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Grant v. U.S. Department of Transportation

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 16, 2018

WILLIAM LEE GRANT, II, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          George L. Russell, III, United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff William Lee Grant, II's Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (ECF No. 2). The Motion is ripe for disposition, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2016). For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant Grant's Motion but dismiss his Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and as frivolous.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         On May 4, 2018, Grant, a resident of Illinois, sued Defendants U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. Department of Treasury and filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. (ECF Nos. 1, 2). Because Grant appears indigent, the Court will grant the Motion.

         In his Complaint, Grant alleges that the Illinois Department of Employment Security (“IDES”) denied him federal unemployment benefits “as retaliation for filing a civil rights complaint with the Illinois Department of Transportation, and an ethics complaint with the Office of Executive Inspector General.” (Compl. at 3, ECF No. 1).[2]Grant seeks to hold Defendants liable because they “have failed to investigate, and are liable for the actions of their grantees/Federal Funds Direct Recipients.” (Id. at 2). In an enumerated list of allegations, Grant states, among other things, that “Hillary Rodham Clinton killed Vince Foster”; “George W. Bush was having an affair with Condoleezza ‘Condi' Rice”; and “The House Saxe-Coburg and Gotha stands united.” (Id. at 4). Grant also included a Memorandum and Order from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois ordering him to show cause as to why a case unrelated to this one should not be transferred to the Central District of Illinois. (Id. 1-2). Grant appears to be seeking unpaid federal unemployment benefits. (Id. at 3)

         II. DISCUSSION

         Grant filed his Complaint in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1) (2018), which permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in this Court without prepaying the filing fee. To guard against possible abuses of this privilege, the statute requires dismissal of any claim that is frivolous or malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), (ii).

         A complaint fails to state a claim if it does not contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), or does not “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). For a complaint to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, the plaintiff must “allege facts sufficient to state all the elements of her claim.” Bass v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 324 F.3d 761, 765 (4th Cir. 2003).

         A complaint is frivolous if “it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” McLean v. United States, 566 F.3d 391, 399 (4th Cir. 2009) (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989)). Unlike the failure to state a claim standard, however, in reviewing for frivolity, the Court “is not bound to accept ‘clearly baseless' factual allegations as true.” Kilgore-Bey v. Rudey, No. RDB-18-0007, 2018 WL 1135391, at *2 (D.Md. Feb. 28, 2018). Frivolous claims include “those whose factual allegations are ‘so nutty, ' ‘delusional, ' or ‘wholly fanciful' as to be simply ‘unbelievable.'” McLean, 566 F.3d at 399 (quoting Gladney v. Pendleton Corr. Facility, 302 F.3d 773, 774 (7th Cir. 2002); then quoting Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 29 (1992)).

         The Court is mindful, however, of its obligation to liberally construe self-represented pleadings, such as the instant Complaint. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In evaluating such a Complaint, the factual allegations are assumed to be true. Id. at 93 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56). Nonetheless, liberal construction does not mean that the Court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts that set forth a cognizable claim. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 390-91 (4th Cir. 1990); see also Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985) (stating a district court may not “conjure up questions never squarely presented”).

         In making this determination, “[t]he district court need not look beyond the complaint's allegations . . . . It must hold the pro se complaint to less stringent standards than pleadings drafted by attorneys and must read the complaint liberally.” White v. White, 886 F.2d 721, 722-23 (4th Cir. 1989).

         B. Analysis

         The Court concludes that, even when afforded a liberal construction, the Complaint fails to state a claim and is frivolous.

         To the extent that Grant attempts to bring claims against the U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. Department of Treasury, he pleads that they are liable because they “failed to investigate, and are liable for the actions of their grantees/Federal Funds Direct Recipients.” (Compl. at 2). Except for this single line in the Complaint, Grant makes no other mention of Defendants. He does not specify who their “grantees” or “Federal Funds Direct Recipients” are or what actions of these individuals or ...


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