Puckett v. Wieland
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER granting 13 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. Signed by District Judge J. Thomas Marten on 10/10/2017.Mailed to pro se party Casey Puckett by regular mail. (sz)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF KANSAS
Case No. 17-1072-JTM
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Appearing pro se and stressing his status as “Private UNITED STATES Citizen,”
plaintiff Casey Puckett has sued Richard Wieland, the attorney for the United States
Bankruptcy Trustee, in an effort to prevent the Trustee from enforcing 11 U.S.C. § 110,
which places certain restrictions on non-attorney bankruptcy petition preparers. In
particular, Puckett complains that the Trustee has invoked Section 110 to limit the fees he
charges his customers, as well as the requirement under Subsection 110(c) that he supply
his social security number (SSN) as part of the petition process.
Contemporaneous with his Complaint, Puckett asked for a temporary restraining
order against Wieland to enjoin the enforcement of Section 110. The court denied the
request by separate Order. (Dkt. 5). The matter is now before the court on Wieland’s
Motion to Dismiss. (Dkt. 13). For the reasons provided herein, the court finds that
Wieland’s motion should be granted.
The court accords pro se complaints a more generous standard of review. Hall v.
Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). Still, all plaintiffs are required to demonstrate
a plausible claim for relief based on something more than purely conclusory arguments.
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 663 (2009).
The defendant presents several arguments. First, he contends that, notwithstanding
the assertion in the Complaint that Puckett seeks recovery against the defendant in “his
own individual capacity,” the pleading is devoid of any nonconclusory allegations of an
act taken by Wieland in an individual capacity. Rather, all of the specific conduct
referenced in the Complaint occurred while Wieland was acting in his capacity as attorney
for the Trustee, an employee of the United States. Accordingly, the Trustee argues, he is
entitled to judicial immunity. See Carrillo v. Wieland, 527 Fed.Appx. 754 (10th Cir. 2013)
(applying judicial immunity to bankruptcy trustees). Second, Puckett should be estopped
from his claims under the circumstances of the case.1 Finally, the Trustee argues that in any
According to the narrative set out in Wieland’s motion, the Trustee sought to
determine the reasonableness of Puckett’s fee of $524.99 for the preparation of
bankruptcy schedules in In Re: Christy Dawn Sizemore, Case No. 16-11984 (Bankr.D. Kan.
Dec. 22, 2016). The Trustee asked the court to limit Puckett’s fees pursuant to the
schedule adopted in the Northern District of California, which limits the fee for similar
work to $150. The bankruptcy court conducted a hearing on March 21, 2017, at which
the Trustee announced that Puckett had agreed to a settlement in which he agreed to
limit his fee to $200. The Trustee in turn withdrew his request for disgorgement of
excess fees, and the court approved the agreement on March 30. On March 27, Puckett
filed the present action. (Dkt. 88, ¶¶ 2-6). Puckett does not controvert any of this
synopsis of the events in Sizemore in his response to the motion to dismiss. (Dkt. 15).
event plaintiff’s confused claims of restraint of trade and violation of privacy rights are
Puckett has responded to the motion to dismiss (Dkt. 15), but only by generic
assertions of the value of free trade at the most superficial level.(Dkt. 15, at 2-6). The
plaintiff supplies no argument as to how the defendant may have been acting in an
individual capacity, or why the defendant as an attorney for the United States Trustee
would not be entitled to judicial immunity. The plaintiff also supplies no reason why,
having compromised his fees at $200 before the bankruptcy court, he should be allowed
to now challenge them here in a separate proceeding.
And the plaintiff supplies no authority whatsoever which would support his attack
on Section 110. Freedom to trade and privacy are important but qualified rights. In Section
110, Congress has balanced those rights in order to protect persons appearing before the
bankruptcy courts—persons who have been vulnerable to abusive practices by nonattorney
document preparers. In its Order rejecting Puckett’s request for a temporary restraining
order, the court discussed the history and rationale of the relevant statutory provision:
Enacted as a part of the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1994, Section 110 “was
enacted to ‘address the growing problem of bankruptcy preparers who abuse
the system’ and ‘is intended to police fraud and abuse by such preparers.’”
S.Rep. No. 168, 103d Cong., 1st Sess. 51 (1993). In the view of Congress,
Section 110 was “critically needed to confront the large scale fraudulent
conduct of [bankruptcy petition preparers] who prey on the poor and
unsophisticated.” 140 Cong.Rec. § 14, 597–98 (daily ed. October 7, 1994).
Courts have consistently rejected challenges to the validity of Section 110.
See, e.g., In re Evans, 413 B.R. 315, 322-23 (Bankr. E.D. Va. Aug. 23, 2009)
(“there is no fundamental right under the equal protection clause of the Fifth
Amendment to pursue a calling as a bankruptcy petition preparer”); In re
Rausch, 197 B.R. 109, 116 (Bankr. D. Nev. 1996) (finding “[t]he need for public
access to a document preparer's SSN is compelling, given the serious nature
of the conduct to be prevented and the widespread corruption associated
with document preparers”).
(Dkt. 5, at 2). See also In re Hartman, 208 B.R. 768, 776 (Bankr. D. Mass. 1997) (upholding
Section 110 as a “valid consumer protection measure”); In re Adams, 214 B.R. 212, 216-17
(B.A.P. 9th Cir. 1997) (rejecting privacy claim by a bankruptcy document preparer,
observing that “[i]f [the preparer] does not want to reveal her social security number, she
could decline to prepare bankruptcy petitions”).
The court also noted that Puckett has presented similar arguments in litigation to
this court, and found no support for his arguments. In Puckett v. Somers, No. 15-1030-JTM
(D. Kan. Jan. 30, 2015), the United States Magistrate Judge reviewed the plaintiff’s claims,
substantially similar to those presented here, and recommended dismissal of the action.
After reviewing the relevant standard for review, the Magistrate Judge determined that
has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Plaintiff’s
rambling Complaint vaguely alleges violations of 42 U.S.C. Section § 1983,
state and federal antitrust laws, the “1890 Sherman Act,” and “our right to
procedural due process under the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments
. . . .” Plaintiff contends these violations result from alleged “price fixing” by
the named federal government Defendants relating to the document “typing
service” Plaintiff provides for pro se individuals. These allegations do not,
on their face, state a valid claim for relief under federal law.
It is not possible to discern a legally-cognizable cause of action from
Plaintiff’s Complaint [which] challenges the United States Bankruptcy
Court’s action, apparently taken upon motion from the United States Trustee,
reducing his document preparation fee charged to Debtors in a Bankruptcy
case. Such a challenge should have been made by proper appeal of that
Court’s order, and is not actionable as a separate action.... Plaintiff has stated
no action which would support this Court’s interference with the case
pending in the state court. As such, Plaintiff has not stated a claim upon
which relief may be granted and this Court RECOMMENDS that his case be
Id. (Dkt. 8, at 8-9) (record citation omitted). The district court was unable to explicitly grant
the recommended dismissal because Puckett voluntarily dismissed the action after the
Report and Recommendation was filed, but the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation in the
earlier case was correct.
Section 110 is a valid consumer protection measure, and its enforcement violates no
right of the plaintiff.
IT IS ACCORDINGLY ORDERED this 10th day of October, 2017, that the defendant’s
Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. 13) is hereby granted.
___s/ J. Thomas Marten______
J. THOMAS MARTEN, JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?