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Kapacs v. Brunsell

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

November 6, 2018

MARGOTS KAPACS, Plaintiff,
v.
JESSICA BRUNSELL; MATTHEW R. ZAHN; and BRIX REAL ESTATE, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Elizabeth Cowan Wright United States Magistrate Judge.

         “Time and time again, [plaintiff] Margots Kapacs has attempted to contest in federal court, by one way or another, the outcome of his state-court divorce proceedings.” Jurevica v. Kapacs, No. 18-CV-1684 (WMW/HB), 2018 WL 4190068, at *1 (D. Minn. June 26, 2018), Report and Recommendation adopted, 2018 WL 4181611 (D. Minn. Aug. 31, 2018). Not three months after the rejection of Kapacs's most recent attempt, which resulted in a remand to Hennepin County district court, see id., Kapacs now returns to federal court, this time bringing claims related to the transfer of possession and planned sale of real estate owned by him pursuant to an order entered in the divorce proceedings.

         This matter is before the Court on review of Kapacs's application to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”). See ECF No. 3. After review of the IFP application and other materials submitted by Kapacs, this Court concludes that Kapacs has not demonstrated his financial eligibility for IFP status. In any event, regardless of his financial eligibility, Kapacs has not pleaded a viable claim for relief over which this Court has original jurisdiction, and this matter should be dismissed on that basis. Finally, in light of Kapacs's history of pursuing non-meritorious federal litigation related to his divorce, it is recommended that filing restrictions now be imposed upon Kapacs in this District.

         I. IFP APPLICATION

         “The central question” in determining if a litigant qualifies financially for IFP status “is whether the movant can afford the costs of proceeding without undue hardship or deprivation of the necessities of life.” Ayers v. Texas Dep't of Criminal Justice, 70 F.3d 1268, 1268 (5th Cir. 1995) (per curiam). This Court concludes that Kapacs has not shown that payment of the filing fee in this matter would amount to an undue hardship.

         Kapacs's IFP application paints a bleak picture of his pecuniary status. According to that document, Kapacs has earned an average of $969 per month over the past 12 months, and he expects to earn the same amount next month. See ECF No. 3 at 1-2. The IFP application states that Kapacs owns no assets whatsoever - no real estate, motor vehicles, or even savings or checking accounts. If the information in the IFP application is accurate, then this Court would conclude without hesitation that Kapacs qualifies financially for IFP status.

         But Kapacs's own pleading casts into doubt the veracity of the information provided in his IFP application. The gist of Kapacs's complaint is that the continuing possession of his real estate by the defendants - real estate, this Court notes, that is not listed on the IFP application as an asset owned by Kapacs - has “unlawfully deprived [him] from rent income in [the] amount of $2, 500 per month since the day it was broken into . . . on Oct. 3, 2018.” Compl. ¶ 7. Kapacs offers no explanation as to why he could have expected $2, 500 per month in income from this property in October 2018, yet had earned less than $1, 000 per month during the 12 months prior to the start of this litigation, see ECF No. 2 at 1. Kapacs also describes defendants as depriving him of $100, 000 worth of personal property, see Compl. ¶ 6, despite not listing any personal property in his IFP application as being within his ownership, see ECF No. 2 at 3.

         These discrepancies can perhaps be explained, but Kapacs has made no attempt at explaining them.[1] Moreover, if the information in the complaint is correct - and pursuant to Rule 11(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Kapacs has certified under penalty of sanctions that the factual contentions in his pleading will likely have evidentiary support - then Kapacs would likely not qualify financially for IFP status.

         II. THE COMPLAINT

         If this were the only problem with Kapacs's submission, this Court would order Kapacs to submit additional information regarding his financial status and, should Kapacs be unable to demonstrate financial eligibility for IFP status, afford Kapacs an opportunity to pay the required filing fee and proceed as a non-IFP litigant. This rigamarole is needless here, though, because an IFP application will be denied, and an action will be dismissed, when an IFP applicant has filed a complaint that fails to state a cause of action on which relief may be granted. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii); Atkinson v. Bohn, 91 F.3d 1127, 1128 (8th Cir. 1996) (per curiam); Carter v. Schafer, 273 Fed.Appx. 581, 582 (8th Cir. 2008) (per curiam) (“[C]ontrary to plaintiffs' arguments on appeal, the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) apply to all persons proceeding IFP and are not limited to prisoner suits, and the provisions allow dismissal without service.”). In reviewing whether a complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted, this Court must accept as true all of the factual allegations in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Aten v. Scottsdale Ins. Co., 511 F.3d 818, 820 (8th Cir. 2008). Although the factual allegations in the complaint need not be detailed, they must be sufficient to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . .” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. In assessing the sufficiency of the complaint, the court may disregard legal conclusions that are couched as factual allegations. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). Pro se complaints are to be construed liberally, but they still must allege sufficient facts to support the claims advanced. See Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004).

         Kapacs alleges in his complaint that he has resided at the property at issue in this litigation since 2001. See Compl. ¶ 4.1. In an order dated September 25, 2018 that was entered onto the Minnesota state-court docket on or about October 1, 2018, [2] defendant Jessica Brunsell “was assigned as a point of receiver” for the property, which was ordered sold by the state court. Id. ¶ 4.3, 4.5. Brunsell took possession of the property two days later to the exclusion of Kapacs, who has been denied access to the property since that time. Kapacs alleges that Brunsell has listed the property at a price far below market value in an effort to expediently dispose of the property to her own benefit. See id. ¶ 4.5. Based on those allegations, Kapacs brings claims under both state and federal law against Brunsell, the real-estate agency that employs Brunsell (defendant Brix Real Estate), and Brunsell's attorney (defendant Matthew R. Zahn).

         A. Jurisdiction

         Kapacs alleges that this Court has original jurisdiction over this litigation pursuant to both 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal-question jurisdiction) and 28 U.S.C. § 1332 (jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship). This Court finds that Kapacs has not adequately alleged the presence of jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship and therefore has not established the Court's original jurisdiction over the state-law causes of action.

         Section 1332(a) provides

(a) The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of ...

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