Heller v. American Public University Systems et al
Memorandum Opinion and Order granting Plaintiff's (re 2 ) Motion to proceed in forma pauperis and dismissing this action under section 1915(e). Further, 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. Signed by Judge Solomon Oliver, Jr on 6/27/2014. (D,M)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
DAWN M. HELLER,
AMERICAN PUBLIC UNIVERSITY SYSTEMS, )
CASE NO. 5:14 CV 523
JUDGE SOLOMON OLIVER, JR.
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION
On March 7, 2014, plaintiff pro se Dawn M. Heller filed this in forma pauperis action
against the following defendants: American Public University Systems, the Higher Learning
Commission, Sallie Mae-Department of Education, and “John Doe Subsidiaries, Affiliates,
Assigns, Accreditation Boards, Granting Authorities under the Department of Justice.” Plaintiff
bases the court’s jurisdiction on the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. § 3729, asserting “theft,
fraudulent accounting practices, and other inter alia causes.” She appears to allege in the very
brief complaint that she was enrolled in a class through American Public University Systems,
incurred tuition fees, but did not receive valuable educational services.
Although pro se pleadings are liberally construed, Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364,
365 (1982) (per curiam), the district court is required to dismiss an 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 Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319 (1989); Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470 (6th
A cause of action fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted when it lacks
“plausibility in the complaint.” Bell At. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 564 (2007). A
pleading must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009). The factual allegations in the
pleading must be sufficient to raise the right to relief above the speculative level on the
assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The
plaintiff is not required to include detailed factual allegations, but must provide more than “an
unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (2009). A
pleading that offers legal conclusions or a simple recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not meet this pleading standard. Id.
The FCA imposes liability on any person who presents a false or fraudulent claim for
payment to the government. 31 U.S.C. § 3729(a)(1). Private individuals may bring civil actions
in the government's name, referred to as qui tam actions, and collect a portion of any amount
recovered. 31 U.S.C. § 3730(b)(1). The FCA creates liability for presenting a false “claim,”
defined as “any request or demand ... for money or property which is made to a contractor,
grantee, or other recipient if the United States Government provides any portion of the money or
property which is requested or demanded....” 31 U.S.C. § 3729(c) (2006).
As an initial matter, it is doubtful that a pro se litigant may even bring a False Claims Act
action on behalf of the United States. See, e.g., Jones v. Jindal, 409 F. App'x 356 (D.C.Cir.2011)
(per curiam). Moreover, even construing the complaint liberally in a light most favorable to the
An in forma pauperis claim may be dismissed sua sponte, without prior notice to the
plaintiff and without service of process on the defendant, if the court explicitly states that
it is invoking section 1915(e) [formerly 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d)] and is dismissing the claim
for one of the reasons set forth in the statute. Chase Manhattan Mortg. Corp. v. Smith,
507 F.3d 910, 915 (6th Cir. 2007); Gibson v. R.G. Smith Co., 915 F.2d 260, 261 (6th Cir.
1990); Harris v. Johnson, 784 F.2d 222, 224 (6th Cir. 1986).
plaintiff, Brand v. Motley, 526 F.3d 921, 924 (6th Cir. 2008), it does not contain allegations
reasonably suggesting a valid FCA claim against the named defendants. See, Lillard v. Shelby
County Bd. of Educ,, 76 F.3d 716 (6th Cir. 1996)(court not required to accept summary
allegations or unwarranted legal conclusions in determining whether complaint states a claim for
Accordingly, the request to proceed in forma pauperis is granted and this action is
dismissed under section 1915(e). Further, 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.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
/s/ SOLOMON OLIVER, JR.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
June 27, 2014
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