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Carter v. Collins

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

January 26, 2015

JOEL B. CARTER, Plaintiff,

Joel B. Carter, Plaintiff, Pro se, Memphis, TN.


TU M. PHAM, United States Magistrate Judge.

On January 5, 2015, plaintiff Joel B. Carter filed a complaint against Jerry Collins, the CEO of Memphis, Light, Gas, and Water (" MLGW"), accompanied by an application to proceed in forma pauperis . (ECF Nos. 1 & 2.) On January 23, 2015, the court granted Carter's in forma pauperis application. (ECF No. 5.) Pursuant to Administrative Order 2013-05, this case has been referred to the magistrate judge for pretrial management.


Carter's complaint stems from the alleged " unlawful termination of utilities due to a bill dispute." (Compl. at 3.) According to Carter, the " dispute was not resolved and [the utilities] were cut off anyway." (Compl. at 3.) Carter alleges that he did not have enough time to resolve the dispute and that no one from MLGW ever " knocked at his door" before cutting off the utilities. (Compl. at 3.) Carter cites the " Fair Billing Act" and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (" FDCPA"), and appears to assert a state law unjust enrichment claim. (Compl. at 3.) In a letter to MLGW attached as an exhibit to his complaint, Carter also cites to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (" RICO"), 18 U.S.C. 1961 et seq., various federal criminal statutes, the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act (" TCPA"), and fraud. (Compl. Ex. A.) Carter's request for relief is that MLGW " restore [his] lights" and that he receive $2 million in damages. (Compl. at 3.)


A. Standard of Review

The court is required to screen in forma pauperis complaints and to dismiss any complaint, or any portion thereof, if the action:

(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.

28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i-iii). In assessing whether the complaint in this case states a claim on which relief may be granted, the standards under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as stated in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007), are applied. Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). Accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true, the court " consider[s] the factual allegations in [the] complaint to determine if they plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief." Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681) (alteration in original). " [P]leadings that . . . are no more than conclusions[] are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 n.3 (" Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a showing, rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief. Without some factual allegation in the complaint, it is hard to see how a claimant could satisfy the requirement of providing not only fair notice of the nature of the claim, but also grounds on which the claim rests.").

" Pro se complaints are to be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, and should therefore be liberally construed." Williams, 631 F.3d at 383 (internal quotation marks omitted). Pro se litigants, however, are not exempt from the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989); see also Brown v. Matauszak, 415 F.App'x 608, 613 (6th Cir. 2011) (" [A] court cannot create a claim which [a plaintiff] has not spelled out in his pleading") (internal quotation marks omitted); Payne v. Sec'y of Treasury, 73 F.App'x 836, 837 (6th Cir. 2003) (affirming sua sponte dismissal of complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) and stating, " [n]either this court nor the district court is required to create Payne's claim for her"); cf. Pliler v. Ford, 542 U.S. 225, 231, 124 S.Ct. 2441, 159 L.Ed.2d 338 (2004) (" District judges have no obligation to act as counsel or paralegal to pro se litigants."); Young Bok Song v. Gipson, 423 F.App'x 506, 510 (6th Cir. 2011) (" [W]e decline to affirmatively require courts to ferret out the strongest cause of action on behalf of pro se litigants. Not only would that duty be overly burdensome, it would transform the ...

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