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Watson v. St. Louis City Justice Ctr.

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

December 5, 2016

RICHARD DONALD WATSON, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
ST. LOUIS CITY JUSTICE CTR., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CATHERINE D. PERRY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, a prisoner currently incarcerated at Algoa Correctional Center seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis in this civil action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Having reviewed plaintiff's financial information, the Court assesses a partial initial filing fee of $17.49, which is twenty percent of his average monthly deposit. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b).

         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 brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his civil rights during his incarceration at the St. Louis City Justice Center. Specifically, plaintiff asserts that on October 21, 2014, correctional officer Sonya White was escorting him while he was handcuffed from his cell through his dorm. He states that defendant White began to curse at him and punch at him in the head, over and over, and eventually she maced him. Plaintiff claims that he was handcuffed the entire time.

         Plaintiff states that in November of 2014 he was charged with assault on a correctional officer. Although he does not state for certain in his complaint, he leads the Court to believe the correctional officer he was charged with assaulting was Sonya White. Plaintiff states that the charges against him were dropped after “she” testified at his trial.

         Plaintiff has not indicated in his complaint the relief he is seeking in this action.

         Discussion

         Plaintiff's claim against the St. Louis City Justice Center is legally frivolous because it cannot be sued. 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.”).

         Additionally, as currently pled, plaintiff's claim for excessive force against defendant White does not state a claim for relief because plaintiff has not indicated the capacity under which he is suing defendant White.

         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, in this case, the City of St. Louis. Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). To state a claim against the City of St. Louis, plaintiff must allege that a policy or custom of the City of St. Louis was 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 City of St. Louis 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.

         Because plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court will allow plaintiff to file an amended complaint on a Court form. Plaintiff shall have thirty (30) days from the date of this Order to file an amended complaint ...


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