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Allen v. Mills

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern District

November 9, 2016

RONNIE ALLEN, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN MILLS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STEPHEN N. LIMBAUGH, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court upon review of the file. Plaintiff Ronnie Allen, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this prisoner civil rights action on February 8, 2016, naming 22 defendants. Upon review, the Court determined that it was unclear precisely what plaintiffs claims were as to each defendant, and ordered plaintiff to submit an amended complaint. Plaintiff has complied, and the Court will now review the amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915.

         28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), the Court shall 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). 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). Although the factual allegations in the complaint need not be detailed, they must be sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level ...". Id. at 555.

         To 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 "[f]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." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. The Court must review the factual allegations in the complaint "to determine if they plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief." Id. at 1951. Pro se pleadings are liberally construed, and are held to a less stringent standard when considering a dismissal of the case for failure to state a claim. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Horsey v. Asher, 741 F.2d 209, 211 n. 3 (8th Cir. 1984). Even so, a pro se complaint must contain specific facts to support its conclusions. Kaylor v. Fields, 661 F.2d 1177, 1183 (8th Cir. 1981).

         The Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff, an inmate at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center ("ERDCC") alleges that his constitutional rights guaranteed by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments and the Equal Protection Clause were violated during five incidents that occurred on March 20, March 23, April 6, April 7, and April 17, 2015. He names 25 defendants: John Mills, Claude Bagby, Tamara Hendrix, Dennis Mayberry, Michael Vinson, Unknown Schefer, Jerry Walls, Jeremiah Brown, Brad Clark, Daron Hyte, Jefferson Kidd, Jane Bucanan, Cynthia Reese, Charles Wilson, Bryan Robinson, Gregory Hancock, Crystal Steward, Regina Beggs, Bruce Hannabrink, Terry White, Omer Clark, Paula Reed, Ian Wallace, Dwayne Kempker, and Bill Stange. All of the defendants are employed by the Missouri Department of Corrections, an agency of the State of Missouri. Plaintiff states that he sues each defendant in his/her official and individual capacity, and seeks monetary damages in the amount of $75, 000.00.

         Discussion

         Official Capacity Claims

         The Court will dismiss plaintiffs official capacity claims against all of the defendants. All defendants are employees of the Missouri Department of Corrections, an agency of the State of Missouri, and plaintiff seeks only monetary damages. Naming a government official in his or her official capacity is the equivalent of naming the government entity that employs the official. "Neither a State nor its officials acting in their official capacity are 'persons' under § 1983." Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). The amended complaint therefore fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted against these State of Missouri employees in their official capacities.

         Equal Protection Claims

         Plaintiff states that defendants violated his right to equal protection, but he alleges no facts to support such a claim. Equal protection claims arise when a charge is made that similarly situated individuals are treated differently without a rational relationship to a legitimate state purpose. See San Antonio School District v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1 (1972). Because plaintiff never alleges that he belongs to a suspect class or was treated differently from any other inmate similarly situated, he fails to state an equal protection claim. See Village of Willowbrook v. Olech, 528 U.S. 562, 564 (2000) (per curiam) (to proceed with equal protection claim, plaintiff who is not member of suspect class must allege that he "has been intentionally treated differently from others similarly situated and that there is no rational basis for the difference in treatment").

         March 20, 2015 - Defendants Mills, Bagby, Hendrix, Mayberry, Vinson and Hyte

         Plaintiff alleges that, on March 20, 2015, he told defendants Mills and Bagby that his cellmate, Timothy Rucker, had threatened to harm him, and he asked to be moved to a different cell. Plaintiff alleges that Mills and Bagby refused to do so, and that Bagby used a racial slur and stated that Rucker and plaintiff could "kill each other for all we care." (Docket No. 12 at 9). Plaintiff alleges that Mills and Bagby slammed his hands repeatedly with the food port door and pepper-sprayed him after he refused to move his hands out of the food port opening. Plaintiff alleges that Mills and Bagby later delayed giving him a decontamination shower to wash the pepper spray from his eyes and skin, threw away some of ...


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