Walker v. Chapdelaine et al
ORDER denying 14 MOTION to Reopen Case, 17 MOTION to Compel, and 18 MOTION for Default; denying as moot 15 MOTION for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. Signed by Judge Stefan R. Underhill on 08/24/2017. (Jamieson, K)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
No. 3:16-cv-01404 (SRU)
WARDEN CHAPDELAINE, et al.,
RULING ON PENDING MOTIONS
The plaintiff, Darnell Walker, is an inmate currently incarcerated at the MacDougallWalker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Connecticut. On September 12, 2016, I vacated a
prior order granting Walker’s application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis because he had
included false statements in the application pertaining to his income during the twelve month
period prior to filing this action. See Order, Doc. No. 7. Specifically, I noted that the ledger
statement from Walker’s prisoner account for the period of February 10, 2016 to August 10,
2016 reflected deposits to the account of $50.00 or more at least once a month beginning on
March 24, 2016. See Doc. No. 2-1. In addition, on January 13, 2016, Walker reached an
agreement with the defendants in four cases filed in this court to settle those cases for a sum of
$2,800.00. See Settlement Agreement, Doc. No. 124, Walker v. Quiros, No. 3:11-cv-00082
(MPS) (D. Conn.). Walker neglected to list any of the deposits to his account or to mention the
settlement agreement or the amount due to him pursuant to that agreement in his application for
leave to proceed in forma pauperis.
Because Walker’s allegation of indigence was untrue and he had not demonstrated that he
was unable to pay the $400.00 filing fee, I denied the application for leave to proceed in forma
pauperis and directed Walker to pay the filing fee. In response to that order, Walker filed a
declaration—which the Clerk docketed as a motion for reconsideration, Doc. No. 8—a motion
for judgment on the pleadings, Doc. No. 9, and a new application to proceed in forma pauperis,
Doc. No. 10. I construed the latter as a motion for reconsideration of my ruling denying Walker’s
application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis.
In reviewing both motions for reconsideration, I considered Walker’s explanation
regarding the amount of money he allegedly received from the settlement of a prior case and his
apology for the misunderstanding regarding the deposits of money to his inmate account from
family members. See Ruling & Order, Doc. No. 12, at 2–3. I noted, however, that Walker had
still not explained why he neglected to mention the gifts from his family in his application to
proceed in forma pauperis. See id. Because Walker had not identified any information that I had
overlooked in denying his application to proceed in forma pauperis, I denied the motions for
reconsideration, denied the new application to proceed in forma pauperis and dismissed the case
without prejudice. See id.
Walker has now filed a motion to reopen, Doc. No. 14, a new application to proceed in
forma pauperis, Doc. No. 15, a motion to compel, Doc. No. 17, and a motion for default, Doc.
No. 18. For the reasons set forth below, I deny Walker’s motions.
It is well settled that the decision to proceed in forma pauperis in civil cases is committed
to the sound discretion of the district court. See Rowland v. Cal. Men’s Colony, Unit II Men’s
Advisory Council, 506 U.S. 194, 217–18 (1993); Fridman v. City of New York, 195 F. Supp. 2d
534, 536 (S.D.N.Y. 2002). A litigant need not be “absolutely destitute” in order to qualify for in
forma pauperis status. Adkins v. E.I. Dupont de Nemours & Co., 335 U.S. 331, 339 (1948). The
court should consider whether the burden of paying the fees for filing and service would hamper
the litigant’s ability to obtain the “necessities of life” or force him to abandon the action. See id.;
Potnick v. E. State Hosp., 701 F.2d 243, 244 (2d Cir. 1983) (per curiam).
In his motion to reopen, Walker explains that he only received $300.00 of the $2,800.00
settlement amount. See Mot. Reopen, Doc. No. 14, at 2. He asserts that he did not consider the
rest of the settlement amount as having been received by him because he signed the amount over
to his brother via his attorney, Thomas Labelle. See id. Walker claims that he has made
numerous attempts to contact Attorney Labelle in order to provide verification that he in fact
signed over $2,500.00 of the settlement to his brother, but has been unable to reach him. See id.
Walker does not indicate that he attempted to contact his brother to obtain verification that a
portion of the settlement proceeds were in fact disbursed to his brother. Thus, Walker has not
provided any evidence of the transaction involving the disposition of the settlement proceeds.
Walker also acknowledges that he had received monetary gifts from his sister and mother
during the twelve month period prior to filing this action. See id. at 1. He claims that he did not
think it was relevant to answer the questions on the application to proceed in forma pauperis
truthfully and acknowledge his receipt of these gifts or the amount that he received from the
settlement. See id. He states that the amounts were listed in his inmate account ledger sheet. He
claims that he now sees the relevance of acknowledging the gift and settlement amounts and
apologizes for his “miscomprehension of it.” Id. at 2.
In Vann v. Commissioner of New York City Department of Correction, 496 F. App’x 113
(2d Cir. 2012) (summary order), the Second Circuit considered a district court’s dismissal of an
action with prejudice for plaintiff’s false statements in his application to proceed in forma
pauperis. In his application, Vann had stated that he had only received $30.00 in the twelve
months prior to filing the action. See id. at 115. In fact, Vann had received a total of $2,059.10 in
deposits to his inmate account during the twelve-month period. See id. at 116. The district court
found that Vann’s allegation of poverty was untrue because he had “intentionally omitted” the
deposits from the application to proceed in forma pauperis. See id.
