Griffin v. Salt Lake City Social Security Office et al
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS AND 1915 SCREENING FOR DISMISSAL. Signed by Chief Judge Roberto A. Lange on 11/14/2023. (SLT) Modified on 11/14/2023 delivered to plaintiff via usps (SLT).
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF SOUTH DAKOTA
WILLIE R. GRIFFIN,
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING
PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO
PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS AND
SALT LAKE CITY SOCIAL SECURITY
1915 SCREENING FOR DISMISSAL
OFFICE; PAROLE OFFICER FBI AGENT
SECURITY; POLICE; ALHAMBRA
SECURITY OFFICE; IDAHO DIRECT
EXPRESSION SOCIAL SECURITY OFFICE,
Plaintiff Willie R. Griffin filed a pro se lawsuit. Doc. 1 . Griffin moves for leave to proceed
in forma pauperis and has filed a financial affidavit. Doc. 4. Griffin also filed a motion for
polygraph. Doc. 2.
I. Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis
A federal court may authorize the commencement of any lawsuit without prepayment of
fees when an applicant submits an affidavit stating he or she is unable to pay the costs of the
lawsuit. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(l). "[I]n forma pauperis status does not require a litigant to
demonstrate absolute destitution." Lee v. McDonald's Corp., 231 F.3d 456, 459 (8th Cir. 2000).
But in forma pauperis status is a privilege, not a right. Williams v. McKenzie, 834 F.2d 152, 154
(8th Cir. 1987). Determining whether an applicant is sufficiently impoverished to qualify to
proceed in forma pauperis under § 1915 is committed to the sound discretion of the district court.
Cross v. Gen. Motors Corp., 721 F.2d 1152, 1157 (8th Cir. 1983). After review of Griffin's
financial affidavit, this Court finds that he has insufficient funds to pay the filing fee. Thus,
Griffin's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Doc. 4, is granted. This Court now screens
Griffin's complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).
II. 1915 Screening
A. Factual Background
Griffin alleges that this Court has federal question jurisdiction over the claims in his
complaint and that the basis is "law." Doc. 1 at 6. Griffin claims to be an attorney self-employed
through the Supreme Court of the United States. Id, at 11; Doc. 1-1 at 3, 7; Doc. 6 at 2. Griffin
requests relief of two-trillion dollars against "the state of Utah, and the state of Las Angeles . . .
[f]or fraud, and knowing the New Law that pass 30 year ago" about using expired driver's licenses
for Social Security identification. Doc 1-1 at 1 (spelling errors in original quotation). Griffin
claims that Direct Express and Social Security should have honored his expired driver's license
with his Social Security card as valid identification. Id. at 1-2. He claims that he has been denied
money paid to him by Social Security and that Social Security no longer pays his healthcare. Id.
at 1. He alleges that Defendants committed fraud and that he is entitled to money damages for his
full retirement benefit, money, pension, and health insurance. Id.
Griffin also asserts that he is being investigated by "micphone men." Id. at 2. He alleges
that Direct Express is "a fraud, and a, mudder and is in conspirecy, and spire with the micphone
men who claim to be the FBi agene, and the security, and Police who is a civi Right marcher and
is a forger lender[.]" Id. at 2-3, 5 (spelling errors in original quotation). Griffin alleges that the
"micphone men" give a "talk on what [he is] do are thinking eveiy moring, and night." Id. at 3
(spelling errors in original quotation). He alleges that confidential information about him has been
given to the community to prevent him from suing the state. Id.
Griffin claims to have been harassed by plaza security in yellow uniforms because he
carried a walking stick on the property. Id. He alleges that he is half blind and that the security
staffs' actions are harassment. Id, Griffin claims that at the "Weisand Center" he is unable to use
the locker room, which Griffin alleges is "racial, and criminating[.]" Id. at 4. Griffin also alleges
facts about an airline ticket that he purchased but did not use, and he claims that funds for the ticket
were sent back to his Direct Express card. Id. at 5.
