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Chaplin v. Anderson

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

November 17, 2017

DAVID KENT CHAPLIN, Plaintiff,
v.
BETH A. ANDERSON and GARRY M. GREENBERG, Defendants.

          Honorable John Corbett O'Meara

         ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S APPLICATION TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS [3, 11]and REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO DISMISS, SUA SPONTE, PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT UNDER 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) and ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S REMAINING MOTIONS [2, 4, 5, 6, 13, 14] AS MOOT

          DAVID R. GRAND United States Magistrate Judge

         On September 22, 2017, pro se Plaintiff David Kent Chaplin (“Chaplin”), an incarcerated person, filed a 72-page complaint in this Court. (Doc. #1). On October 25, 2017, this case was referred to the undersigned for management, hearing and determination of all pretrial matters pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A), and for any reports and recommendations on dispositive matters that may be necessary pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). (Doc. #9).

         Upon consideration of the financial information provided, the Court will GRANT Chaplin's application to proceed in forma pauperis. (Docs. #3, #11). For the reasons stated below, the Court will RECOMMEND that Chaplin's complaint be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         II. REPORT

         A. Background

         In his complaint, Chaplin alleges that his ex-wife, Defendant Beth Anderson, and Garry Greenberg, Anderson's divorce attorney (collectively “Defendants”), violated his civil rights during the course of Chaplin's and Anderson's divorce proceedings, which were held in the Oakland County Circuit Court. Chaplin's complaint is difficult to comprehend, in large part because it purports to be a “line item by line item” response to a motion filed not in this case, but by Defendants in the state court matter, captioned “PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ENTRY OF JUDGEMENT [SIC] OF DIVORCE RE: DEFENDANT'S FAILURE TO MEDIATE AND FOLLOW COURT ORDERS.” (Doc. #1 at 5).

         Parsing Chaplin's complaint in this case, he appears to allege that Anderson filed for divorce in October 2014, fraudulently misrepresenting to him that “signing the divorce papers was insignificant, and the parties would later remarry after the dust settled.” (Id.). Chaplin asserts that, because he was in the midst of “extraordinary circumstances” - specifically, he had been accused by Anderson's daughter of criminal sexual conduct - he did not respond to court filings and was served with a default in the divorce case. (Id. at 5-6). Chaplin also alleges that Defendants then filed motions in that proceeding, without providing him notice, and that the state court conducted hearings in his absence. (Id. at 7-13). According to Chaplin, the state court judge in the divorce case had a “negative perception” of him because of his failure to appear for hearings and wrongly awarded his portion of the marital estate to Anderson. (Id. at 6).

         Chaplin's federal court complaint contains fifteen counts - three counts for denial of access to the courts in violation of the First Amendment, seven counts for denial of equal protection in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, and five counts for violation of his due process rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Additionally, Chaplin asserts that Defendants committed wire fraud and/or mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341 and 1343. He asks this Court to grant him relief from a portion of the divorce judgment entered by the state court and to award damages in the amount of $700, 000.

         B. Discussion

         Once a complaint is filed in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a), the Court must test its sufficiency under § 1915(e). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), a court “shall dismiss” a case at any time if it: “(i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.”

         A complaint is frivolous and subject to sua sponte dismissal if it lacks an arguable basis in law or in fact. See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). A plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted when, construing the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accepting all of the factual allegations as true, the plaintiff undoubtedly can prove no set of facts in support of his claims that would entitle him to relief. See Sistrunk v. City of Strongsville, 99 F.3d 194, 197 (6th Cir. 1996). The Court is required to construe Chaplin's pro se complaint liberally and hold his complaint to a less stringent standard than one drafted by an attorney. See Spotts v. United States, 429 F.3d 248, 250 (6th Cir. 2005). But, even applying this liberal standard, the Court concludes that Chaplin's complaint is frivolous, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and, thus, should be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         The bulk of Chaplin's complaint consists of federal constitutional claims, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), wherein he alleges that Defendants' actions violated his due process and equal protection rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as his First Amendment right to access the courts.[1] To succeed on a claim brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), “a plaintiff must prove (1) a conspiracy involving two or more persons (2) for the purpose of depriving, directly or indirectly, a person or class of persons of the equal protection of the laws and (3) an act in furtherance of the conspiracy (4) which causes injury to a person or property, or a deprivation of any right or privilege of a citizen of the United States.” Johnson v. Hills & Dales Gen. Hosp., 40 F.3d 837, 839 (6th Cir. 1994). Additionally, the plaintiff must allege that “the conspiracy was motivated by racial, or other class-based, invidiously discriminatory animus.” Bass v. Robinson, 167 F.3d 1041, 1050 ...


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