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Harris v. Sullivan

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

February 3, 2017

BOBBY SULLIVAN, et al, Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court upon the motion of plaintiff Antoine Allen Harris for leave to commence this action without prepayment of the filing fee. The motion will be granted, and plaintiff will be given leave to file an amended complaint.

         Procedural History

         Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, commenced this civil action on September 14, 2016 and moved for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, but he failed to sign the complaint and he failed to submit the required financial information. On September 22, 2016, the Court returned the complaint to plaintiff and directed him to sign and return it, and also directed him to submit a certified inmate account statement. (Docket Nos. 4 and 5). Plaintiff was subsequently transferred to the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center ("ERDCC") in Bonne Terre, and the Court's Orders were re-sent to him there. On November 4, 2016, plaintiff submitted a certified inmate account statement, but he did not respond to the Court's order directing him to submit a signed complaint, and the Court once again ordered him to do so. On December 9, 2016, plaintiff submitted a signed copy of the Court's original filing form, but did not submit a signed complaint. On December 19, 2016, the Court once again ordered plaintiff to submit a signed complaint, and plaintiff finally complied on December 30, 2016.

         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 $10.00, until the filing fee is fully paid. Id.

         In support of the instant motion, plaintiff submitted an affidavit and a certified inmate account statement showing an average monthly balance of $75.00. The Court will therefore assess an initial partial filing fee of $15.00, which is twenty percent of plaintiffs average monthly balance.

         Legal Standard on Initial Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), 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 under § 1983, 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, inter alia, draw upon judicial experience and common sense. Id. at 679.

         When conducting initial review pursuant to § 1915(e)(2), the Court must give the complaint the benefit of a liberal construction. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, this does not mean that pro se complaints may be merely conclusory. Even pro se complaints are required to allege facts which, if true, state a claim for relief as a matter of law. Martin v. Aubuchon, 623 F.2d 1282, 1286 (8th Cir. 1980); see also Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914-15 (8th Cir. 2004) (federal courts are not required to "assume facts that are not alleged, just because an additional factual allegation would have formed a stronger complaint"). In addition, affording a pro se complaint the benefit of a liberal construction does not mean that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation must be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel. See McNeil v. U.S., 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993).

         The Complaint

         Named as defendants in this action are police officer Bobby Sullivan, Scott County Judge Scott Horman, and the Sikeston Department of Public Safety. For his statement of claim, plaintiff writes:

1. Bobby Sullivan #279 put a false affidavit stating he has a video of me shooting a guy twice and fighting the same guy at a parking lot. 2. Went to my preliminary hearing and Bobby Sullivan #279 states he did not see me shoot a guy I must of ducked his camara [sic]. 12-19-2015 5:00 PM 889 West Malone Sikeston Mo.
2. Judge Scott Horman Judge. At preliminary hearing he heard Bobby Sullivan lie on his affidavit and continue to bound me ...

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