Bettys vs State of Washington et al

Filing 3

ORDER denying 1 Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis; Plaintiff has 30 days to pay the filing fee or this matter will be dismissed; signed by Judge Ronald B. Leighton.(DN) Modified on 7/18/2017 (DN). (cc to pltf)

Download PDF
HONORABLE RONALD B. LEIGHTON 1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT TACOMA 7 8 9 JOHN E. BETTYS, on behalf of himself and all other persons similarly situated and unknown, 10 CASE NO. 3:17-CV-5501 RBL ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR LEAVE TO PROCEED IFP Plaintiff, 11 12 13 14 v. STATE OF WASHINGTON; STATE OF WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES; WILLIAM VANHOOK; BILL GRAVES; JOHN OR JANE DOES ONE THROUGH EIGHT, 15 Defendants. 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 THIS MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff Bettys’ Motion to Procced in Forma Pauperis [Dkt. #1]. Bettys is a pretrial detainee and “patient worker” at the Special Commitment Center (SCC) mental health hospital on McNeil Island. Bettys claims the SCC owes him and other patient workers at least minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act. He asks the Court to award them their unpaid wages and for an injunction. Presently, Bettys asks the Court to permit him to proceed in forma pauperis as an “agent” of this putative class. 23 24 ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR LEAVE TO PROCEED IFP - 1 1 2 I. A. DISCUSSION Legal Standard. A district court may permit indigent litigants to proceed in forma pauperis upon 3 4 completion of a proper affidavit of indigency. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). The Court has broad 5 discretion in resolving the application, but “the privilege of proceeding in forma pauperis in civil 6 actions for damages should be sparingly granted.” Weller v. Dickson, 314 F.2d 598, 600 (9th Cir. 7 1963), cert. denied 375 U.S. 845 (1963). Moreover, a court should “deny leave to proceed in 8 forma pauperis at the outset if it appears from the face of the proposed complaint that the action 9 is frivolous or without merit.” Tripati v. First Nat’l Bank & Trust, 821 F.2d 1368, 1369 (9th Cir. 10 1987) (citations omitted); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i). An in forma pauperis complaint 11 is frivolous if “it ha[s] no arguable substance in law or fact.” Id. (citing Rizzo v. Dawson, 778 12 F.2d 527, 529 (9th Cir. 1985); see also Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1228 (9th Cir. 1984). 13 A. Bettys Cannot Represent His Putative Class Members. 14 Bettys sues on his own behalf and on his fellow patient workers’ behalves. He claims the 15 SCC pays its “employees” less than minimum wage, and he asks the Court to allow him to act as 16 their agent. 17 As a non-attorney, Bettys cannot represent his putative class members. See Bradvica v. 18 Terhune, 198 F.3d 253 (9th Cir. 1999) (citing McShane v. United States, 366 F.2d 286, 288 (9th 19 Cir. 1966)) (holding that district court did not abuse its discretion by denying non-attorney 20 plaintiff IFP status because he could not represent class members). The claims he asserts on their 21 behalves are therefore frivolous. Bettys cannot obtain IFP status on this ground. 22 23 24 ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR LEAVE TO PROCEED IFP - 2 1 2 B. Bettys’ Minimum Wage Claim is Frivolous. Bettys claims the SCC patient workers are entitled to minimum wage because they are 3 “employees” under section 201 of the FLSA. The FLSA was created in 1938 to provide workers 4 with all necessary minimum living standards to maintain their health, efficiency, and well-being. 5 It applies to persons and entities who have an employer-employee relationship. An “employee” 6 is “any individual employed by an employer,” 29 U.S.C §203(e)(1), including one “employed by 7 a State,” 29 U.S.C. §203(e)(2)(c). “Employer” includes “a public agency,” 29 U.S.C. § 203(d), 8 and to “employ” means “to suffer or permit to work,” 29 U.S.C. § 203(g). 9 SCC residents maintain a status between prisoner and civilian. They are afforded more 10 considerate treatment and conditions of confinement than criminals, whose confinements are 11 designed to punish. See Hydrick v. Hunter, 500 F.3d 978 (9th Cir. 2007). 12 Courts use an “economic-reality” test to evaluate whether an employer-employee 13 relationship exists. See Real v. Driscoli Strawberry Associates, Inc., 603 F.2d 748, 754 (9th Cir. 14 1979). When the worker is a prisoner, however, his labor belongs to the detaining institution, and 15 he is not entitled to minimum wage. See Hale v. State of Ariz., 993 F.2d 1387, 1395 (9th Cir. 16 1993). The Ninth Circuit has yet to address whether courts should analyze the work performed 17 by civilly-detained persons under the standards applicable to civilian-employees or those 18 applicable to prisoners. 19 The Court need not reach this question because the Eleventh Amendment bars state 20 employees from suing their employers to enforce the wage and overtime provisions of the FLSA 21 without an express waiver of sovereign immunity. See Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 119 S. Ct. 22 2240 (1999). Washington State has not consented to a waiver of its Eleventh Amendment 23 immunity for claims arising out of the FLSA. See, e.g., Strauss v. Dreyfus, No. C10-5646BHS, 24 ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR LEAVE TO PROCEED IFP - 3 1 WL 809797, at*2 (W.D. Wash. March 2, 2011) (concluding plaintiff failed to state a claim upon 2 which the court could grant relief because the Eleventh Amendment barred his claims under the 3 FLSA); see also, Gonzalez v. Mayberg, No. CV-07-6248CBM (MLG), WL 2382686, at *2 (C.D. 4 Cal. July 31, 2009) (Concluding the Eleventh Amendment bars state employees from suing their 5 employers to enforce the FLSA without a waiver of sovereign immunity). 6 Bettys’ claim therefore is barred by the Eleventh Amendment immunity. Bettys has failed 7 to state a claim on which the Court may grant relief. His minimum wage claim is frivolous, and 8 is dismissed. 9 10 II. CONCLUSION The Court does not deny in forma pauperis status lightly, but Bettys is not an attorney 11 and Washington State has not consented to be sued under the FLSA. Therefore, Bettys’ Motion 12 to Proceed in Forma Pauperis [Dkt. #1] is DENIED. He shall pay the Court’s filing fee within 13 30 days of this ORDER, or his case will be dismissed. 14 Dated this 18th day of July, 2017. 16 A 17 Ronald B. Leighton United States District Judge 15 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR LEAVE TO PROCEED IFP - 4

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?