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O'Neil v. Bebee

February 9, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Glenn T. Suddaby, United States District Judge


Currently before the Court in this a pro se civil rights action filed by Aimee O'Neil ("Plaintiff") is her motion to proceed in forma pauperis, her motion for a stay, and her two separate letter requests. (Dkt. Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.) For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis is granted; her Complaint is sua sponte dismissed with prejudice due to its frivolous, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); her motion for a stay and two letter requests are denied as moot; and she is directed to show cause, within thirty (30) days of the date of this Decision and Order, as to why the Court should not issue an Order prohibiting her from filing any future pro se actions in this Court without prior leave of the Court.


After carefully reviewing Plaintiff's papers in support of her motion to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court finds that she qualifies for in forma pauperis status. (See Dkt. No. 2.) As a result, the Court grants Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis.*fn1


A. Court's Duty to Sua Sponte Review Complaint

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), when a plaintiff seeks to proceed in forma pauperis, "the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action . . . (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).*fn2 Thus, there is a responsibility on the Court to determine that a complaint may be properly maintained in the District before it may permit a plaintiff to proceed with an action in forma pauperis. Id.

In determining whether an action is frivolous, the Court must look to see whether the complaint lacks an arguable basis in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Although the Court has a duty to show liberality towards pro se litigants, Nance v. Kelly, 912 F.2d 605, 606 (2d Cir. 1990) (per curiam), and extreme caution should be exercised in ordering sua sponte dismissal of a pro se complaint before the adverse party has been served and the parties have had an opportunity to respond, Anderson v. Coughlin, 700 F.2d 37, 41 (2d Cir. 1983), there is a responsibility on the Court to determine that a claim is not frivolous before permitting a plaintiff to proceed with an action in forma pauperis in order to prevent abuses of the process of the Court, Harkins v. Eldredge, 505 F.2d 802, 804 (8th Cir. 1974), as well as discourage the waste of judicial resources.

B. Legal Standard Governing Dismissals for Failure to State Claim

It has long been understood that a dismissal for failure to state a claim, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), may be based on either or both of two grounds: (1) a challenge to the "sufficiency of the pleading" under Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2); or (2) a challenge to the legal cognizability of the claim. Jackson v. Onondaga County, 549 F. Supp.2d 204, 211, nn. 15-16 (N.D.N.Y. 2008) (McAvoy, J., adopting Report-Recommendation on de novo review) [citations omitted].

With regard to the first ground, Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) requires that a pleading contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) [emphasis added]. By requiring this "showing," Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) requires that the pleading contain a short and plain statement that "give[s] the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Jackson, 549 F. Supp.2d at 212, n.17 [citations omitted]. The main purpose of this rule is to "facilitate a proper decision on the merits." Id. at 212, n.18 [citations omitted].*fn3

The Supreme Court has long characterized this pleading requirement under Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) as "simplified" and "liberal," and has repeatedly rejected judicially established pleading requirements that exceed this liberal requirement. Id. at 212, n.20 [citations omitted]. However, even this liberal notice pleading standard "has its limits." Id. at 212, n.21 [citations omitted]. As a result, numerous Supreme Court and Second Circuit decisions exist holding that a pleading has failed to meet this liberal notice pleading standard. Id. at 213, n.22 [citations omitted]; see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949-52 (2009).

Most notably, in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, the Supreme Court reversed an appellate decision holding that a complaint had stated an actionable antitrust claim under 15 U.S.C. § 1. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007). In doing so, the Court "retire[d]" the famous statement by the Court in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957), that "a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1968-69. Rather than turning on the conceivability of an actionable claim, the Court clarified, the "fair notice" standard turns on the plausibility of an actionable claim. Id. at 1965-74. The Court explained that, while this does not mean that a pleading need "set out in detail the facts upon which [the claim is based]," it does mean that the pleading must contain at least "some factual allegation[s]." Id. at 1965 [citations omitted]. More specifically, the "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level [to a plausible level]," assuming (of course) that all the allegations in the complaint are true. Id. [citations omitted].*fn4

As have other Circuits, the Second Circuit has recognized that the clarified plausibility standard that was articulated by the Supreme Court in Twombly governs all claims, including claims brought by pro se litigants (although the plausibility ofthose claims is to be assessed generously, in light of the special solicitude normally afforded pro se litigants).*fn5 It should be emphasized that Fed. R. Civ. P. 8's plausibility standard, explained in Twombly, was in no way retracted or diminished by the Supreme Court's decision (two weeks later) in Erickson v. Pardus, in which (when reviewing a pro se pleading) the Court stated, "Specific facts are not necessary" to successfully state a claim under Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) [citation omitted; emphasis added]. That statement was merely an abbreviation of the often-repeated point of law--first offered in Conley and repeated in Twombly--that a pleading need not "set out in detail the facts upon which [the claim is based]" in order to successfully state a claim. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1965, n.3 (citing Conley, 355 U.S. at 47) [emphasis added]. That statement did not mean that all pleadings may achieve the requirement of "fair notice" without ever alleging any facts whatsoever. Clearly, there must still be enough fact set out (however set out, whether in detail or in a generalized fashion) to raise a right to relief above the speculative level to a plausible level.*fn6

