St. John v. U.S. Department of Justice et al
Opinion & Order signed by Judge James S. Gwin on 7/31/17 granting plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis and dismissing this action under 28 U.S.C. §1915(e). The Court certifies, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3), that an appeal from this decision could not be taken in good faith. (Related Docs. 1 and 2 ) (D,MA)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
LARS ST. JOHN,
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, et al., :
CASE NO. 1:17-CV-0736
OPINION & ORDER
[Resolving Doc. No. 1]
JAMES S. GWIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE:
Pro se Plaintiff Lars St. John filed this action against the United States Justice
Department, Northern District of Ohio Marshal Peter Elliott, and the United States Marshals.
He alleges he was denied access to the Carl B. Stokes United States Courthouse because he
refused to submit to a search and remove his hooded jacket. He claims the Defendants
discriminated against him on the basis of race and gender in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §
2000e, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and Ohio Revised Code § 4112-5(1). Plaintiff seeks monetary
damages in the amount of $10,000,000.00.
Plaintiff also filed an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (Doc. No. 2). That
Application is granted.
Plaintiff contends he attempted to enter the Carl B. Stokes Federal Courthouse on April
7, 2016. He indicates he walked through the metal detector and did not hear an alarm. The
court security officer refused him entry into the building and instead asked him to go back
through the metal detector after removing his hooded jacket. Plaintiff refused and left the
building. He contends a Caucasian man walked through the metal detector causing the alarm to
sound. That man was permitted to continue into the court because he was an employee.
Plaintiff saw Elliott as he was leaving the courthouse and explained what had just
transpired. The Marshal spoke with the court security officers and then told Plaintiff he would
have to comply with the officers’ instructions.
Plaintiff returned to the courthouse the following day with a different hooded jacket. He
was again denied entry unless he removed the jacket. Plaintiff alleges the Defendants
discriminated against him entitling him to monetary damages under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §
2000e, 42 U.S.C. § 1981.
II. Legal Standard
Although the Court does not hold pro se pleadings to the same standard as those filed by
attorneys, the Court is required to dismiss an in forma pauperis action under 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)
if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or if it lacks an arguable basis in law
or fact.1 A claim lacks an arguable basis in law or fact when it is based on an unquestionably
meritless legal theory or when the factual allegations are clearly baseless.2 A cause of action
fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted when it does not contain enough facts to
suggest Plaintiff has a plausible claim that entitles him to the relief he seeks.3 This does not
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319 (1989);
Sistrunk v. City of Strongsville, 99 F.3d 194, 197 (6th Cir. 1996); Lawler v. Marshall, 898 F.2d
1196 (6th Cir. 1990).
Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009).
mean a Plaintiff is required to allege the facts of his Complaint in great detail, but he still must
provide more than “an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.”4 A
Complaint that offers only legal conclusions or a simple listing of the elements of a cause of
action will not meet this standard.5 When reviewing the Complaint under § 1915(e), the Court
must read it in a way that is the most favorable to the Plaintiff.6
As an initial matter, the United States, as a sovereign, is immune from suit unless it
explicitly waives its immunity.7 The protection of sovereign immunity extends to federal
officers acting in their official capacities and the bar of sovereign immunity cannot be avoided
by merely suing officers and employees of the United States.8 Because sovereign immunity
raises a jurisdictional bar to suit, absent an explicit waiver of sovereign immunity, suits against
the government or its officials must be dismissed.9
Plaintiff cites two statutes as the basis for relief against the Defendants. The first of
these statutes is Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, which governs discrimination in employment.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
Bibbo v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 151 F.3d 559, 561 (6th Cir. 1998).
Federal Deposit Ins. Corp. v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 475 (1994); United States v. Mitchell,
445 U.S. 535, 538 (1980); Munaco v. United States, 522 F.3d 651, 652-53 (6th Cir. 2008); Blakely
v. United States, 276 F.3d 853, 870 (6th Cir. 2002).
Martin v. Colvin, No. 3:14 0209, 2014 WL 5607028, at *5-8 (M.D. Tenn. Nov. 4,
2014)(citing Gilbert v. DaGrossa, 756 F.2d 1455, 1458 (9th Cir.1985)).
Loeffler v. Frank, 486 U.S. 549, 554 (1988); Reetz v. United States, 224 F.3d 794, 795 (6th
Plaintiff was not employed by the federal government so that statute is not applicable here. The
other statute is 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Congress did not waive the sovereign immunity of the United
States for § 1981 claims.10
It is possible Plaintiff is attempting to bring a Bivens11 claim against the Defendants for
denial of equal protection.12 He, however, still fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted. First, a Bivens claim can only be brought against individual government defendants in
their individual capacities. It cannot be brought against the United States government or its
agencies.13 Plaintiff cannot bring a Bivens claim against the Department of Justice or the United
While Plaintiff may be able to bring a Bivens claim against Elliott, he must allege that
Elliott acted with the intent to deprive him of equal protection.14 The Equal Protection Clause
prohibits discrimination by government actors which either burdens a fundamental right, targets
a suspect class, or intentionally treats one differently than others similarly situated without any
Selden v. United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, 785 F.2d 152 (6th
Cir.1986)(§§ 1981 and 1982 did not constitute a waiver of the sovereign immunity of the United
States); Omeli v. National Council of Senior Citizens, 2001 WL 700849 (6th Cir. 2001)(Congress
did not waive the sovereign immunity of the United States by enacting §§ 1981 and 1985).
Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971).
Davis v. Passman, 442 U.S. 228, 234-36 (1979)(recognizing an equal protection claim under
Correctional Services Corporation v. Malesko, 534 U.S. 61, 70 (2001). See Fed. Deposit
Ins. Corp. v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 484-86 (1994).
See Connor v. Helo, No. 85-5215, 1987 U.S.App. LEXIS 13020, at *7, 1987 WL 44930 (6th
Cir. Oct. 2, 1987)
rational basis for the difference.15 The first thing Plaintiff must allege to state an equal
protection claim is disparate treatment.16 In this case, Plaintiff does not allege facts suggesting
he was treated differently than any other member of the general public entering the building.
He contends was treated differently than a court employee, but Plaintiff is not similarly situated
to a court employee. He has not stated a claim for discrimination.
Accordingly, Plaintiff’s Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (Doc. No. 2) is
granted and this action is dismissed under 28 U.S.C. §1915(e). The Court certifies, pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3), that an appeal from this decision could not be taken in good faith.17
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: July 31, 2017
James S. Gwin
JAMES S. GWIN
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Rondigo, L.L.C. v. Township of Richmond, 641 F.3d 673, 681-82 (6th Cir. 2011); Radvansky
v. City of Olmsted Falls, 395 F.3d 291, 312 (6th Cir. 2005).
Scarbrough v. Morgan Cnty. Bd. of Educ., 470 F.3d 250, 260 (6th Cir. 2006).
28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3) provides:
An appeal may not be taken in forma pauperis if the trial court certifies that it is not
taken in good faith.
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