United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
G. SMITH, J.
pro se plaintiff seeks leave to proceed in forma
pauperis in this action against a municipal police
department and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
The plaintiff claims that she received a series of traffic
tickets that eventually resulted in two police officers and
an employee of a magisterial district judge conspiring to
steal her identity. Although the court will grant leave to
the plaintiff to proceed in forma pauperis, the
court must dismiss the complaint under 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B) because she has failed to state a plausible
claim for relief against the defendants.
ALLEGATIONS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
pro se plaintiff, Lorraine Herrera, commenced this
action by filing an application to proceed in forma
pauperis (the “IFP Application”) and a
proposed complaint against the Cumru Township Police
Department (“CTPD”) and the “Motor Vehicle
from the State of Pennsylvania” on September 26,
2017. Doc. No. 1. In the complaint, the
plaintiff claims that an Officer Coke of the CTPD stole her
identity. Complaint at ECF p. 6. More specifically, the
plaintiff alleges that she was traveling to a Chinese
restaurant on September 4, 2017, when a male CTPD police
officer stopped her vehicle. Id. When the officer
approached and spoke to the plaintiff, he informed her that
he stopped her vehicle because he ran her license plate and
discovered that her car was unregistered. Id. Upon
the officer asking the plaintiff for her driver's license
and vehicle registration, she produced (1) her New Jersey
driver's license (which is the only license she claims to
have), (2) her expired New Jersey Motor Vehicle registration
card, and (3) her expired insurance identification card.
CTPD officer took the plaintiff's documents and, when he
returned, asked her if she knew her license had been
suspended. Id. The plaintiff informed the officer
that she knew that her license was suspended. Id.
Then, they “exchanged a few words.” Id.
The officer gave the plaintiff three tickets and returned her
documents to her. Id.
receiving the three tickets, the plaintiff then traveled to
the Chinese restaurant, ate dinner, and went to a gas
station. Id. The plaintiff parked in a handicapped
parking space. Id. The plaintiff went inside the gas
station and purchased something. Id. After making
this purchase, the plaintiff noticed another CTPD police
vehicle parked across the street from the gas station.
Id. The plaintiff got into her vehicle and headed
for home. Id.
was traveling home, the other police vehicle followed her.
Id. A while later, the police vehicle's lights
started flashing so the plaintiff stopped her vehicle.
Id. Although the plaintiff waited for an officer to
approach her, the officer did not approach, so she decided to
drive to the parking area where she lives. Id. The
police vehicle followed her and then set off the siren.
plaintiff managed to park her vehicle near her apartment
building. Id. The police vehicle pulled behind the
plaintiff's vehicle and a male officer exited the
vehicle. Id. This officer approached the plaintiff
and asked her if she knew why he had stopped her.
Id. The plaintiff indicated that she did not know
why he stopped her, and he informed her that he saw that she
had parked in a handicapped parking space and asked if she
had a handicap placard. Id. The plaintiff told him
that she did not and they “exchanged a few
officer then asked the plaintiff for her driver's license
and vehicle registration. Id. She gave him the same
documents she gave to the prior officer. Id. The
officer took these documents and returned to his patrol
vehicle. Id. When the officer returned to speak to
the plaintiff, he gave her three more tickets. Id.
plaintiff went to the magisterial district court located in
Mohnton, Pennsylvania on September 6, 2017, to request a
payment plan. Id. A female employee named Lisa
assisted the plaintiff while she was in the magisterial
district court. Id. The plaintiff gave Lisa the six
tickets she received on September 4, 2017, and informed her
that she wanted to arrange for a payment plan. Id.
at ECF pp. 6-7, 8. Lisa gave the plaintiff a “District
Court 23-2-04 Partial Payment Plan
Application.” Id. at ECF pp. 7, 8. The
plaintiff completed the application and returned it to Lisa.
Id. at ECF p. 8. At the plaintiff's request,
Lisa gave her copies of the papers she completed.
Id. When she received the copies, she “did not
get to review” them. Id.
plaintiff first reviewed the papers she received from Lisa on
September 24, 2017.Id. The plaintiff noticed that
Lisa gave her the wrong papers insofar as she received papers
“numbered MDJS 416A Pages 1 of 8.” Id. The
plaintiff attaches the purported “wrong papers”
to the complaint. Id. at ECF pp. 8-18.
the plaintiff received three notices dated September 19, 2017
from PennDOT's Bureau of Driver Licensing, which
reference (1) the plaintiff having a driver's license
number of 32843059, and (2) a processing date of September
12, 2017. Id. at ECF p. 18. Upon receiving
these notices, the plaintiff realized that someone had stolen
her identity and she believes that the perpetrators were the
“officers who had given me the tickets along with
Lisa.” Id. The plaintiff notes that she could
not obtain a Pennsylvania driver's license insofar as (1)
her New Jersey license was suspended due to her not turning
in her New Jersey license plates, and (2) she is on a payment
plan with the State of New Jersey for a surcharge violation
and she first needs to fulfill her obligations with New
Jersey. Id. at ECF pp. 18-19.
plaintiff believes that one of the “officer[s] who has
conspired against [her] has been stocking [sic] [her] and
[her] children, due to catching him posted on the parking
area of the Complex apartment building to where [she]
live[s].” Id. at ECF p. 19 (alterations to
original). The stealing of her identity by individuals who
are supposed to be protecting the law has caused her
significant stress. Id. She is “urging
requesting for an investigation to be drought [sic] up upon
this situation, for all who may be involved be removed of
position due to abuse of position, and charges be brought
against anyone who may be involved.” Id.
The IFP Application
Regarding applications to proceed in forma pauperis,
the court notes that
any court of the United States may authorize the
commencement, prosecution or defense of any suit, action or
proceeding, civil or criminal, or appeal therein, without
prepayment of fees or security therefor, by a person who
submits an affidavit that includes a statement of all assets
such prisoner possesses that the person is unable to pay such
fees or give security therefor.
28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). This statute
“is designed to ensure that indigent litigants have
meaningful access to the federal courts.” Neitzke
v. Williams,490 U.S. 319, 324, 109 S.Ct. 1827, 104
L.Ed.2d 338 (1989). Specifically, Congress enacted the
statute to ensure that administrative court costs and filing
fees, both of which must be paid by everyone else who files a
lawsuit, would not prevent indigent persons from pursuing
meaningful litigation. Deutsch[ v. United
States, 67 F.3d 1080, 1084 (3d Cir. 1995)]. Toward this
end, § 1915(a) allows a litigant to commence a civil or
criminal action in federal court in forma pauperis