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Thomas v. St. Louis County Justice Center

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

April 21, 2017




         This matter is before the Court upon the motion of pro se plaintiff Robin Anthony Thomas's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Docket No. 2). Having reviewed the financial information plaintiff submitted in support, the Court determines that he is unable to pay the full amount of the filing fee. The motion will therefore be granted. In addition, for the reasons explained below, the 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 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 an inmate account statement showing an average monthly balance of $36.86. The Court will therefore assess an initial partial filing fee of $7.37, twenty percent of plaintiff s average monthly balance.

         Legal Standard on Initial Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), this 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 reviewing a pro se complaint under § 1915(e)(2), the Court must give it 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

         Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleges as follows. He was incarcerated at the St. Louis County Justice Center ("Justice Center") from November 13, 2012 through September 10, 2014. On September 5, 2014, he was sentenced to a ten year term of imprisonment, and he began preparing to be transferred to the Missouri Department of Corrections (MODOC) facility in which he would serve his term. Plaintiff met with defendant Christine Hattler to designate a person who would be authorized to receive his personal property that was being held in the Justice Center property room. This personal property consisted of a MasterCard bank card/debit card ("bank card"). Hattler gave plaintiff a property release form and plaintiff completed it, designating one Michael Roberts as the person authorized to receive the bank card. Hattler Dated this information into the computer system, and allowed plaintiff to verify that it was correctly entered.

         Plaintiff was transferred to MODOC on September 10, 2014. On that day, defendant Jane Doe was in charge of releasing the personal property of Justice Center inmates. She "unlawfully, negligently and/or deliberately released my personal property (bank card) to the unauthorized individual, Lionel Hardy." (Docket No. 1 at 14). Plaintiff alleges that Doe failed to follow the correct protocol and procedure when releasing the bank card. On or about September 11, 2014, Hardy fraudulently used the bank card to make purchases.

         Plaintiff claims that he spent several months, beginning in November of 2016, "trying to gather information regarding this matter." (Id. at 14). In June of 2016, plaintiff contacted defendant Gene Fitzgerald, a case worker, to inquire about the release of his bank card to Hardy. Fitzgerald verified that the bank card should not have been released to Hardy, but "deliberately ignored" plaintiffs request for computer data and copies of all of the documents related to the release of the bank card. (Id. at 18). Plaintiff also called Judy Lang to request the name of the officer who released the bank card to Hardy, but Lang did not return his calls, and she spoke rudely to a MODOC caseworker who called her on plaintiffs behalf.

         Plaintiff claims he suffered the loss of money from his account, as well as psychological stress. As relief, plaintiff seeks a total of $3, 000, 000.00 in compensation for the funds fraudulently taken from his ...

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