United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
E. JACKSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court upon review of the second amended
complaint filed by pro se plaintiff Taylor Bennett.
For the reasons explained below, this case will be dismissed
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).
Standard on Initial Review
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.
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).
allegations in the second amended complaint arise from the
same facts in plaintiff's criminal case, U.S.A. v.
Bennett, Case No. 4:13-cr-441-RWS-1 (E.D. Mo. Apr. 3,
2014). There, plaintiff pled guilty to mail fraud, access
device fraud, possession of 15 or more unauthorized access
devices, and possession of stolen mail. This Court takes
judicial notice of the case file in that criminal action, and
in Bennett v. United States of America, Case No.
4:14-cv-1438-RWS (E.D. Mo. Apr. 21, 2015), plaintiff's
postconviction relief proceeding under 28 U.S.C. § 2255.
See Cravens v. Smith, 610 F.3d 1019, 1029
(quoting In re Papatones, 143 F.3d 623, 624 n. 3
(1st Cir. 1998) (“The court may take judicial notice of
its own orders and of records in a case before the court . .
.”); United States v. Morris, 451 F.2d 969,
972 (8th Cir. 1971) (The district court may take judicial
notice of its own records).
convictions stemmed from an August 27, 2013 incident in which
officers of the Florissant, Missouri Police Department
responded to a call from an individual who stated that he saw
plaintiff opening mailboxes in his neighborhood. Upon
arriving at the scene, the officers questioned plaintiff and
searched her backpack, discovering various items including an
unauthorized access device and stolen mail. She was arrested.
She ultimately pled guilty and was sentenced to a 48-month
term of imprisonment and a three-year term of supervised
release. Plaintiff's § 2255 motion was denied.
initiated this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil action on December
15, 2016, and was granted leave to proceed in forma
pauperis. Upon initial review, the Court noted the
complaint suffered from various deficiencies, and gave
plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint. In so doing,
the Court explained, inter alia, that plaintiff was
required to state what each defendant did to violate her
federally-protected rights, and that her allegations must be
simple, concise and direct. In response, plaintiff filed an
amended complaint and then a second amended complaint, which
the Court now reviews pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e).
Second Amended Complaint
second amended complaint spans 19 pages, and contains eight
counts. Plaintiff names nine defendants: Timothy J. Lowery
(the Chief of Police of the City of Florissant Police
Department); Florissant law enforcement officers Daniel
Fletcher, Scott Sachs, Andrew Hale, and John Doe; Federal
Public Defender Lucille Liggett; Assistant United States
Attorney Tracy L. Berry; City of Florissant Police
Department; and Lawrence Danielson (the Florissant resident
who told police he noticed plaintiff engaged in suspicious
activity). Plaintiff sues the defendants in their
“individual and professional capacities.” (Docket
No. 6). Briefly, the second amended complaint alleges as
is titled Unreasonable Search and Seizure, and is alleged
against Fletcher, Sachs, Doe and Danielson. Plaintiff alleges
that her constitutional rights were violated on August 27,
2013 because Fletcher lacked reasonable suspicion to stop her
and lacked probable cause to arrest her, Danielson falsely
alleged that she walked on his property and opened mailboxes,
Sachs requested permission to search her backpack, and
Fletcher and Sachs conspired to commit false arrest and Doe
took no action to stop them.
II is also titled Unreasonable Search and Seizure and is
alleged against City of Florissant Police Department and
Lowery, Fletcher, Sachs, Doe and Hale. Plaintiff alleges that
defendants violated her constitutional rights on August 27,
2013 by holding her in custody too long without a hearing,
and because they lacked probable cause to arrest her.
III is titled Municipal Liability and Violation of Due
Process, and is alleged against all defendants. Plaintiff
alleges that defendants violated her constitutional rights on
August 27, 2013 when they did not allow her to call her
attorney and subjected her to unpleasant jail conditions.
Plaintiff alleges that “police officers” worked
together to “bully, harass and deprive private citizens
of their civil liberties, ” that
“[d]efendants' conduct” caused her to be
abused, and that “Defendants' actions”
deprived her of property interests. (Docket No. 6 at 10).
Plaintiff states ...