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Goodson v. County of St. Charles Department of Corrections

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

January 5, 2015

CHARLES LOUIS GOODSON, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF ST. CHARLES DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NOELLE C. COLLINS, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon the motion of Charles Goodson, an inmate at Northeast Correctional Center, 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 assess an initial partial filing fee of $29.15. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Additionally, the Court will require plaintiff to file an amended complaint.

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 $145.75, and an average monthly balance of $18.54. Plaintiff has insufficient funds to pay the entire filing fee. Accordingly, the Court will assess an initial partial filing fee of $29.15, which is 20 percent of plaintiff's average monthly deposit.

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).

In reviewing a pro se complaint under § 1915(e)(2)(B), the Court must give the complaint the benefit of a liberal construction. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). The Court must also weigh all factual allegations in favor of the plaintiff, unless the facts alleged are clearly baseless. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32-33 (1992); Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974).

The Complaint

Plaintiff brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, appearing to allege failure to protect and deliberate indifference to a serious medical condition. Named as defendants are the County of St. Charles Department of Corrections; Unknown Tillot (Sergeant); Unknown Krankel (Corporal); and Unknown Nosser (Correctional Officer).

Plaintiff alleges that on March 21, 2014, he was assaulted by another prisoner. According to plaintiff, instead of breaking up the ensuing fight, the correctional officers encouraged the prisoners to continue fighting. Plaintiff further alleges that he was denied medical treatment following the fight.

Discussion

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 the County of St. Charles Department of Corrections was responsible for the alleged violations of plaintiff's constitutional rights. As a result, the complaint fails to state claims upon which relief can be granted against the County of St. Charles Department of Corrections or the other named defendants.

Because plaintiff is proceeding pro se, and because some of his claims appear to have merit, the Court will allow plaintiff to file an amended complaint. In order to sue defendants in their individual capacities, plaintiff must specifically say so in the complaint. Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that the complaint contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that [plaintiff] is entitled to relief..." Rule 10(a) requires the title of the complaint, or caption, to "name all the parties, " and Rule 10(b) requires a plaintiff to "state [his] claims... in numbered paragraphs, each limited as far as practicable to a single set of circumstances."

Plaintiff shall have thirty days from the date of this Order to file an amended complaint. Plaintiff is hereby notified that the filing of an amended complaint replaces the original complaint, and so he must include each and every one of his claims in the amended complaint. E.g., In re Wireless Telephone Federal Cost Recovery Fees Litigation, 396 F.3d 922, 928 (8th Cir. 2005). If plaintiff fails to file an amended complaint within thirty days, the Court will dismiss this action without prejudice.

With regard to plaintiff's request for appointment of counsel, the Court notes that there is no constitutional or statutory right to appointed counsel in civil cases. Nelson v. Redfield Lithograph Printing, 728 F.2d 1003, 1004 (8th Cir. 1984). In determining whether to appoint counsel, the Court considers several factors, including (1) whether the plaintiff has presented non-frivolous allegations supporting his or her prayer for relief; (2) whether the plaintiff will substantially benefit from the appointment of counsel; (3) whether there is a need to further investigate and present the facts related to the plaintiff's allegations; and (4) whether the factual and legal issues presented by the action are complex. See Johnson v. Williams, 788 F.2d 1319, 1322-23 (8th Cir. 1986); Nelson, 728 F.2d at 1005.

It is not yet apparent that plaintiff can state non-frivolous claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Further, the Court finds that the facts and legal issues raised by plaintiff are not so complicated that the appointment of counsel is warranted at this time.

Accordingly,

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis [ECF No. 2] is GRANTED.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the plaintiff shall pay an initial filing fee of $29.15 within thirty (30) days of the date of this Order. Plaintiff is instructed to make his remittance payable to "Clerk, United States District Court, " and to include upon it: (1) his name; (2) his prison registration number; (3) the case number; and (4) that the remittance is for an original proceeding.

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Clerk shall mail to plaintiff a copy of the Court's form "Prisoner Civil Rights Complaint."

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff shall file an amended complaint within thirty (30) days of the date of this Memorandum and Order.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that if plaintiff fails to comply with this Memorandum and Order, the Court may dismiss this action without further proceedings.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff's motion for the appointment of counsel [ECF No. 5] is DENIED without prejudice.


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