Griffin does not specify in which capacity he sues the defendants; thus, he sues the
defendants in only their official capacities. Doc. 1 at 4-5; Egerdahl v. Hibbing Cmty. Coll., 72
F.3d 615, 619 (8th Cir. 1995). Griffin is "suing for $2 Trillion Dollar the city, and state. Salt Lake
City, and State of Utah. and the City of LA, and the State of California and the Id Dritect express.
Thoe Police Department in Salt Lake City ut. The micphone men of LA Ca, and Salt lake social
security office, and security officer, and Police deportment salt lack city conspirecy and spire."
Doc. l-l at 6 (spelling errors in original quotation). He alleges the following claims: "For Temp
of mudder, and Robbeiy, slander, orginize craime Raceal criminating and fraud, and fraudulent
and for using half the Law which is fraud interfeaing with the Law, and interfear with personel
Business and affair refuse to sent money that not thair rightfully, adding and bating[.]" Id. (spelling
errors in original quotation). Griffin asks the court to "Lock [the Defendants] in a federal
prisonment for 80 year to be tarcher for tring Kill Mr Willie R Griffin in the Death pented in the
electric chair." Id. (spelling errors in original quotation). He also asks by motion that this Court
order an unspecified individual to write back to him. Id. at 5.
B. Legal Standard
A court when screening under § 1915 must assume as true all facts well pleaded in the
complaint. Est. ofRosenberg v. Crandell, 56 F.3d 35, 36 (8th Cir. 1995). Pro se and civil rights
complaints must be liberally construed. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam)
(citation omitted); Bediako v. Stein Mart. Inc., 354 F.3d 835, 839 (8th Cir. 2004) (citation omitted).
Even with this construction, "a pro se complaint must contain specific facts supporting its
conclusions." Martin v. Sareent. 780 F.2d 1334. 1337 C8th Cir. 1985) fcitation omitted); see also
Ellis v. City of Minneapolis, 518 F. App'x 502, 504 (8th Cir. 2013) (per curiam) (citation omitted).
Civil rights complaints cannot be merely conclusory. Davis v. Hall, 992 F.2d 151, 152 (8th Cir.
1993) (per curiam) (citation omitted); Parker v. Porter, 221 F. App'x 481, 482 (8th Cir. 2007) (per
curiam) (citations omitted).
A complaint "does not need detailed factual allegations . . . [but] requires more than labels
and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do[.]" Bell
Ati. Corp. v. Twomblv, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citation omitted). If a complaint does
not contain these bare essentials, dismissal is appropriate. See Beavers v. Lockhart, 755 F.2d 657,
663-64 (8th Cir. 1985). Twombly requires that a complaint's "[fjactual allegations must be
enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations
in the complaint are true[.]" 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citation omitted); see also Abdullah v.
Minnesota, 261 F. App'x 926, 927 (8th Cir. 2008) (per curiam) (noting that a complaint "must
contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all material elements necessary to sustain
recovery under some viable legal theory" (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 553-63)). Further, "a
well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of the facts
alleged is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely." Braden v. Wal-Mart
Stores, Inc., 588 F.3d 585, 594 f8th Cir. 2009) finternal quotation omitted) ('quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 556).
When a district court determines a plaintiff is financially eligible to proceed in forma
pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a), the court must then determine whether the complaint should
be dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Martin-Trisona v. Stewart, 691 F.2d 856, 857 (8th
Cir. 1982); see also Key v. Does, 217 F. Supp. 3d 1006, 1007 (E.D. Ark. 2016). The court must
dismiss claims if they "(i) [are] frivolous or malicious; (ii) fail[ ] to state a claim on which relief
may be granted; or (iii) seek[ ] monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such
relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
C. Legal Analysis
Griffin's pro se lawsuit cannot survive screening under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 because it fails
to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Griffin's claims appear to be irrational or
incomprehensible and thus subject to dismissal on screening. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25,
32 (1992). "Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only 'a short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice
of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests[.]' " Twombly, 550 U.S. at 545. Even
liberally construing Griffin's claim, his complaint is not sufficiently clear to provide the defendants
fair notice of what claims he alleges and the grounds upon which they rest.
