Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Wolford v. McSwain

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

March 15, 2017

LONNIE E. WOLFORD, Plaintiff,
v.
ELLIS McSWAIN, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STEPHEN N. LIMBAUGH, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court upon the motion of plaintiff Lonnie E. Wolford, an inmate at Northeast Correctional Center, for leave to commence this action without prepayment of the filing fee. (Docket No. 2). The motion will be granted, and Wolford’s complaint 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 average monthly deposits or the average monthly balance in the prisoner’s account for the prior six-month period, whichever is greater. 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 his 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, Wolford submitted a certified account statement for the appropriate period showing an average monthly deposit of $190.64. The Court will assess an initial partial filing fee of $38.13, twenty percent of Wolford’s average monthly deposit.

         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).

         Discussion

         Wolford brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violation of his federal rights to due process and equal protection. Named as defendants are numerous current and former members of the Missouri Parole Board, and Wolford’s former wife.

         In the complaint, Wolford provides the following background. In February of 1987, he was convicted of murder, assault, and burglary for killing a man with whom his wife and children were living, and stabbing another man. He was sentenced to consecutive terms of 30 years, 15 years, and 8 years. From 1995 to 2016, he received a total of seven parole hearings, but was denied parole each time. He alleges that his parole file contains information that he had threatened the lives of his former wife and her parents, and a report prepared by a psychiatrist.

         Wolford alleges that his due process rights were violated when defendants wrongfully denied him parole for various reasons, including considering the psychiatric report and the information about the threats. Wolford also alleges that defendants failed to notify him of adverse information in his parole file, and made findings during parole hearings that became part of his parole file. Wolford also challenges aspects of the procedure employed during his parole hearings. For his prayer for relief, Wolford seeks a declaratory judgment that the defendants violated his federal rights and his right to medical privacy, and that the Missouri Parole Board’s practices are unconstitutional. Plaintiff also asks the Court to compel the Missouri Parole Board to give Missouri inmates “pre-hearing” factors, grant him an immediate parole hearing that none of the defendants can participate in, enter an “order of protection” providing that none of the defendants can participate in future parole decisions, compel the Missouri Parole Board to implement screening and pre-hearing processes, and order the Missouri Parole Board to expunge any information regarding non-commitment offenses from the plaintiff’s parole file. He also seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

         Discussion

         Defendants McSwain, Wells, Rucker, Jones, Zamkus, Dusenberg, Ruzika, and Crump are all current or former members of the Missouri Parole Board, and are sued in their official and individual capacities. Wolford alleges that these defendants violated his constitutional rights when they took various actions in the process of considering and deciding to deny him parole. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that members of a state parole board are entitled to absolute immunity when considering and deciding parole questions. Mayorga v. Missouri, 442 F.3d 1128, 1131 (8th Cir. 2006) (parole board members were entitled to absolute immunity in their individual capacities even if mistaken in judgment); accord Figg v. Russell, 433 F.3d 593, 598 (8th Cir. 2006) (parole board members are absolutely immune from suit when considering and denying parole questions; extending absolute immunity to parole agent where his function was so associated with function of parole board that he was also cloaked in immunity). “Absolute immunity defeats a suit at the outset, so long as the official’s actions were within the scope of the immunity.” Patterson v. Von Riesen, ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.