United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER DENYING MOTIONS FOR LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA
B. Leighton United States District Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiffs Jason and Jeffery
Sutton's applications to proceed in forma
pauperis, supported by their similar proposed complaints
[Dkt. #s 1 and 7] The first proposed complaint [Dkt. #1]
purports to be filed on behalf of the estate of Virginia
Sutton, who appears to have died in 2000. Each complaint
asserts a wrongful death claim. Jason and Jeffrey seek to
have Mrs. Sutton's body exhumed, and assert that she was
killed by her son (and their father), Defendant Russell
Sutton, as part of a conspiracy with her hospice care giver
and the other defendants. They seek to “call the entire
estate into question, ” and allege that the value of
the estate was taken from them. Jason Sutton is currently
incarcerated, apparently for murdering a different family
district court may permit indigent litigants to proceed
in forma pauperis upon completion of a proper
affidavit of indigency. See 28 U.S.C. §
1915(a). The Court has broad discretion in resolving the
application, but “the privilege of proceeding in
forma pauperis in civil actions for damages should be
sparingly granted.” Weller v. Dickson, 314
F.2d 598, 600 (9th Cir. 1963), cert. denied 375 U.S.
845 (1963). Moreover, a court should “deny leave to
proceed in forma pauperis at the outset if it
appears from the face of the proposed complaint that the
action is frivolous or without merit.” Tripati v.
First Nat'l Bank & Trust, 821 F.2d 1368, 1369
(9th Cir. 1987) (citations omitted); see also 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i). An in forma pauperis
complaint is frivolous if “it ha[s] no arguable
substance in law or fact.” Id. (citing
Rizzo v. Dawson, 778 F.2d 527, 529 (9th Cir. 1985);
see also Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1228
(9th Cir. 1984).
pro se Plaintiff's complaint is to be construed
liberally, but like any other complaint it must nevertheless
contain factual assertions sufficient to support a facially
plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (citing
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570,
127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). A claim for relief
is facially plausible when “the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
the Court will permit pro se litigants an opportunity to
amend their complaint in order to state a plausible claim.
See United States v. Corinthian Colleges, 655 F.3d
984, 995 (9th Cir. 2011) (“Dismissal without leave to
amend is improper unless it is clear, upon de novo review,
that the complaint could not be saved by any
Suttons' proposed complaints do not meet this standard.
First, neither has identified any basis for this Court's
jurisdiction over the subject matter; the parties are all
alleged to be residents of Washington and they assert only a
state law claim for wrongful death (or murder). Second, while
Jason and Jeffrey can each represent themselves in this case
and in this court, they cannot represent any other person or
entity, including particularly the estate of their deceased
grandmother. Representing another person or entity in court
is the practice of law. To practice law, one must be an
attorney. RCW 2.48.170. Thus Washington, like all federal
courts, follows the common law rule that corporations (and
other entities) appearing in court proceedings must be
represented by an attorney.
is a pro se exception to this general rule, under
which a person “may appear and act in any court as his
own attorney without threat of sanction for unauthorized
practice.” The pro se exception is, however,
extremely limited and applies “only if the layperson is
acting solely on his own behalf” with respect to his
own legal rights and obligations. Cottringer v. State,
Dep't of Employment Sec., 162 Wash.App. 782, 787-88,
257 P.3d 667, 669 (2011).
the claims themselves are facially and fatally time-barred.
The death, the alleged conspiracy, and the damages alleged
all occurred some 17 years ago.
Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis [Dkt.
#1] is therefore DENIED. The Suttons shall pay the filing fee
(only one, they do not each need to pay a filing
fee) or file a proposed amended complaint addressing and
correcting these deficiencies and ...