Campbell v. Berryhill
ORDER instructing the plaintiff to file supplemental financial information within 14 days from the date of this order re 2 MOTION for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis filed by Gerald Carmichael Campbell. Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security substituted for Carolyn W. Colvin. Signed by Magistrate Judge G. R. Smith on 5/30/17. (jrb)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,1 Acting
Commissioner of Social Security,
Scott L. Poff, Clerk
United States District Court
By James Burrell at 1:12 pm, May 30, 2017
Proceeding pro se, Gerald Campbell has filed a complaint asking
the Court to review the denial of his social security disability claim.
Doc. 1. He also seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP). Doc. 2.
Campbell declares that he receives no take-home pay, wages, or
other benefits and does not disclose any rent, mortgage, or homeowners
association fees, yet has monthly cable, phone, and utility bills, as well
as numerous pending medical debts.
raise questions about the thoroughness of the information contained in
Nancy A. Berryhill is now the Acting Commissioner of Social Security, and has
been substituted for Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin as the defendant in this
suit pursuant to Rule 25(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
his IFP application.
Wary of such indigency claims and cognizant of how easily one
may consume a public resource with no financial skin in the game,2 this
Court demands supplemental information from dubious IFP movants.
See, e.g., Kareem v. Home Source Rental, 986 F. Supp. 2d 1345, 1346-48
(S.D. Ga. 2013); Robbins v. Universal Music Group, 2013 WL 1146865
at * 1 (S.D. Ga. Mar. 19, 2013).3 Given the totality of the circumstances,
it will do likewise here.4 Therefore, within 14 days from the date this
“[A] litigant whose filing fees and court costs are assumed by the public . . . lacks
an economic incentive to refrain from filing frivolous, malicious, or repetitive
lawsuits.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989). Courts thus deploy
appropriate scrutiny. See Hobby v. Beneficial Mortg. Co. of Va., 2005 WL 5409003 at
*7 (E.D. Va. June 3, 2005) (debtor denied IFP status where, although she was unable
to find employment as a substitute teacher, she had not shown she is unable to work
and earn income in other ways); Nixon v. United Parcel Serv., 2013 WL 1364107 at
*1-2 (M.D. Ga. Apr. 3, 2013) (court examined income and expenses on long-form IFP
affidavit and determined that plaintiff in fact had the ability to pay the court’s filing
See also Lister v. Dep’t of Treasury, 408 F.3d 1309, 1313 (10th Cir. 2005) (court did
not abuse its discretion by denying IFP status to Social Security benefits claimant
seeking judicial review of Commissioner's benefits denial; claimant, after having been
specifically instructed on how to establish IFP status, failed to fill out proper forms or
otherwise provide court with requisite financial information); Mullins v. Barnhart,
2010 WL 1643581 at * 1 (D. Kan. Mar, 30, 2010) (denying, after scrutinizing IFP
affidavit’s financial data, leave to proceed IFP on financial ability grounds).
Two important points must be underscored. First, proceeding IFP is a privilege,
not an entitlement. See Rowland v. Cal. Men’s Colony, Unit II Men’s Advisory
Council, 506 U.S. 194, 198 (1993). And second, courts have discretion to afford
litigants IFP status; it’s not automatic. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1) (courts “may authorize
the commencement” of IFP actions); Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992); see
also Marceaux v. Democratic Party, 79 F. App’x 185, 186 (6th Cir. 2003) (no abuse of
Order is filed, Campbell shall disclose to the Court the following
A true, correct, and complete statement of all income, Social
Security benefits, or other government assistance he or his
spouse is now receiving;
What he spends each month for basic living expenses such as
food, clothing, shelter, and utilities, and the dollar value of any
public or private assistance he may receive;
Where he gets the money to pay for those expenses (include all
“off-the-books” income, whether in cash or in-kind);
Whether he owns any means of transportation and, if he does
not, whether he has regular access to same, as owned by
another (including a rental company);
Whether he possesses a cellular telephone, TV set, and any
home electronics equipment (include estimated value and
related carrying expenses, such as carrier and subscription
Whether he is the account owner, or has signature power, as to
any accounts with a bank or other financial institution;
Whether he anticipates any future income within the next year;
A list of any other cases showing an indigency-based, filing fee
reduction or waiver granted by any other court (include the full
case name, case number and the name of the court granting
The amount of any equity he has in any real property,
including his present dwelling (the Court notes the HOA fees
discretion when court determined plaintiff could afford to pay the filing fee without
undue hardship because he has no room and board expenses, owns a car, and spends
the $250.00 earned each month selling plasma on completely discretionary items).
Answering these points will better illuminate plaintiff’s true
financial condition.5 The Clerk of Court is DIRECTED to include a
blank IFP application (AO 240 (Rev. 01/09)) when serving him with this
Failure to comply with this directive will result in a
recommendation of dismissal. See Kareem, 2014 WL 24347 at * 1.
While a plaintiff need not be absolutely destitute in order to proceed IFP, Adkins v.
E.I. Dupont de Nemours, 335 U.S. 331, 339 (1948), the fact that financing his own
litigation may cause some difficulty is not sufficient to relieve a plaintiff of his
obligation to pay his own way where it is possible to do so without undue hardship.
Thomas v. Secretary of Dep’t of Veterans Affairs, 358 F. App’x 115, 116 (11th Cir.
2009) (the Court has wide discretion in ruling on IFP application, and should grant
the privilege “sparingly” in civil cases for damages).
When considering a motion filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a), “[t]he only
determination to be made by the court . . . is whether the statements in the affidavit
satisfy the requirement of poverty.” Martinez v. Kristi Kleaners, Inc., 364 F.3d 1305,
1307 (11th Cir. 2004). The Court must compare the applicant’s assets and liabilities
in order to determine whether he has satisfied the poverty requirement. Id. at 130708; Thomas, 358 F. App’x at 116 (district court abused its discretion by failing to
compare plaintiff’s assets against her liabilities to determine whether she satisfied
the poverty requirement).
Plaintiff, who on that form will declare under penalty of perjury that his
representations are “true and correct,” is reminded that lying under oath, be it live
or “on paper,” is a criminally prosecutable offense. See United States v. Roberts, 308
F.3d 1147, 1155 (11th Cir. 2002) (defendant’s falsely subscribing to statement in his
habeas petition that he had not previously filed a § 2255 motion was “material” for
purposes of perjury prosecution; statement fooled the clerk of the court into
accepting the “writ” for filing, and led the magistrate judge to consider its merits
until she discovered that the “writ” was a successive § 2255 motion in disguise);
United States v. Dickerson, CR608-36, doc. 1 (S.D. Ga. Dec. 11, 2008) (§ 2255 movant
indicted for perjury for knowingly lying in his motion seeking collateral relief from
his conviction); id., doc. 47 (guilty verdict); see also Colony Ins. Co. v. 9400 Abercorn,
LLC, 866 F. Supp. 2d 1376, 1378 n. 2 (S.D. Ga. 2012).
SO ORDERED, this
30th day of May, 2017.
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