United States District Court, D. Maryland
L. RUSSELL, III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff Susan Nwoga's
Complaint against Defendants Richard Karceski, Esq., Howard
Shulman, Esq. and their respective law firms, Silverman,
Thompson, Slutkin & White (“Silverman
Thompson”) and Wright, Constable & Skeen, LLP
(“Wright Constable”) (ECF No. 1). Also pending
before the Court is Nwoga's Motion for Leave to Proceed
in Forma Pauperis (ECF No. 2). For the reasons stated below,
the Court will grant the Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma
Pauperis and dismiss the Complaint for lack of subject matter
October 2, 2019, Nwoga, proceeding pro se, brought suit
against her former legal counsel, Karceski and Shulman, as
well as their respective law firms, Silverman Thompson and
Wright Constable, seeking damages in the amount of $40, 000,
000 for theft by deception, larceny, receipt of stolen
property, professional misconduct, and violation of the Fair
Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692, et
seq. (2018) (“FDCPA”). (Compl. at 4, ECF No.
to the Complaint, Nwoga retained Karceski to defend her
against multiple criminal charges arising from the operation
of her pharmacy in Baltimore, Maryland. (Id. at 2).
Nwoga claims that Karceski did not inform her until just days
before the start of her criminal trial that another attorney
at Silverman Thompson was representing Brent Matthews, a
witness for the prosecution in her case, in a separate
lawsuit against the state for wrongful imprisonment.
(Id. at 1-2). After consultation with Shulman, Nwoga
signed a waiver and agreed to continued representation by
Karceski notwithstanding the conflict of interest.
(Id. at 2). Nwoga further alleges that Karceski did
not provide her with a “robust” defense against
the charges, failed to secure an interpreter to assist in
communicating clearly her testimony during trial, and used
the research from her case to benefit Matthews'
case. (Id. at 3-5). Nwoga was
ultimately found guilty and sentenced to five years of
imprisonment. (Id. at 2).
argues that both Shulman and Karceski were aware of the
conflict of interest at the outset of the representation and,
as a result, knew that Karceski could not adequately
represent Nwoga. (Id. at 2). Therefore, Nwoga claims
both attorneys tricked her into giving them $135, 000 in
legal fees. (Id. at 5).
Standard of Review
filed her Complaint in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915 (2018), which permits an indigent litigant to
commence an action in this Court without prepaying the filing
fee. Section 1915(e)(2) “‘is designed largely to
discourage the filing of, and waste of judicial and private
resources upon, baseless lawsuits that paying litigants
generally do not initiate because of the costs of bringing
suit.” McLean v. United States, 566 F.3d 391,
399 (4th Cir. 2009) (quoting Neitzke v. Williams,
490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989). The Court must sua sponte dismiss
claims filed in forma pauperis under Section 1915(e)(2) if
the action is frivolous or malicious or fails to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted. Michau v.
Charleston Cty., 434 F.3d 725, 728 (4th Cir. 2005).
Although the word “prisoner” is occasionally used
in 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the court must screen any complaint
filed by a plaintiff, whether a prisoner or not, when he or
she files in forma pauperis. See id. (affirming the
district court's dismissal of non-prisoner's
complaint, filed in forma pauperis, pursuant to Section
1915(e)(2) because the section “governs [in forma
pauperis] filings in addition to complaints filed by
a complaint states a claim upon which relief can be granted
under Section 1915(e)(2) is determined by the familiar
standard for a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. De'Lonta v.
Angelone, 330 F.3d 630, 633 (4th Cir. 2003); Sumner
v. Tucker, 9 F.Supp.2d 641, 642 (E.D.Va. 1998). “A
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency
of a complaint; importantly, it does not resolve contests
surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the
applicability of defenses.” Republican Party of
N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir.1992) (citing
5A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal
Practice and Procedure § 1356 (1990)).
Court is mindful of its obligation to liberally construe
self-represented pleadings. See Erickson v. Pardus,
551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In considering a motion to dismiss
for failure to state a claim, a plaintiff's well-pleaded
allegations are taken as true and the complaint is viewed in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Mylan Labs.,
Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993);
see also Martin, 980 F.2d at 952. Nonetheless,
liberal construction does not mean that this Court can ignore
a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts which set
forth a cognizable claim. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (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”).
contends that the FDCPA is applicable here because Silverman
Thompson and Wright Constable extended her credit to pay the
$135, 000 in legal fees over time. The Court disagrees.
speaking, the FDCPA is meant to “protect consumers from
abusive and deceptive practices by debt collectors.”
Stewart v. Bierman, 859 F.Supp.2d 754, 759 (D.Md.
2012). Further, 15 U.S.C. § 1692e (2018) “forbids
the use of any false, deceptive, or misleading representation
or means in debt collection and provides a non-exhaustive
list of prohibited conduct.” Id. To state a
claim under the FDCPA, a plaintiff must allege “(1) [he
or she] has been the object of collection activity arising
from consumer debt, (2) the defendant is a debt collector as
defined by the FDCPA, and (3) the defendant has engaged in an
act or omission prohibited by the FDCPA.” Id.
at 759-60. Under 15 U.S.C. § 1692a(6), a “debt
collector” is “any person who uses any
instrumentality of interstate commerce . . . in any business
the principal purpose of which is the collection of any
debts, or who regularly collects or attempts to collect,