United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
KEENAN K. COFIELD, Plaintiff,
KEEFE CORP., et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
W. SIPPEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on plaintiff Keenan K.
Cofield’s motion for leave to commence this action
without payment of the required filing fee. (Docket No. 2).
For the reasons stated below, the Court will grant the motion
and assess plaintiff an initial partial filing fee of $13.94.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Furthermore, based
upon a review of the complaint, the Court will dismiss this
action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1)
prisoner bringing a civil action in forma pauperis is
required to pay the full amount of the filing fee. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(b)(1). If the prisoner has insufficient funds in
his 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. Id. 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.
review of plaintiff’s account indicates an average
monthly balance of $69.68. Plaintiff has insufficient funds
to pay the entire filing fee. Accordingly, the Court will
assess an initial partial filing fee of $13.94, which is 20
percent of plaintiff's average monthly balance.
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)
Court may 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 against
a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B). An action is frivolous if “it lacks an
arguable basis in either law or in fact.” Neitzke
v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 328 (1989). An action is
malicious when it is undertaken for the purpose of harassing
litigants 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). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can
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
reviewing a pro se complaint under § 1915(e)(2)(B), the
Court must give it the benefit of a liberal construction,
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and must
weigh all factual allegations in favor of the plaintiff,
unless the facts alleged are clearly baseless. Denton v.
Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992).
determine whether an action fails to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted, the Court must engage in a two-step
inquiry. First, the Court must identify the allegations in
the complaint that are not entitled to the assumption of
truth. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1950-51
(2009). These include “legal conclusions” and
“[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action [that are] supported by mere conclusory
statements.” Id. at 1949. Second, the Court
must determine whether the complaint states a plausible claim
for relief. Id. at 1950–51. This is a
“context-specific task that requires the reviewing
court to draw on its judicial experience and common
sense.” Id. at 1950. The plaintiff is required
to plead facts that show more than the “mere
possibility of misconduct.” Id. The Court must
review the factual allegations in the complaint “to
determine if they plausibly suggest an entitlement to
relief.” Id. at 1951. When faced with
alternative explanations for the alleged misconduct, the
Court may exercise its judgment in determining whether
plaintiff’s proffered conclusion is the most plausible,
or whether it is more likely that no misconduct occurred.
Id. at 1950, 1951–52.
a prisoner, seeks injunctive and monetary relief in this 42
U.S.C. § 1983 action against Keefe Corp., Keefe Group,
Inc., Keefe Commissary Network, Keefe, Inc., and Keefe
Commissary Network Sales. Plaintiff complains that, in the
past, present and future, he purchased “Tide
Pods” from the prison commissary at a cost of $8.13 to
$8.43, when the same items cost much less at regular retail
and wholesale stores. (Docket No. 1 at 2). Plaintiff also
states that other items “ranging from snack food items
to personal care products to clothing and electronics”
are priced higher in the prison commissary than they are at
local stores outside the prison. (Id.) Plaintiff
asserts that the defendants are engaged in a scheme to
defraud him and other incarcerated persons across the United
States. Plaintiff seeks, inter alia, an award of
$10,000,000.00 in compensatory damages and $25,000,000.00 in
punitive damages from each defendant, and an injunction
ordering defendants to stop selling items “at higher
inflated prices.” (Id. at 5). Plaintiff also
requests “class action status” and asks that
defendants be ordered to pay into a fund for refunds to the
class in the amount of $2,000,000,000.00.
initial matter, the Court considers plaintiff’s
statement: “request for class action-status.”
(Id.). Based upon plaintiff’s filings, it is
apparent that plaintiff intends to act as a class
representative. However, the complaint does not allege the
required prerequisites to pursue a class action. See
Fed. R. Civ. P. 23. Even if it did, plaintiff, as a pro se
litigant, would not be able to represent other parties, even
in a class action proceeding. See Oxendine v.
Williams, 509 F.2d 1405, 1407 (4th Cir. 1975) (plain
error to allow incarcerated inmate to represent fellow
inmates in class action); see also Lewis v. Lenc-Smith
Mfg. Co., 784 F.2d 829, 830 (7th Cir. 1986) (person not
licensed to practice law may not represent another individual
in federal court); Craig v. Cohn, 80 F.Supp.2d 944,
946 (N.D. Ind. 2000) (citations omitted) (“Every court
that has considered the issue has held that a prisoner
proceeding pro se is inadequate to represent the interests of
his fellow inmates in a class action.”); Fymbo v.
State Farm Fire and Cas. Co., 213 F.3d 1320, 1321 (10th
Cir. 2000) (“A litigant may bring his own claims to
federal court without counsel, but not the claims of
others.”) Therefore, to the extent plaintiff can be
understood to attempt to initiate a class action and/or
represent the interests of anyone other than himself, such
request is denied, and all claims plaintiff attempts to bring
on behalf of other inmates are dismissed. The Court will
proceed to treat the complaint as affecting only
to the merits of plaintiff's claims relative to the
over-pricing of prison commissary items, the Court will
dismiss this action as legally frivolous, because such claims
simply are not cognizable under § 1983. To state a claim
for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege
sufficient facts to show (1) that the defendants acted under
color of state law, and (2) that the alleged wrongful conduct
deprived the plaintiff of a constitutionally protected
federal right. Zutz v. Nelson, 601 F.3d 842, 848
(8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Schmidt v. City of Bella
Villa, 557 F.3d 564, 571 (8th Cir. 2009)).
“Commissary prices implicate no constitutional right .
. . [a prisoner has] no constitutionally protected interest
in commissary privileges or commissary prices.”
Poole v. Stubblefield, 2005 WL 2290450, at *2 (E.D.
Mo. Sept. 20, 2005) (internal quotation omitted); see
also Bright v. Thompson, 2011 WL 2215011, at *4 (W.D.
Ky. June 6, 2011) (inmate has no federal constitutional right
to purchase items from a commissary at a certain price);
Vega v. Rell, 2011 WL 2471295, at *25 (D. Conn. June
21, 2011) (inmates have no constitutional right to purchase
items from a prison commissary); Boyd v. Lasher,
2010 WL 444778, at *2 (E.D. La. Feb. 8, 2010) (inmate’s
claims of being overcharged for commissary purchases fails to
state a claim of violation of constitutional rights
cognizable under § 1983); Tolbert v. City of
Montgomery, 2008 WL 819067, at *1 (M.D. Ala. Mar. 25,
2008) (inmates have no constitutionally-protected interest in
purchasing goods available through the prison commissary);
McCall v. Keefe Supply Co., ...