The Second Circuit observed that Van was “an experienced litigator with extensive
knowledge and familiarity with the in forma pauperis system.” See id. at 116. Furthermore, the
declaration filed in support of Vann’s in forma pauperis application Vann clearly stated that “if
[Vann] gave a ‘false answer to any questions in [the] declaration,’ [then] ‘the [c]ourt shall
dismiss th[e] case.’” See id. at 115. Finally, when provided with an opportunity to explain his
inaccurate statements, “Vann failed to provide a credible justification for the omission.” See id.
at 116. The Second Circuit held that “the record clearly support[ed] the [d]istrict [c]ourt’s
finding” that Vann’s allegation of poverty was untrue. Id. at 115. “Given the falsity of Vann’s
application and his declarations, Vann’s bad faith . . . evidenced by his litigation experience and
extensive familiarity of the in forma pauperis process, and Vann’s failure to credibly explain or
correct his declarations when given an opportunity to do so,” the Second Circuit affirmed the
dismissal of Vann’s complaint with prejudice. Id. at 116.
Walker, like Vann, is “an experienced litigator . . . familiar with the in forma pauperis
system.” See id. Over the past eleven years, along with the present case, Walker has sought leave
to proceed in forma pauperis in seven other cases filed in this court. See Walker v. Connecticut,
No. 3:06-cv-00165 (SRU) (D. Conn.); Walker v. Prior, No. 3:06-cv-00860 (JCH) (D. Conn.);
Walker v. Quiros, No. 3:11-cv-00082 (MPS) (D. Conn.); Walker v. Sharp, 3:13-cv-00040 (MPS)
(D. Conn.); Walker v. Dzurenda, No. 3:15-cv-01212 (MPS) (D. Conn.); Walker v. Graham, No.
3:15-cv-01330 (MPS) (D. Conn.); Walker v. Semple, 3:16-cv-01002 (DJS) (D. Conn.).
In light of that experience, I do not find credible Walker’s explanation for failing to
acknowledge and list the settlement award or the gifts he regularly received from his family.
Walker states that the deposits to his account during the twelve months prior to filing this action
did not put him in a position to pay the filing fee, and that he assumed the deposits could be
verified in his six-month account statement. In fact, during the eight months prior to filing this
action, $1,087.55 was deposited to the Walker’s inmate account. See Application to Proceed In
Forma Pauperis, Doc. No. 2-1; Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis, Doc. No. 2-1,
Walker v. Semple, No. 16-cv-01002 (DJS) (D. Conn. June 23, 2016). Whether or not Walker had
spent that money for commissary purchases or gifted some of it to a relative, he still was required
to accurately and truthfully answer the questions on the application to proceed in forma pauperis.
Moreover, Walker does not adequately address the disposition of settlement proceeds out
of which he clearly could have paid the $400.00 filing fee to commence this action. Even if
Walker had provided evidence that he signed a portion of the settlement proceeds over to his
brother, he has not shown that he could not have accessed the funds through his brother in order
to pay the filing fee.
Nor can I credit Walker’s statement that he did not think the answers to the questions on
the in forma pauperis application were relevant. Previously, in an application to proceed in forma
pauperis filed in 2013, Walker recognized that it was relevant to list a settlement amount that he
had received in connection with a car accident. See Renewed Mot. to Proceed In Forma
Pauperis, Doc. No. 8, at 1, Walker v. Sharp, No. 3:13-cv-00040 (MPS) (D. Conn. July 10, 2013).
The application to proceed in forma pauperis form used by Walker in this action very
clearly states that he must “[a]nswer every question truthfully and accurately,” and that he “may
be prosecuted for perjury if [he] lie[s] on th[e] application.” See Application to Proceed In Forma
Pauperis, Doc. No. 2, at 2. After answering questions about income and expenses, an applicant
must complete a “DECLARATION UNDER PENALTY OF PERJURY.” See id. at 3. Walker
signed the application and thus “declare[d] under penalty of perjury that he information [he]
ha[d] provided . . . [was] true and correct.” See id.
As an experienced litigator in federal court, Walker was familiar with the requirements of
filing an action in forma pauperis and understood his obligation to answer the questions in the
application truthfully. Cf. Vann, 496 F. App’x at 116. Although Walker now concedes that he did
receive monetary gifts from relatives and settlement proceeds in the twelve months prior to filing
the action, he has not adequately explained his failure to truthfully and accurately answer the
questions in the application initially submitted to the court. I conclude that Walker’s omissions
regarding his income were not minor misrepresentations made in good faith. See id. at 116.
Accordingly, I adhere to my decision that Walker’s allegation of poverty was untrue, and that the
denial of his application to proceed in forma pauperis and dismissal of his case were not
erroneous. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(A) (“[T]he court shall dismiss the case at any time, if the
court determines that . . . the allegation of poverty is untrue . . . .”).
Therefore, I deny Walker’s motion to reopen, his motion to compel, and his motion to
default. I deny his renewed application to proceed in forma pauperis as moot.
Walker’s Motion to Reopen [Doc. No. 14], his Motion to Compel [Doc. No. 17], and his
Motion for Default [Doc. No. 18] are DENIED. Walker’s renewed Application to Proceed In
Forma Pauperis [Doc. No. 15] is DENIED as moot. Any appeal of this order would not be taken
in good faith. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3). Walker is not precluded from initiating a new action
by filing a complaint accompanied by either an accurate and truthful application to proceed in
forma pauperis or the required filing fee.
Dated at Bridgeport, Connecticut this 24th day of August 2017.
/s/ STEFAN R. UNDERHILL
Stefan R. Underhill
United States District Judge
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