ASSAAD-FALTAS v. UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA C.A. Nos. 3:94-1578-19, 3:95-1521-19, 3:95-3324-19 and 3:96-180-19.
971 F.Supp. 985 (1997)
Marie-Therese H. ASSAAD-FALTAS, Plaintiff, v. The UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA, et al., Defendants. Marie-Therese H. ASSAAD-FALTAS, Plaintiff, v. The ATTORNEY GENERAL OF VIRGINIA, et al., Defendants. Marie-Therese H. ASSAAD-FALTAS, Plaintiff, v. STATE NEWSPAPER, et al., Defendants. Marie-Therese H. ASSAAD-FALTAS, Plaintiff, v. U.S. IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE, et al., Defendants.
United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division.
April 15, 1997.
Marie-Therese H. Assaad-Faltas, pro se, Plaintiff.
Defendants' attorneys not pertinent to this Order.
SHEDD, District Judge.
Proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis ("IFP"), see 28 U.S.C. § 1915; Fed. R.App. P. 24(a); Marie-Therese H. Assaad-Faltas is currently appealing the above-captioned cases to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Because it clearly appeared to the Court — by virtue of the prolific litigiousness in which she has engaged — that Faltas is not truly indigent so as to be entitled to the privilege of IFP status, the Court, on March 19, 1997, sua sponte ordered her to show cause, by March 31, why her IFP status should not be revoked and why she should not be required to pay retroactively the civil and appellate filing fees for the above-captioned cases.
IFP status is "a privilege, not a right," Weaver v. Pung, 925 F.2d 1097, 1099 n. 4 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 828, 112 S.Ct. 99, 116 L.Ed.2d 70 (1991); that is based on the "policy of equality of access, ensuring that those who cannot afford the payment of costs have the same ability to present meritorious claims as those who can afford such payment." Nasim v. Warden, Md. House of Corr., 64 F.3d 951, 953 (4th Cir.1995) (en banc), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 116 S.Ct. 1273, 134 L.Ed.2d 219 (1996). A person need not be "absolutely destitute" to proceed IFP. Adkins v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 335 U.S. 331, 339, 69 S.Ct. 85, 89, 93 L.Ed. 43 (1948). Rather, IFP status is available to a person who declares to the Court, by way of affidavit, that he "cannot because of his poverty `pay or give security for the costs ... and still be able to provide' himself and dependents `with the necessities of life.'" Id.
The grant of IFP status to a party carries with it several benefits, perhaps the most significant of which in practical terms is the waiver of the normal filing fees and other costs associated with federal litigation. Consequently, a district court is presented with, and ultimately decides, an IFP application at the commencement of the litigation, and while "[t]he allegations contained in the affidavit concerning the movant's financial status typically are accepted at face value ..., the court may inquire into such allegations and demand more specific information if necessary for a proper assessment of the movant's financial status." Monti v. McKeon, 600 F.Supp. 112, 113 (D.Conn.1984), aff'd, 788 F.2d 1 (2d Cir.1985) (Table).
IFP status, once granted, is not intended to be insulated from further consideration. As the Fourth Circuit has recognized:
Flint v. Haynes, 651 F.2d 970, 972 (4th Cir. 1981), cert. denied, 454 U.S. 1151, 102 S.Ct. 1018, 71 L.Ed.2d 306 (1982). Consistent with this statement, the Fourth Circuit has further recognized:
Evans v. Croom, 650 F.2d 521, 525 n. 12 (4th Cir.1981), cert. denied, 454 U.S. 1153, 102 S.Ct. 1023, 71 L.Ed.2d 309 (1982) (citation omitted). Therefore, as a general matter, district courts clearly have the authority to reconsider the grant of IFP status. Moreover, if a district court determines that "an allegation of poverty is no longer true because of a subsequent improvement in the economic status of a plaintiff, it is within the authority of the court to dismiss the proceeding or to require that the costs of the litigation to date be paid by [the] plaintiff in lieu of dismissal." Prade v. Jackson & Kelly, 941 F.Supp. 596, 597 n. 1 (N.D.W.Va.1996).
The advisory committee notes to Rule 24 make clear that this portion of the rule "permit[s] an inquiry into whether the circumstances of the party who was originally entitled to proceed [IFP] have changed during the course of the litigation."
