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Thompson v. Dotson

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

February 28, 2017

AZA THOMPSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CHIEF COLONEL DOYLE SAM DOTSON, III, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CHARLES A. SHAW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the motion of plaintiff Aza Thompson, an inmate at the Hill Correctional Center in Galesburg, Illinois, for leave to commence this civil action without prepayment of the required filing fee. The motion will be granted, and this action will be dismissed.

         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 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 this case, having considered the instant motion and plaintiff's statements about his finances, the Court will require plaintiff to pay an initial partial filing fee of $1.00, an amount that is reasonable based upon the information the Court has about plaintiff's finances. See Henderson v. Norris, 129 F.3d 481, 484 (8th Cir. 1997) (when a prisoner is unable to provide the Court with a certified copy of his prison account statement, the Court should assess an amount “that is reasonable, based on whatever information the court has about the prisoner's finances”).

         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, among other things, draw upon judicial experience and common sense. Id. at 679.

         A Court must liberally construe a pro se complaint, and must accept as true the factual allegations therein. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, 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”). The rule that a court must accept a complaint's allegations as true is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. 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

         On January 30, 2017, plaintiff filed the instant complaint in the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. On February 23, 2017, Judge Sara Darrow transferred the case to this Federal Judicial District on the basis of venue. In the complaint, plaintiff invokes this Court's federal question jurisdiction and seeks relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         Plaintiff alleges that the events giving rise to this lawsuit occurred on January 27, 2015 while plaintiff was being held in the St. Louis City Justice Center. Plaintiff alleges on that date two detectives from the “Chief Colonel Doyle Sam Dotson III Sheriff Police Department” visited plaintiff to question him about a murder, but did not charge him with murder. (Doc. 1 at 5.) Plaintiff alleges that “the Sheriff Police Department acquired this to the Fox 2 News TV and also to the St. Louis Post/BND using subterfuge and deceit in an attempt to create a fabricated story to the News Paper and Fox 2 News TV.” Id. Plaintiff alleges that the “Sheriff Police Department” falsely stated that plaintiff had committed murder. Id.

         In Count I, plaintiff alleges a supplemental state law claim of defamation. In support, plaintiff alleges that the Sheriff Department's false statement impeached his “integrity, virtue, human decency, respect for others, and reputation, ” lowered plaintiff in the estimation of the community and deterred third parties from dealing with him, and that he suffered humiliation, mental distress and suffering. (Id. at 5-6). In Count II, plaintiff alleges that his federal due process rights were violated in that Dotson's detectives “knew that providing a perjurious statement to the Fox 2 News and the St. Louis Post/BND News Paper would cause injury to plaintiff.” (Doc. 1 at 6.) Plaintiff alleges that the “perjurious statement of the Detectives caused stigmatic harm to plaintiff by damaging his good name, reputation, honor, integrity, in violation of the Plaintiff's Fourteenth and Fifth Amendment rights to liberty.” Id. Plaintiff seeks one million dollars in damages.

         Discussion

         1. Federal Claims

         In Count II of the complaint, plaintiff alleges that he was defamed in violation of his federal right to due process. He alleges that the defamation harmed his reputation, caused third parties to be deterred from dealing with him, and caused him emotional distress. To state a cognizable claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege a violation of a right secured by the Constitution or the laws of the United States, and that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). It is well settled that defamation, standing alone, does not constitute a constitutional violation actionable under § 1983. Brayman v. U.S., 96 F.3d 1061 (8th Cir. 1996) (citing Siegert v. Gilley, 500 U.S. 226, 233 (1991)). To state a defamation claim of constitutional dimension, a plaintiff must allege that the loss of reputation was coupled with “some other tangible element, ” Gunderson v. Hvass, 339 F.3d 639, 644 (8th Cir. 2003), such as loss of public employment. See Siegert, 500 U.S. at 234-35; Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693, 701-12 (1976). In the present case, plaintiff alleges only that the defamation affected his reputation within the ...


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