Finally, in reviewing a complaint for dismissal under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), the court must accept the material facts alleged in the complaint as true and construe all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. This standard is applied with even greater force where the plaintiff alleges civil rights violations and/or where the complaint is submitted pro se. However, while the special leniency afforded to pro se civil rights litigants somewhat loosens the procedural rules governing the form of pleadings (as the Second Circuit has observed),*fn7 it does not completely relieve a pro se plaintiff of the duty to satisfy the pleading standards in Fed. R. Civ. P. 8, 10 and 12.*fn8 Rather, asboth the Supreme Court and Second Circuit have repeatedly recognized, the requirements set forth in Fed. R. Civ. P. 8, 10, and 12 are procedural rules that even pro se civil rights plaintiff must follow.*fn9 Stated more plainly, when a plaintiff is proceeding pro se, " all normal rules of pleading are not absolutely suspended." Jackson, 549 F. Supp.2d at 214, n.28 [citations omitted].

C. Summary of Plaintiff's Complaint

On October 8, 2009, Plaintiff filed her Complaint in this action. (Dkt. No. 1.) The text in the body of the Complaint is single spaced, and its pages are unnumbered. (Id.) In only four of the twelve pages (specifically, pages two through five) of the Complaint does Plaintiff make any attempt at numbering paragraphs. (Id. at 2-5.) Even when she does so, she does not number the paragraphs consecutively. (Id.) Most of the paragraphs are not limited as far as practicable to a single set of circumstances, but extend to numerous sets of circumstances. (Id. at 4-10.) In the caption, Plaintiff names herself, as well as her daughter, M.O., as Plaintiffs in the action, and Catherine Bebee and the Oswego City Schools as the Defendants in the action. (Id. at 1.) However, in the body of the Complaint, Plaintiff identifies a host of other Defendants, at one point also seemingly naming M.O. as a Defendant. (Id. at 3-12.)

With regard to her claims, construed with the utmost of special leniency, Plaintiff has commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, asserting several civil rights violations. (Dkt. No. 1, Attach. 1 [Civil Cover Sheet ].) As summarized by Plaintiff, for example, her claims encompass "tax evasion, fraud, perjury, libel, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, malpractice, negligence, invasion of privacy, violation of unlawful search and seizure, deprivation of due process, and violation of equal rights under the law . . . based upon section U.S. 42 section 1983 and 1876 . . . ."*fn10 (Dkt. No. 1 at 10.)

In support of these claims, Plaintiff asserts factual allegations regarding a broad range of events occurring from the summer of 2000 to the spring of 2001, including (but not limited to) conspiracy, bribery, kidnaping, and perjury by a social worker. (See generally Dkt. No. 1.)

More specifically, Plaintiff alleges that, between approximately August of 2000 and April of 2001, Defendant Bebee, a social worker employed by the Oswego City School District, (1) conspired with six other individuals (including members of "the Baker family," who presumably reside in or near Oswego, New York) to kidnap Plaintiff's daughter on December 22, 2000, from a children's hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida, where she was receiving orthopedic medical treatment from Dr. Sheila Love, and transport her to New York, and then (2) perpetrated a fraud on an Oswego County Court in a proceeding presided over by Judge James McCarthy in April of 2001. (Id.)

Plaintiff further alleges that, in carrying out this conspiracy, Defendant Bebee committed the following acts: (1) she acted at the behest, and/or for the benefit, of Plaintiff's ex-husband (apparently named William Wallace), who purports to be the father of Plaintiff's daughter but who has not proved his paternity; (2) she accepted a bribe of one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) from someone in, or associated with, the Baker family, which she intended to use for the purpose of a transgender operation; (3) she invaded Plaintiff's privacy by relying on a sealed child protection report documenting the orthopedic injury to Plaintiff's daughter, and by causing Plaintiff's home to be searched illegally; (4) she not only kidnaped Plaintiff's daughter but her two other children, whom she smuggled to a third state before bringing them to New York; (5) she falsely accused Plaintiff of child abuse; (6) she helped to somehow restrict ...

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