United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
WILMA M. PENNINGTON-THURMAN, Plaintiff,
U.S.A., et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
W. SIPPEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the motion of pro se plaintiff
Wilma M. Pennington-Thurman for leave to proceed in forma
pauperis in this civil action. The Court has reviewed the
financial information submitted in support, and will grant
the motion. In addition, the Court will dismiss the
Standard on Initial Review
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court is required to dismiss
a complaint filed in forma pauperis if it is frivolous,
malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. A pleading that offers “labels and
conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do, ” nor will a
complaint suffice if it tenders “naked
assertion[s]” devoid of “further factual
enhancement.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).
conducting initial review pursuant to § 1915(e)(2), the
Court must accept as true the allegations in the complaint,
and must give the complaint the benefit of a liberal
construction. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520
(1972). However, the tenet that a court must accept the
allegations as true does not apply to legal conclusions,
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, and affording a pro
se complaint the benefit of a liberal construction does
not mean that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation
must be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who
proceed without counsel. See McNeil v. U.S., 508
U.S. 106, 113 (1993). Even pro se complaints are required to
allege facts which, if true, state a claim for relief as a
matter of law. Martin v. Aubuchon, 623 F.2d 1282,
1286 (8th Cir. 1980); see also Stone v. Harry, 364
F.3d 912, 914-15 (8th Cir. 2004) (federal courts are not
required to “assume facts that are not alleged, just
because an additional factual allegation would have formed a
is a frequent pro se and in forma pauperis litigator.
Following is a summary of her prior litigation that is
relevant to the case at bar.
2009, plaintiff initiated bankruptcy proceedings in the
United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of
Missouri. See In re Wilma M. Pennington-Thurman,
Case No. 09-46628 (Bankr. E.D. Mo. Jul. 10,
2009). The Honorable Barry S. Schermer, United
States Bankruptcy Judge, presided over that case. While that
case was pending, plaintiff filed two lawsuits in Missouri
state court related to proceedings that had been initiated
against her regarding the mortgage on her property located at
8722 Partridge Avenue in St. Louis, Missouri. On January 27,
2010, plaintiff was granted a discharge in the bankruptcy
proceedings. In April 2010, Judge Schermer approved a
settlement that provided, inter alia, that the
Missouri lawsuits were property of plaintiff's Chapter 7
bankruptcy estate and subject to administration by the
Chapter 7 Trustee. Plaintiff made numerous attempts to attack
the propriety of Judge Schermer's approval of the
settlement, and to reopen her bankruptcy proceedings. She
also filed lawsuits in this United States District Court
related to foreclosure and eviction proceedings involving the
Partridge Avenue property, both of which were dismissed.
Pennington-Thurman v. United States, Case No.
4:15-cv-1628-RWS (E.D. Mo. Oct. 28, 2015);
Pennington-Thurman v. Schermer, Case No.
4:17-cv-1093-CDP (E.D. Mo. Apr. 6, 2017).
states that she is proceeding under 11 U.S.C. §
348(f)(1),  and also that she is alleging fraud in
connection with personal property. Plaintiff states that the
United States Bankruptcy Court violated her right to have her
case heard before an Article III judge. This statement
appears to be based upon Judge Schermer's approval of the
above-described settlement. Plaintiff describes some of her
prior litigation, including her bankruptcy court proceedings
and the proceedings involving the Partridge Avenue property.
She claims that her civil rights were violated, and she
claims that fraud was committed against her in conjunction
with the proceedings related to the Partridge Avenue
property. Plaintiff names four defendants: U.S.A., U.S.,
Inc.,  The United States Bankruptcy Court, and
United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions. As relief, she
seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, as well
as $150, 000 plus interest.
complaint is fatally defective as to defendants U.S.A., U.S.,
Inc., and the United States Bankruptcy Court because those
defendants are immune from suit under the doctrine of
sovereign immunity. Laswell v. Brown, 683 F.2d 261,
268 (8th Cir. 1982) (the United States and its agencies are
not proper defendants because of sovereign immunity); see
also Edlund v. Montgomery, 355 F.Supp.2d 987, 991 (D.
Minn. 2005) (the Bankruptcy Court itself is not a proper
defendant because it is protected by sovereign immunity).
Under the doctrine of sovereign immunity, the United States
and its agencies can be sued only if, and to the extent that,
the protections of sovereign immunity have been formally
waived. Manypenny v. United States, 948 F.2d 1057,
1063 (8th Cir. 1991). Any waiver of such immunity must be
“expressed unequivocally” by Congress.
Id. In the case at bar, plaintiff has not
demonstrated any waiver of sovereign immunity, nor is the
Court independently aware of any express congressional
authorization for the lawsuit that she is attempting to bring
here. Thus, the Court finds that sovereign immunity bars
Plaintiff's lawsuit against U.S.A., U.S., Inc., and the
United States Bankruptcy Court.
complaint is also subject to dismissal because it does not
describe what any named defendant, including Sessions, did or
failed to do that could be viewed as a violation of
plaintiff's rights under any cognizable legal theory.
Instead, plaintiff's allegations are vague and conclusory
and fall short of the standards outlined in Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662. Plaintiff's complaint simply fails to state
a plausible claim for relief against any named defendant, and
it is therefore subject to dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B). This is especially so because plaintiff
indicates that she intends to sue the defendants for some
type of alleged fraud. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
impose a heightened pleading standard for fraud claims,
requiring that “[i]n alleging fraud or mistake, a party
must state with particularity the circumstances constituting
fraud or mistake.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b). Plaintiff's
complaint does not come close to satisfying this requirement,
as there are no allegations describing what wrongdoing any
named defendant committed.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiffs motion
to proceed in forma ...