United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division
GLEN E. CONRAD SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Davis, proceeding pro se, commenced this action by filing a
form complaint on behalf of herself and her minor children
against the Charlottesville Department of Social Services and
CASA. Davis has not paid the filing fee but will
be granted leave to proceed ]n forma pauperis for
purposes of initial review of the complaint. For the
following reasons, the complaint will be dismissed without
prejudice, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii).
to the complaint, Davis' two minor children were
temporarily removed from her custody on March 3, 2017, based
on false allegations of heroin use. Davis alleges that the
children were abused and brainwashed while in foster care,
and that she "was forced to do a number of things in
order to safely get [them back]," including drug screens
and psychological tests. Compl. 4, ECF No. 2.
asserts that her and her children's "rights as
humans were completely violated" as a result of the
proceedings, and that "the only conclusion [she] can
come to is [that] it was all for money for the
gov[ernment]." Id. Davis indicates that she is
filing suit under the False Claims Act. Civil Cover Sheet,
ECF No. 2-1. She also seeks to recover for alleged violations
of her family's "civil right[s]." Compl. 2.
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), which governs in forma
pauperis proceedings, the court has a mandatory duty to
screen initial filings. Eriline Co. S.A. v. Johnson,
440 F.3d 648, 656-57 (4th Cir. 2006). The court must dismiss
a case "at any time" if the court determines that
the complaint "fails to state a claim on which relief
may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).
standards for reviewing a complaint for dismissal under
§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) are the same as those which apply
when a defendant moves for dismissal under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). De'Lonta v. Angelone,
330 F.3d 630, 633 (4th Cir. 2003). Thus, in reviewing a
complaint under this statute, the court must accept all
well-pleaded factual allegations as true and view the
complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
Philips v. Pitt Ctv. Mem. Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180
(4th Cir. 2009). To survive dismissal for failure to state a
claim, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim for relief
that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v.
Iqbal. 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twomblv. 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
False Claims Act
asserts that she is bringing a civil action under the False
Claims Act for being "'falsely accused." Civil
Cover Sheet 1. In her request for relief, Davis asks that the
court “integrate more federal officials within the
local gov[ernments] because there is definitely fraud
associated with the 'kidnapping' of children in this
city and . . . others." Compl. 5.
False Claims Act "'prohibits any person from making
false or fraudulent claims for payment to the United
States." Graham Cty. Soil & Water Conservation
Dist. v. United States ex rel. Wilson. 545 U.S. 409, 411
(2005) (citing 31 U.S.C. § 3729(a)). The Act permits
either the Attorney General or a private party to initiate a
civil action alleging fraud on the United States. 31 U.S.C.
§ 3730. A private enforcement action under the False
Claims Act is called a gin tarn action. United
States ex rel. Eisenstein v. City of New York, 556 U.S.
928. 932 (2009). To state a claim under the Act, the qui
tarn plaintiff, or relator, must allege sufficient facts
to establish: (1) "that the defendant made a false
statement or engaged in a fraudulent course of conduct";
(2) that "'such statement or conduct was made or
carried out with the requisite scienter"; (3) that
"the statement or conduct was material"; and (4)
that "the statement or conduct caused the government to
pay out money or to forfeit money due." U.S. ex rel.
Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co.. 352 F.3d
908, 913 (4th Cir. 2003).
review of the complaint, the court concludes that it fails to
state a plausible claim for relief under the False Claims
Act. Although Davis alleges that her children's placement
in foster care was the product of fraud, she does not assert,
much less plausibly demonstrate, that the defendants made a
false claim for payment to the federal government. Moreover,
while private enforcement actions are permitted under the
False Claims Act, they may not be brought by pro se litigants
like Davis. See United States ex rel. Brooks v. Lockheed
Martin Corp., 237 Fed.Appx. 802, 803 (4th Cir. 2007)
("A lay person may not bring a gin tam action
under the False Claims Act."). Accordingly, summary
dismissal of this claim is appropriate.