United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Western Division
MICHAEL HOWARD HUNTER and RIGHTS CENTER OF SOUTH DAKOTA, Plaintiffs,
CONNIE "DOE, " Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING IN FORMA PAUPERIS AND DISMISSING
JEFFREY VIKEN CHIEF JUDGE
January 31, 2017, plaintiff Michael Howard Hunter, appearing
pro se, filed a complaint on behalf of the
Civil Rights Center of South Dakota and himself. (Docket 1).
Mr. Hunter then filed a motion for leave to file an amended
complaint because two pages were inadvertently not included
in the original complaint. (Dockets 6-8). As a preliminary
matter, the court must address the issue of Mr. Hunter's
relationship to the other plaintiff. The law is clear that
Mr. Hunter, as a non-lawyer, may not represent an association
or corporation. 28 U.S.C. § 1654 provides:
In all courts of the United States the parties may plead and
conduct their own cases personally or by counsel as, by the
rules of such courts, respectively, are permitted to manage
and conduct causes therein.
variance, every federal appeals court allows an individual,
as a plaintiff, to proceed pro se under § 1654.
"As a general matter of federal law, an individual
proceeding in federal court has the right to present his case
pro se . . . ." Leftridge v. Connecticut State
Trooper Officer No. 1283, 640 F.3d 62, 67 (2d Cir. 2011)
(referencing 28 U.S.C. § 1654). However, it is
undisputed law "for the better part of two centuries . .
. that a corporation may appear in the federal courts only
through licensed counsel." Rowland v. Cal. Men's
Colony, Unit II Men's Advisory Council, 506 U.S.
194, 201-02 (1993). Courts have uniformly held "that 28
U.S.C. § 1654 . . . does not allow corporations,
partnerships, or associations to appear in federal court
otherwise than through a licensed attorney." IcLat202. A
non-lawyer may not represent an association or corporation in
federal court. Steele v. City of Bemidji, 257 F.3d
902, 905 (8th Cir. 2001). While Mr. Hunter is entitled to
represent himself, he is not permitted to represent the other
plaintiff. For these reasons, the court will only consider
Mr. Hunters' complaint as personal to him.
Hunter also filed a motion to proceed without prepayment of
fees and a financial affidavit. (Docket 3). Section
1915(a)(1) of Title 28 of the United States Code directs the
court to authorize the commencement of a civil action without
prepayment of fees upon proof of plaintiffs inability to pay.
28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). In his declaration, plaintiff
indicates he is currently unemployed, receives disability
payments, and owns a single vehicle. (Docket 3). The court
finds plaintiff is indigent within the meaning of §
in forma pauperis is governed by 28 U.S.C. §
1915. That statute provides:
any filing fee, . . . the court shall dismiss the case at any
time if the court determines that-
action or appeal-
(i) is frivolous or malicious;
(ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted;
(iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune
from such relief.
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Subsection (e)(2) allows the
court sua sponte to review a complaint filed with an
in forma pauperis application to determine if the
action is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim, or
seeks monetary relief against a defendant or defendants who
are immune from such relief. Thus, the court is required to
screen a pro se complaint as soon as practicable and
to dismiss those which are frivolous or fail to state a claim
for relief. "[A] complaint, containing as it does both
factual allegations and legal conclusions, is frivolous where
it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. . . .
[the] term 'frivolous, ' when applied to a complaint,
embraces not only the inarguable legal conclusion, but also
the fanciful factual allegation." Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989).
Mr. Hunter is proceeding pro se, his pleadings must
be liberally construed and his complaint, "however
inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards
than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson
v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (internal quotation
marks and citation omitted). However, a plaintiff seeking to
bring a lawsuit in federal court must establish that the
court has subject matter jurisdiction. Mr. Hunter contends
this court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983. Section 1983 provides a cause of action against any
"person who, under the color of any statute, ordinance,
regulation, custom, or usage, of any state" causes the
deprivation of a right protected by federal law or the United
States Constitution. 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
court construes the amended complaint, Mr. Hunter alleges on
January 30, 2018, he was denied a South Dakota driver's
license by Connie "Doe, " a state actor, because he
did not provide a birth certificate. Docket 7 at pp. 3-4. Mr.
Hunter needs a license to travel as part of a charitable
business, Civil Rights Center of South Dakota. IcL at pp.
2-3. As the court construes the amended complaint, Mr. Hunter
claims Connie Doe's enforcement of South ...