As noted, the Court raised the issue of Faltas's retention of IFP status because of the number of legal proceedings in which she has been engaged during the pendency of these cases and the manner in which she has conducted her various litigation endeavors. At this juncture, the Court is not concerned with whether Faltas should have been granted IFP status in the first instance. That determination was made in her favor by another district judge and the Court will accept it for purposes of this Order. However, the Court's review and observation of these and other recent proceedings makes it abundantly clear that despite the fact that she has not been recently employed, Faltas is by no means indigent within the meaning of the IFP statute.
For example, in these proceedings, as well as at least one other now before this Court, Faltas has waged an aggressive (and abusive) attack in which she has flooded the Court and opposing counsel with numerous legal filings, many of which contain multiple pages and/or exhibits. The amount of paperwork that Faltas has generated is somewhat staggering. Faltas' ability to produce this amount of paperwork while enjoying IFP status is certainly indicative of the fact that she has financial resources available to her to fund this litigation.
Moreover, Faltas has had at her disposal an automobile, a telephone, a telefax machine, and a computer, all of which she has used to assist her in litigating these cases. It is the Court's understanding, for example, that Faltas has used the automobile to travel not only to this courthouse on a regular basis, but she has also used it to travel out-of-town and out-of-state on numerous occasions for litigation purposes. It is also the Court's understanding that Faltas has made numerous long-distance phone calls related to her various litigation (e.g., to the Fourth Circuit). While some may consider these items mere necessities in today's world, Faltas' use of them goes beyond that of an indigent person.
Faltas has not limited her recent litigiousness to this district. Within the last two years alone, for example, Faltas has (1) sought certiorari review by the United States Supreme Court, see Fares v. I.N.S., ___ U.S.
As noted, the Court offered Faltas an opportunity to explain why she should retain IFP status. Faltas responded by filing an affidavit which reads in pertinent part:
The Court was very specific about the need for Faltas to provide a detailed response, and it is quite obvious that she has not come close to meeting her burden.
In the Monti case cited above, the district court denied the plaintiff IFP status for purposes of her appeal. The record in Monti established that although the plaintiff claimed indigency, she was in fact supported financially by her spouse. 600 F.Supp. at 113-14. With this in mind, the Monti court stated:
600 F.Supp. at 114 (citations omitted).
The rationale of Monti is applicable here. It is apparent from the record that although Faltas has been unemployed for several years, she has been supported by her mother and, perhaps, other family members. While Faltas has refused to detail the amount of this support, it obviously has not been insignificant. Thus, by claiming indigent status, Faltas has entered the federal litigation arena and avoided payment of the normal fees and costs that most litigants must absorb. Upon obtaining this "free ride," Faltas has unleashed an aggressive assault on her opposing
To be sure, Faltas' financial situation may not have technically "changed" since she received IFP status in these cases. That is, Faltas may have been relying upon her family's monetary support when she instituted these actions. Nevertheless, the Court — accepting Faltas' IFP applications — could not have known the extent of resources that she would have available to her. The undersigned, not having been involved at the time the IFP applications were granted, certainly was unaware of this fact. But now that the Court has observed, and Faltas has essentially admitted, that she has the financial ability to support her litigation without suffering any hardship, the Court cannot stand by and turn a blind eye while she takes advantage of the IFP system. After all:
Lumbert v. Illinois Dept. of Corr., 827 F.2d 257, 259 (7th Cir.1987).
The Fourth Circuit recently noted that "the explosion of IFP litigation presents problems for our legal system." Roller v. Gunn, 107 F.3d 227, 230 (4th Cir.1997). Because it is "[a] part of the Court's responsibility is to see that resources are allocated in a way that promotes the interests of justice," In re McDonald, 489 U.S. 180, 184, 109 S.Ct. 993, 996, 103 L.Ed.2d 158 (1989), the Court has given considerable attention to the matters addressed herein. The conclusion is inescapable that allowing Faltas to proceed IFP and without bearing her fair share of the litigation costs — e.g., filing fees — clearly does not promote the interests of justice but, instead, contributes to the problems in our legal system that are associated with IFP litigation.
Based on the foregoing, the Court hereby
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