1. Claims Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
Liberally construed, Griffin's complaint asks this Court to review the practices of Salt Lake
City Social Security Office and Idaho Direct Expression Social Security Office in not permitting
his expired driver's license to serve as a valid form of identification. "Federal courts have
jurisdiction over social security claims under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), which permits judicial review of
a final decision of the social security commissioner." Sipp v. Astrue, 641 F.3d 975, 979 (8th Cir.
2011). Review is permitted "after any final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security made
after a hearing to which he was a party" if commenced within sixty days after mailing of notice of
the decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Claims brought under this section must be brought in the district
where the plaintiff resides or has his principal place of business, or if he does not have either in a
district then in the District of Columbia. Id. "The commissioner's decision is not final unless the
claimant has presented a claim for benefits to the commissioner and has exhausted the prescribed
administrative remedies before seeking judicial review." Sipp, 641 F.3d at 979-80 (citing
Schoolcraft v. Sullivan, 971 F.2d 81, 84-85 (8th Cir. 1992)).
Here, Griffin has not alleged that he had a hearing or that a final decision was rendered by
the Social Security Commissioner. See generally Doc. 1-1. Because Griffin has not provided any
evidence showing that the Social Security Commissioner rendered a final decision on denial of
Griffin's benefits. Griffin has not stated a claim that could survive § 1915 screening. Even if
Griffin had properly alleged that the Social Security Commissioner rendered a final decision, the
District of South Dakota would not be the proper venue because Griffin has not indicated that he
resides or has his principal place of business in South Dakota. Thus, Griffin has not stated a valid
claim for this Court to review a decision from the Social Security Commission under 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g), and his § 405(g) claim is dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i-ii).'
Should Griffin wish to refile his claims alleging the necessary information, the United States
District Court for the District of South Dakota is not the proper venue for his claims. While
improper venue is an affirmative defense, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
held that "a district court may, in certain limited circumstances . . . dismiss under § 1915 for lack
of personal jurisdiction and for improper venue, as well as for affirmative defenses." Trujillo v.
Williams, 465 F.3d 1210, 1217 (10th Cir. 2006). Griffin does not allege that any of the events
occurred in South Dakota; he alleges that the events occurred in Utah and California. Doc. 1-1 at
1. A plaintiff may bring a civil action in "a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if all
defendants are residents of the State in which the district is located" or "a judicial district in which
a substantial part of the events .. . giving rise to the claim occurred." 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(l)-(2).
Griffin's complaint does not allege facts to establish proper venue under either subdivision of
§ 1391 (b) within the District of South Dakota.
2. Claims for Money Damages
i. Salt Lake City, Utah and Los Angeles, California
Griffin requests money damages from the City of Salt Lake City, Utah, and the City of Los
Angeles, California. Doc. 1-1 at 1. But Griffin does not name Salt Lake City or Los Angeles as
defendants. Doc. 1 at 4-5. Griffin sues the Social Security offices in Salt Lake City and Los
Angeles, which are operated by a federal agency, the Social Security Administration. See 42
U.S.C. § 405(j)(3)(F). Thus, Griffin has not alleged any valid claims against Salt Lake City or Los
Angeles, and Griffin's claims against Salt Lake City or Los Angeles are dismissed under 28 U.S.C.
ii. Utah and California
Griffin requests money damages against the States of Utah and California. Doc. 1-1 at 1.
The Supreme Court of the United States has explained that Congress, in passing 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
did not abrogate states' Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit in federal court. Will v. Mich.
