United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
JOULE N. STEVENSON, M.D., Plaintiff,
MERCY CLINIC EAST COMMUNITIES, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
L. WHITE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court upon the motion of plaintiff Joule
N. Stevenson, M.D., for leave to proceed in forma pauperis in
this civil action. Upon consideration of the motion and the
financial information provided in support, the Court
concludes that plaintiff is unable to pay the filing fee. The
motion will therefore be granted. Additionally, the Court
will dismiss the complaint, without prejudice.
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 may be
granted. An action is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable
basis in either law or fact." Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 328 (1989). An action fails to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it does not
plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).
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). Determining whether a complaint states a plausible
claim for relief is a context-specific task that requires the
reviewing court to draw upon judicial experience and common
sense. Id. at 679. The court must assume the
veracity of well-pleaded facts, but need not accept as true
"[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements."
Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at
Court must liberally construe complaints filed by laypeople.
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). This
means that "if the essence of an allegation is
discernible," the court should "construe the
complaint in a way that permits the layperson's claim to
be considered within the proper legal framework."
Solomon v. Petray, 795 F.3d 777, 787 (8th Cir. 2015)
(quoting Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir.
2004)). However, even pro se complaints must 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). Federal courts are not required to assume facts that
are not alleged, Stone, 364 F.3d at 914-15, nor are
they required to interpret procedural rules so as to excuse
mistakes by those who proceed without counsel. See McNeil
v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113(1993).
states she brings this action pursuant to the False Claims
Act against Mercy Clinic East Communities. According to the
complaint, plaintiff began working for the defendant in
October of 2016, and was assigned to work at a clinic located
in Hazelwood, Missouri. In May of 2017, she noticed
irregularities in her monthly earnings calculation. She asked
to be moved to a different clinic because she believed her
office manager would have the power to negatively affect her
future income. In April or May of 2018, she noticed that
charges were being billed to insurance companies differently
than how she coded the office visit, in that the charges were
either "up-coded" or "down-coded" to
claim a monetary amount different than the services provided.
The affected insurance companies included Medicare, Medicaid,
Anthem and Cigna. Plaintiff retained an attorney and gave the
attorney two thumb drives containing documentation. The
attorney gave plaintiff instructions on how to proceed, but
plaintiff did not follow them because she did not agree with
them. Plaintiff then spoke to the head of Mercy's
Compliance Department. Plaintiffs computer was erased by the
Mercy IT department, her medical assistant's computer was
swapped out, and she received an email from Mercy's
attorney stating that she should have received emails about
the changes. On December 27, 2018, plaintiff was fired
without cause. Plaintiff also states that she was harassed by
the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department in that she was
nearly run off the road, that her Verizon and Facebook
accounts were hacked, and that she began experiencing visual
and auditory hallucinations.
prayer for relief, plaintiff states she "would like the
Court to order a Federal Investigation of the defendant in
regards to false medical claims. I would like to receive 30%
of the recovered amount."
brings this action pro se under the False Claims Act
("FCA"), which punishes those who attempt to
defraud the federal government. 31 U.S.C. § 3729. It
authorizes private individuals to bring civil actions in the
government's name, and such actions are referred to as
qui tarn actions. In a qui tarn action, the private
individuals actually "sue on behalf of the government as
agents of the government, which is always the real party in
interest." United States ex. rel. Rodgers v. State
of Ark., 154 F.3d 865, 868 (8th Cir. 1998).
law authorizes persons to plead and conduct their own cases
personally. 28 U.S.C. § 1654. However, as noted above,
the United States, not plaintiff, is the real party in
interest in this case. It has long been established in the
Eighth Circuit that non-lawyers may not litigate qui tam
actions on behalf of the United States. See United States
v. Onan, 190 F.2d 1, 6- 7 (8th Cir. 1951). Other
Circuits that have considered the issue have reached the same
conclusion. See Timson v. Sampson, 518 F.3d 870,
873-74 (11th Cir. 2008) (per curiam) (holding that a pro se
litigant could not maintain a qui tarn action under the FCA
because he could not provide "adequate legal
representation for the United States's interests,
particularly where the United States would be bound by the
judgment in future proceedings"); Stoner v. Santa
Clara County Office of Educ, 502 F.3d 1116, 1126-27 (9th
Cir. 2007) ("Because qui tarn relators are not
prosecuting only their 'own case' but also
representing the United States and binding it to any adverse
judgment the relators may obtain, we cannot interpret §
1654 as authorizing qui tarn relators to proceed pro se in
case at bar, plaintiff specifically states that she hired an
attorney, but then chose to ignore the attorney's
recommendations and pursue the matter on her own. It is
therefore clear that plaintiff intends to litigate this
matter pro se which, as explained above, she cannot do. The
Court will therefore dismiss this case, without prejudice.
Nothing in this Memorandum and Order shall be construed as
prohibiting plaintiff from retaining counsel to bring an
action under the FCA with respect to the allegations in the
also asks the Court to "order a Federal Investigation of
the defendant in regards to false medical claims."
However, plaintiff has no constitutional right or any other
basis to compel an investigation, see Mitchell v.
McNeil,487 F.3d 374, 378 (6th Cir. 2007), and this
Court cannot compel a criminal prosecution. Ray v.
Dep't of Justice,508 F.Supp. 724, 725 (E.D. Mo.
1981) ("It is well settled that initiation of federal
criminal prosecution is a discretionary decision within the
Executive Branch not subject to judicial compulsion")
(citations omitted). Plaintiff also states, in conclusory
fashion, that she was harassed by the St. Louis Metropolitan
Police Department, and her Verizon and Facebook accounts were
hacked. It is ...