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Moore v. Slay

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

November 8, 2016

VERNON HOWARD MOORE, Plaintiff,
v.
FRANCIS G. SLAY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          RONNIE L. WHITE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff, a prisoner, seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis in this civil action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Having reviewed plaintiffs financial information, the Court assesses a partial initial filing fee of $9.62.[1] Additionally, this action is dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e).

         Standard of Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), the Court is required to dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis if it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. To state a claim for relief, a complaint must plead more than "legal conclusions" and "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action [that are] supported by mere conclusory statements." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A plaintiff must demonstrate a plausible claim for relief, which is more than a "mere possibility of misconduct." Id. at 679. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 678. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. Id. at 679.

         When reviewing a complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), the Court accepts the well-pled facts as true. Furthermore, the Court liberally construes the allegations.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff is an inmate at the St. Louis Medium Security Institution ("MSI"). He sues Mayor Francis G. Slay, Jeffrey Carson and Jerome Fields.

         Plaintiff claims that MSI has no legal library and he cannot proceed pro se for his criminal trial because he is unable to do legal research on his claims. Plaintiff admits, however, that he has been assigned a public defender in his criminal action.

         Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief.

         Discussion

         Plaintiff brings this action against defendants in their official capacities. See Egerdahl v. Hibbing Community College, 72 F.3d 615, 619 (8th Cir. 1995) (where a complaint is silent about a defendant's capacity, a Court must interpret the complaint as including official-capacity claims); Nix v. Norman, 879 F.2d 429, 431 (8th Cir. 1989). Official-capacity suits are tantamount to suits brought directly against the public entity of which the official is an agent. Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985). To state a claim against a public entity or a government official in his or her official capacity, a plaintiff must allege that a policy or custom of the public entity was responsible for the alleged constitutional violation. Brandon v. Holt, 469 U.S. 464, 473 (1985); Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978). Because plaintiff does not claim that a public entity's policy or custom was responsible for the alleged constitutional violations, the complaint fails to state a claim or cause of action under § 1983 as to defendants in their official capacities. As a result, these defendants must be dismissed.

         As additional grounds for dismissing this action, the Court finds that plaintiffs allegations do not rise to the level of a constitutional violation and are legally frivolous. Plaintiffs claim that he was denied access to the law library, and hence access to the courts, is legally frivolous, because he has alleged no facts indicating that he was thereby prejudiced. See Smith v. Boyd, 945 F.2d 1041, 1043 (8th Cir. 1991); Grady v. Wilken, 735 F.2d 303, 306 (8th Cir. 1984).

         "To state a claim [for denial of meaningful access to the courts], inmates must assert that they suffered an actual injury to pending or contemplated legal claims." Myers v. Hundley, 101 F.3d 542, 544 (8th Cir. 1996). Plaintiff has failed to allege that he has suffered an actual injury to his criminal action in state court. And although he has alleged that he does not "trust" his public defender, at this time he has appointed counsel in state court, as verified on Missouri Case. Net. Thus, plaintiff is adequately represented in his criminal matter. See State v. Moore, Case No. 1622-CR00169-01 (22nd Judicial Circuit).

         To the extent plaintiff has attempted to allege an equal protection claim by stating that one jail in St. Louis City has some legal research capability, while another jail does not, he has failed to do so. A plaintiff must "allege and prove something more than different treatment by government officials" to state an equal protection claim. Batra v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of Nebraska,79 F.3d 717, 721 (8th Cir. 1996). "[T]he key requirement is that plaintiff allege and prove unlawful, purposeful discrimination." Id. at 722; see Albright v. Oliver,975 F.2d 343, 348 (7th Cir. 1992) ("you must be singled out because of your membership in the class, and not just be the random victim of governmental incompetence"), aff'd on other grounds, 510 U.S. 266 (1994); Booher v. United States Postal Serv.,843 F.2d 943, 944 (6th Cir.1988) ("[t]he equal protection concept does not duplicate common law tort liability by conflating all persons not injured into a preferred class"); Joyce v. Mavromatis, 783 ...


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