Deo't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 65-66 (1989). "Eleventh Amendment immunity extends to
states and arms of the state . ..." Thomas v. St. Louis Bd. of Police Comm'rs, 447 F.3d 1082,
1084 (8th Cir. 2006) (internal quotations omitted). Griffin has not alleged that Utah and California
have waived their Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity, and Griffin's claims against the
States of Utah and California are dismissed with prejudice under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii).
iii. Social Security Administration
Construing Griffin's complaint liberally, he is suing the Social Security Administration,
which is a federal agency. See Doc. 1 at 4-5. "Sovereign immunity bars claims against federal
agencies for damages, and there is no suggestion that Congress intended to subject federal agencies
to liability." Smith v. Motor City, 2023 WL 527561 6, at *2 (D. Neb. Aug. 16,2023) (citing Brown
v. Gen. Serv. Admin., 425 U.S. 820, 827 n.8 (1976)). Thus, Griffin fails to state a claim against
the Social Security Administration, and Griffin claim against the Social Security Administration
is dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii).
Griffin also alleges claims against an unidentified FBI agent. See Doc. 1 at 5; Doc. 1-1 at
3. "A suit against the agents in their official capacities is a suit against the United States, if the
resulting decree would operate against the Government or if the resulting judgment would be
satisfied from the public treasury." Moessmer v. United States, 613 F. Supp. 336, 338 (E.D. Mo.
1985) (citing Salla v. Califano, 499 F. Supp. 684 (N.D. 111. 1980)). "The defense of sovereign
immunity blocks suits against the United States for money damages in excess of $10,000.00 unless
brought in the Court of Claims under the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346 and 1491." Id, (citing
dark v. United States, 596 F.2d 252, 253 (7th Cir. 1979)). Griffin requests relief of two-trillion
dollars. Doc. 1-1 at 1. Thus, Griffin official capacity claims for money damages against the
unidentified FBI agent are dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii).
3. Civil Conspiracy
For a civil conspiracy claim to survive, the plaintiff has to prove four elements:
(1) the existence of a civil conspiracy; (2) that the purpose of the conspiracy was to
deprive [him] either directly or indirectly of [his] civil rights; (3) that a conspirator
did an act in furtherance of the object of the conspiracy; and (4) damages, shown
by demonstrating either injury to person or property or the deprivation of a civil
Mettler v. Whitledee, 165 F.3d 1197. 1206 ('8th Cir. 1999) ('citing Andrews v. Fowler, 98 F.3d
1069, 1079 (8th Cir. 1996)). "In order to state a claim for conspiracy under § 1985, a plaintiff
must allege with particularity and specifically demonstrate with material facts that the defendants
reached an agreement." Kelly v. City ofOmaha, 813 F.3d 1070, 1077 (8th Cir. 2016) (cleaned up
and citation omitted). "This standard requires that allegations of a conspiracy be pleaded with
sufficient specificity and factual support to suggest a meeting of the minds directed toward an
unconstitutional action." Id. at 1078 (cleaned up and citation omitted).
Griffin alleges that the FBI agent was helping the Social Security Administration to prevent
him from bringing a claim against the state. Doc. 1-1 at 2, 3, 5-6. He alleges that defendants
conspired, but he does not state any facts showing that defendants reached an agreement to
conspire to deprive him of his rights. See generally ui He has not stated sufficient facts to show
that a meeting of the minds occurred. Id. Because Griffin fails to allege sufficient facts to show a
conspiracy occurred, Griffin's claims for civil conspiracy are dismissed under 28 U.S.C.
Accordingly, it is ORDERED;
1. That Griffin's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, Doc. 4, is granted.
2. That Griffin's complaint, Doc. 1, is dismissed without prejudice in part under 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), and with prejudice in part, under 28 U.S.C.
3. That Griffin's motion for polygraph, Doc. 2, is denied as moot.
4. That Griffin's motion for an unspecified individual to write back to him, Doc, 1 , is
denied as moot.
DATED November 1^, 2023.
BY THE COURT:
ROBERTO A. LANGE
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