C.A. No. 19-11434-ADB
On June 28, 2019, Rev. Deninah Goodwin, Christenina Webb and her minor son, each residing in Texas, filed a pro se complaint which arises out of the 2016 death of Webb's three-month old infant identified in the complaint as CJW. See Dkt. No. 1. With the complaint, plaintiffs filed motions to appoint counsel and for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. See Dkt. No. 2 - 7.
As an initial matter, Goodwin and Webb seek to proceed on behalf of CJW's brother, identified as a minor. Because Goodwin and Webb are not alleged to be attorneys, they cannot represent CJW's brother in this action. See 28 U.S.C. § 1654; Herrera-Venegas v. Sanchez-Rivera, 681 F.2d 41, 42 (1st Cir. 1982). "Although 28 U.S.C. § 1654 permits persons to proceed pro se, this provision does not allow unlicensed lay people to represent other pro se litigants." Cohen v. Attorney Gen. of Massachusetts, No. CA 11-11500-NMG, 2011 WL 5008088, at *7 (D. Mass. Oct. 18, 2011) (citing Feliciano v. DuBois, 846 F. Supp. 1033, 1039 (D. Mass. 1994); Eagle Assocs. v. Bank of Montreal, 926 F.2d 1305, 1308 (2d Cir. 1991)). A non-attorney cannot litigate on behalf of another person.
A litigant filing a complaint in this Court must either (1) pay the $350.00 filing fee and the $50.00 administrative fee for such actions or (2) file an application to proceed in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1914, 1915. Where there are multiple plaintiffs in a civil action, the practice of this Court has been to equally apportion the $350.00 filing fee between all co-plaintiffs. A person seeking to proceed in forma pauperis must submit an affidavit that includes "a statement of all assets such [person] possesses that the person is unable to pay such fees or give security therefor." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the Court "may request an attorney to represent any person unable to afford counsel." 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(1).
The $50 administrative fee does not apply to persons proceeding in forma pauperis. See Judicial Conference Fee Schedule. --------
Here, the applications submitted by Rev. Deninah Goodwin and Christenina Webb are incomplete. There are several questions on each application which have not been completely answered. Based upon the incomplete financial disclosures, the Court is unable to (1) determine whether either plaintiff qualifies for in forma pauperis status; and (2) determine the apportioned filing-fee obligation of each plaintiff.
1. The motions for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [Dkt. Nos. 5-7] are DENIED without prejudice. If Goodwin and Webb wish to pursue this action, they must, within twenty-eight days, either (1) pay the $400 filing fee; or (2) each file a renewed motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Failure to comply may result in dismissal.
2. The motions to appoint counsel [Dkt. Nos. 2-4] are DENIED without prejudice. Plaintiffs are directed, within 28 days from the date of this Order, to obtain counsel to represent CJW's brother in this matter. Plaintiffs' failure to do so likely will result in the dismissal of any claims brought on behalf of CJW's brother.
SO ORDERED. July 10, 2019
/s/ Allison D. Burroughs
ALLISON D. BURROUGHS
U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE