M.") commenced this action on behalf
of her sister, Sarah A. Megna ("Sarah M."), for illnesses alleged to be
related to Sarah's employment at Northrop Grumman Corporation. For the
reasons set forth below, the complaint is dismissed without prejudice. I. BACKGROUND
Catherine M. filed a complaint on behalf of her sister, Sarah M., on a
sample complaint form provided by the Clerk's Office. She provides no
facts. Rather, Catherine M. apparently attaches several exhibits to her
complaint. The first exhibit is a January 24, 2001 letter to Catherine M.
from Lorraine Benton, a Public Health Representative at the New York
State Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Epidemology. In this
letter, Benton explains the origins of kidney cancer. It appears that
Catherine M. believes that her sister, who has been diagnosed with a
kidney disorder, became ill due to her employment at Grumman Aircraft
The second exhibit is a copy of a January 2, 2004 letter from Catherine
M. to United States District Judge Thomas C. Platt under Megna v.
Sullivan, 91 CV 3315. In this second exhibit, Catherine M. asserts
that Northrop Grumman breached a duty of care under federal and state
laws in violation of various federal environmental regulations. Simply
stated, Catherine M. asserts that the defendant Northrop Grumman is
responsible for her sister Sarah M.'s kidney cancer. In the third
exhibit, a June 11, 2003 document, Sarah M. grants power of attorney to
Catherine M. seeks "$250,000 or what justice allows" based upon
defendants "[b]reach of federal and state environmental law (serious
injury)" and "[d]eadly contamination violations." II. DISCUSSION
A. Standard of Review
It is well-settled that the Court is required to read the plaintiff's
pro se complaint liberally. See Hughes v. Rowe,
449 U.S. 5, 9, 66 L.Ed.2d 163, 101 S.Ct. 173 (1980); Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21, 30 L.Ed.2d 652, 92 S.Ct. 594
(1972). The Court is further required to liberally construe a pro
se plaintiff's papers "`to raise the strongest arguments that they
suggest.'" Soto v. Walker, 44 F.3d 169, 173 (2d Cir. 1995)
(quoting Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1990)).
Moreover, at this stage of the proceedings, the Court assumes the truth
of the allegations in the complaint. See H.J. Inc. v. Northwestern
Bell Tel. Co., 492 U.S. 229, 249-50, 106 L.Ed.2d 195,
109 S.Ct. 2893 (1989); Koppel v. 4987 Corp., 167 F.3d 125, 127 (2d Cir.
1999). Notwithstanding these liberal standards, all complaints, including
pro se complaints, are required to contain at least "some
minimum level of factual support for their claims." Alfaro Motors,
Inc. v. Ward, 814 F.2d 883, 887 (2d Cir. 1987).
B. Catherine M.'s Representation of Sarah M.
Catherine M. states in the caption of her complaint that she is
"representing Sarah A. Megna." However, she provides no facts that
indicate that she is an attorney. Although New York General Obligations Law § 5-1502H authorizes an
agent holding a sufficient power of attorney "[t]o assert and prosecute
before any court . . . any cause of action . . . which the
principal has, or claims to have, against any individual," that statute
only permits the agent to hire on behalf of her principal, see e.g.,
In re Khoubesserian, 264 A.D.2d 599, 600, 695 N.Y.S.2d 312, 314
(2d Dep't 1999), leave to appeal denied, 94 N.Y.S.2d 757,
725 N.E.2d 1094 (1999), not to commence an action pro se in the
name of her principal.
The Court further finds that Catherine M.'s representation of her
sister violates federal law. As a general matter, "because pro
se means to appear for one's self, a person may not appear on
other's cause." Iannaccone v. Law, 142 F.3d 553, 558 (2d Cir.
1998). Federal courts have rejected the notion that an agent with power
of attorney may appear pro se on behalf of the principal.
See Johns v. County of Sand Diego, 114 F.3d 874, 876 (9th Cir.
1997); Weber v. Garza, 570 F.2d 511, 514 (5th Cir. 1978)
(per curiam); Moody v. Smith, 105 B.R. 368, 369-70
(S.D. Tex 1989); James v. Daley & Lewis, 406 F. Supp. 645,
647-48 (D. Del. 1976). In such cases, courts have discretionary power
regarding disposition of the case. First, courts can dismiss the action.
See Johns, 114 F.3d.at 876; Weber, 570 F.2d at 514.
Second, courts can dismiss the action without prejudice to the right of
the principal to secure an attorney. See James, 406 F. Supp. at
647-48. Finally, courts can order the documents filed by the agent stricken,
together with an injunction forbidding further representation by the
agent. See Moody, 105 B.R. at 373-75.
In this case, Catherine M.'s representation of her sister in this forum
violates both state and federal law. Because Sarah M. has not appeared to
prosecute this action in person, even assuming there are grounds for a
federal court action, and because no person authorized by law to appear
on her behalf has done so, the Court dismisses this action without
prejudice to the right of Sarah M., or her attorney to reinstate it in
Based upon the foregoing, it is hereby
ORDERED, that the Court sua sponte dismisses the
complaint without prejudice; and it is further
ORDERED, that the Clerk of the Court is directed to close
© 1992-2004 VersusLaw Inc.