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Frederick Schneider v. Legal Services Corporation

January 7, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Simandle, District Judge:


Plaintiff Frederick Schneider, proceeding without a lawyer, seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 against Defendants Legal Services Corporation, South Jersey Legal Services, Inc., Helaine M. Barnett, Douglas E. Gershuny, Ann M. Gorman, Trianna L. Rodgers, Kenneth M. Goldman, James M. McClain, Richard D. Alten, Jay Feinman, and John Annunziato, alleging violations of his constitutional and statutory rights. Because Plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the Court will dismiss the complaint without prejudice to refiling an amended complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

I. 28 U.S.C. 1915 REVIEW

Plaintiff filed his Complaint on December 5, 2008. Included with his Complaint, Plaintiff attached an application to proceed in forma pauperis in lieu of paying the $350 filing fee. [Docket Item 1.] Based on this application to proceed without prepaying fees or costs and Plaintiff's affidavit of poverty, the Court will grant Plaintiff's application and direct the Clerk to file the Complaint without prepayment of the filing fee. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a).

At this time, the Court must review the Complaint to determine whether it should be dismissed as frivolous or malicious, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or because it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). See Grayson v. Mayview State Hospital, 293 F.3d 103, 109-10 (3d Cir. 2002) (interpreting the screening provisions of § 1915(e)(2) as applying to all in forma pauperis complaints, whether filed by a prisoner or not); Brooks v. Central Dauphin School Dist., Civ. No. 09-2482, Slip Op. 2010 WL 771627 (M.D. Pa., Feb. 26, 2010) ("[d]espite the fact that Plaintiffs are not inmates complaining about prison conditions, § 1915(e)(2) applies to all in forma pauperis complaints, and not just to prisoners"). The Court will base this review on Plaintiff's factual allegations and claims for relief.


The following factual allegations are taken from Plaintiff's Complaint and are accepted as true for purposes of this review.

Plaintiff alleges that in November of 2007, he requested legal representation from Defendant South Jersey Legal Services (SJLS), and was assigned to Defendant SJLS staff attorney James M. McClain. (Compl. ¶¶ 8-9.) He says that he met with Defendant McClain once on November 15, 2007 at which time Mr. McClain gave him legal advice on a pending landlord-tenant dispute. (Id. at ¶ 10.) Later that month when his legal dispute progressed, Plaintiff alleges that he tried to contact Mr. McClain again to request further representation. (Id. at ¶¶ 11-12.) However, Plaintiff alleges, at that time Defendant SJLS declined to provide further legal representation because they had discovered a potential conflict of interest between Plaintiff and SJLS. (Id. at ¶¶ 12-13.) As a result of being denied further representation, Plaintiff alleges that he and his wife were later evicted from their residence. (Id. at ¶¶ 14-15.) Plaintiff claims that Defendants' denial of representation on this basis violated the Legal Services Corporation Act (LSCA), 42 U.S.C. § 2996 et. seq., as well as Plaintiff's rights under the First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is an entity of the United States Government, created by federal statute (the LSCA), which provides funding to SJLS and that Defendant Helaine Barnett is an officer of LSC. (Compl. at ¶ 2.) Further, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant SJLS is a New Jersey corporation, and that all other individual defendants are employees of SJLS. (Id. at ¶ 3.)

Plaintiff seeks damages only (id. at ¶¶ 24-26), and sues under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 (id. at ¶¶ 22-23), as well as directly under the Constitution (id. at ¶¶ 20-21), and for violation of the LSCA ( ¶¶ 18-19).


This Court is directed under § 1915(e)(2) to dismiss, at the earliest practicable time, in forma pauperis actions that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. In determining the sufficiency of a pro se complaint, the Court must be mindful to construe it liberally in favor of the plaintiff. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); United States v. Day, 969 F.2d 39, 42 (3d Cir. 1992).

The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to § 1915(e)(2)(B) is identical to the legal standard used when ruling on Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motions. Courteau v. United States, 287 F. App'x 159, 162 (3d Cir. 2008) (not published); Allah v. Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000); Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999) (applying Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) standard to dismissal for failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)).

The Court must accept all factual allegations in a complaint as true and take them in the light most favorable to a pro se plaintiff. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d Cir.2008); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007). Thus, to survive dismissal, Plaintiff's Complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to plausibly allege all required elements of a cause of action. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, __ U.S. __, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Because Plaintiff proceeds pro se, his pleading is liberally construed and his Complaint, ...

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