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Higgins v. Verizon of New England, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

December 19, 2018

JOHN T. HIGGINS, Plaintiff,
v.
VERIZON OF NEW ENGLAND, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Nathaniel M. Gorton, United States District Judge.

         This case arises out of the allegations of a Verizon New England[1] customer in a pro se complaint naming Verizon as defendant. Pending before the Court is plaintiff's affidavit of indigency and defendant's motions to dismiss and for injunctive relief. For the reasons that follow, plaintiff will be permitted to proceed in forma pauperis and shall show cause, in writing, why the defendant's motions should not be granted.

         I. Background

         On October 5, 2018, Plaintiff John T. Higgins filed a complaint naming Verizon as a defendant. See Docket No. 1. Plaintiff alleges in his statement of claim that he has brought the complaint "because the apartment complex [he] live[s] in is restricting [his] telecommunications services to one local company." Id. at ¶ III (statement of claim). He also alleges claims of "obstruction of justice" and "collusion." Id. at ¶ IV (relief), page 5. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages in the amount of $31, 000, 000. Id. at ¶ 1(B)(3) (the amount in controversy). With his complaint, plaintiff attaches what appears to be a copy of a motion he filed in a state court action he filed against Verizon in Middlesex Superior Court. Id. at page 7. Plaintiff also submitted an Affidavit of Indigency seeking waiver of the filing fee. Id. at pages 9-12.

         While this action was pending, and before a summons issued, defendant filed a motion to dismiss. See Docket No.. 7. Defendant also filed a motion for injunctive relief. See Docket No. 8.

         II. Discussion

         A. Filing Fee

         Litigants seeking to proceed in forma pauperis must submit an affidavit that includes a statement of all plaintiff's assets. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). Upon review of the plaintiff's affidavit, the Court concludes that he is without income or assets to pay the $400.00 filing fee. He is therefore permitted to proceed in forma pauperis.

         B. Plaintiff's Complaint is Subject to Dismissal

         As an initial matter, documents filed by an unrepresented litigant are to be "liberally construed," and an unrepresented plaintiff's 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). When examining the sufficiency of the pleadings, the Court considers whether the plaintiff has pled "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted). A plaintiff's complaint need not provide an exhaustive factual account, only a short and plain statement. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). However, the allegations must be sufficient to identify the manner by which the defendant subjected the plaintiff to harm and the harm alleged must be one for which the law affords a remedy. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Legal conclusions couched as facts and "threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action" will not suffice. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. See also Ocasio-Hernandez v. Fortuno-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2011).

         To the extent the plaintiff seeks review the earlier rulings of the Middlesex Superior Court, this Court is without subject matter jurisdiction to entertain what would be the functional equivalent of an appeal from a state judgment. Under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, a federal district court lacks jurisdiction over a final judgment of a state court. See Geiger v. Foley Hoag LLP Retirement Plan, 521 F.3d 60, 65 (1st Cir. 2008).

         To the extent the plaintiff alleges collusion, the complaint fails to allege one fact in support of such a claim. To the extent the plaintiff seeks to assert a claim for obstruction of justice, private citizens lack a judicially cognizable interest in the federal prosecution or non-prosecution of another. See, e.g., Linda R.S. v. Richard P., 410 U.S. 614, 619 (1973); accord Nieves-Ramos v. Gonzalez, 737 F.Supp. 727, 728 (D.P.R. 1990) (same). There is no private right of action under the federal statutes for obstruction of justice. See Harihar v. United States, No. 17-11109-DJC, 2017 WL 6551360 at *3 (D. Mass. Aug. 11, 2017).

         For these reasons, and the reasons stated in the defendant's motion to dismiss, plaintiff's complaint is subject to dismissal for failing to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

         C. Defendant's Motion ...


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