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Snyder v. Bullock

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

November 26, 2014

WILLIAM MILES SNYDER, Plaintiff,
v.
DAN BULLOCK, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

RODNEY W. SIPPEL, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon the motion of plaintiff (registration no.33107), an inmate at St. Francis County Jail, for leave to commence this action without payment of the required filing fee. For the reasons stated below, the Court finds that plaintiff does not have sufficient funds to pay the entire filing fee and will not assess an initial partial filing fee at this time. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Furthermore, based upon a review of the complaint, the Court finds that the complaint should be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1)

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1), a prisoner bringing a civil action in forma pauperis is required to pay the full amount of the filing fee. If the prisoner has insufficient funds in his or her prison account to pay the entire fee, the Court must assess and, when funds exist, collect an initial partial filing fee of 20 percent of the greater of (1) the average monthly deposits in the prisoner's account, or (2) the average monthly balance in the prisoner's account for the prior six-month period. After payment of the initial partial filing fee, the prisoner is required to make monthly payments of 20 percent of the preceding month's income credited to the prisoner's account. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). The agency having custody of the prisoner will forward these monthly payments to the Clerk of Court each time the amount in the prisoner's account exceeds $10, until the filing fee is fully paid. Id.

Plaintiff has submitted an affidavit and a certified copy of his prison account statement for the six-month period immediately preceding the submission of his complaint. A review of plaintiff's account indicates an average monthly deposit of $0, and an average monthly balance of $0. Plaintiff has insufficient funds to pay the entire filing fee. Accordingly, the Court will not assess an initial partial filing fee at this time.

28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), the Court must dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis if the action is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. An action is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis in either law or fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 328 (1989); Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992). An action is malicious if it is undertaken for the purpose of harassing the named defendants and not for the purpose of vindicating a cognizable right. Spencer v. Rhodes, 656 F.Supp. 458, 461-63 (E.D. N.C. 1987), aff'd 826 F.2d 1059 (4th Cir. 1987). A complaint fails to state a claim 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).

The Complaint

Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his civil rights. Named as defendants are: Dan Bullock (Sheriff, St. Francis County); Dennis Smith (Jail Administrator); Hardy White (Corporal, Asst. Jail Administrator); and Matthew Richard Ecke (Correctional Officer).

Plaintiff complains about the conditions of confinement at the St. Francis County Jail, asserting that there is overcrowding in the cells, black mold on the walls and ceilings of the cells and that the inmates are served "unsanitary food." Plaintiff also alleges that inmates are given a small clothing allowance due to the overstrength population at the Jail, and that they have "no access to a law library." Plaintiff states that due to the overcrowding, inmates have "inadequate outside recreation, " and oftentimes inmates have "no physical outdoor life."

Plaintiff complains in a conclusory manner that the food portions are "under 2000 calories per day, " and he alleges that defendants don't always watch carefully while inmates take medications during medication handout.

Plaintiff states that inmates are also forced to mail letters to family and friends on postcards, rather than in closed envelopes, and he believes this is a violation of his First Amendment rights.

Plaintiff further states, in a conclusory manner, that the attorney/client rooms at the Jail are "insecure, " as inmates can hear through the flimsy walls of the room. He claims that when the attorney/client rooms are full at the Jail, inmates must use an open room where they can be overheard by others.

Last, plaintiff asserts that another inmate, Matthew Grissom, was subjected to excessive force by defendant Ecke on an unspecified date.

In his request for relief, plaintiff seeks damages and injunctive relief.

Discussion

To the extent that plaintiff is attempting to assert claims against the St. Francois County Jail, his claims are legally frivolous because the Jail is not a suable entity. Ketchum v. City of West Memphis, Ark., 974 F.2d 81, 82 (8th Cir. 1992) (departments or subdivisions of local government are "not juridical entities suable as such.").

Furthermore, plaintiff's claims against the individual defendants fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The complaint is silent as to whether defendants are being sued in their official or individual capacities. Where a "complaint is silent about the capacity in which [plaintiff] is suing defendant, [a district court must] interpret the complaint as including only official-capacity claims." Egerdahl v. Hibbing Community College, 72 F.3d 615, 619 (8th Cir. 1995); Nix v. Norman, 879 F.2d 429, 431 (8th Cir. 1989). Naming a government official in his or her official capacity is the equivalent of naming the government entity that employs the official. Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). To state a claim against a municipality or a government official in his or her official capacity, plaintiff must allege that a policy or custom of the government entity is responsible for the alleged constitutional violation. Monell v. Dep't of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978). The instant complaint does not contain any allegations that a policy or custom of a government entity was responsible for the alleged violations of plaintiff's constitutional rights. As a result, the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

Even if plaintiff had made claims against defendants in their individual capacities, his assertions would still fail to state a claim for relief. "Liability under § 1983 requires a causal link to, and direct responsibility for, the alleged deprivation of rights." Madewell v. Roberts, 909 F.2d 1203, 1208 (8th Cir. 1990); see also Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1338 (8th Cir. 1985) (claim not cognizable under § 1983 where plaintiff fails to allege defendant was personally involved in or directly responsible for incidents that injured plaintiff); Boyd v. Knox, 47 F.3d 966, 968 (8th Cir. 1995) (respondeat superior theory inapplicable in § 1983 suits). In the instant action, plaintiff has not set forth any facts indicating that any of the individually named defendants were directly involved in or personally responsible for the alleged violations of his constitutional rights. As a result, the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See also Keeper v. King, 130 F.3d 1309, 1314 (8th Cir. 1997) (noting that general responsibility for supervising operations of prison is insufficient to establish personal involvement required to support liability under § 1983); Woods v. Goord, 1998 WL 740782, at *6 (S.D.N.Y. October 23, 1998) (receiving letters or complaints does not render prison officials personally liable under § 1983).

Accordingly,

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. #2] is GRANTED.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that no initial partial filing fee will be assessed at this time as plaintiff has no funds in his prisoner account.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that this action is DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

An Order of Dismissal will accompany this Memorandum and Order.


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