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Harris v. City of St. Louis

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

June 22, 2017

KENDRICK HARRIS, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF ST. LOUIS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CATHERINE D. PERRY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis in this civil action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his civil rights. After reviewing plaintiff's financial affidavit, plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted. However, plaintiff's complaint will be dismissed, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         Standard of Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), 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, 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 draw on its judicial experience and common sense. Id. at 679.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his civil rights. He has named the City of St. Louis and the St. Louis City Police Department as defendants in this action, as well as an individual police officer identified as “Unknown CSCPO 11462.” Plaintiff also seeks to add John Doe Police Officer as a defendant.

         Plaintiff asserts that he was arrested on February 23, 2017 by “Unknown CSCPO 11462” when the officer was “doing a sweep” at 1148 Union Street in St. Louis, Missouri. Plaintiff claims that he was searched, but he was “clear for contraband, weapons and warrants.” Plaintiff alleges that he did not give the police consent to search his car; however, “my car was parked, they took my car keys out of my pocket [and] towed my car.” He claims he does not have the money to get his car out of the towing facility. Plaintiff does not indicate the reason for his arrest or what reason was given by “CSCPO 11462” for the towing of his car.

         Plaintiff states that while his hands were handcuffed, a store owner came out of his store and told the police at the scene that plaintiff should be arrested due to a verbal disagreement he and plaintiff had a few days before. Plaintiff states that he felt threatened due to the store owner's behavior. He claims that he asked the officers at the scene to use the restroom, but he was denied, and he urinated on himself.

         Plaintiff claims that he did not resist arrest; however, plaintiff asserts that his handcuffs were on too tight and his wrists and elbows were scraped. Plaintiff also asserts that the police removed his ID, his coat and his cell phone.

         Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief in his request for relief.

         Discussion

         At the outset, the Court notes that, in general, fictitious or unknown parties may not be named as defendants in a civil action. Phelps v. United States, 15 F.3d 735, 739 (8th Cir. 1994). An action may proceed against a party whose name is unknown, however, if the complaint makes sufficiently specific allegations to permit the identity of the party to be ascertained after reasonable discovery. Munz v. Parr, 758 F.2d 1254, 1257 (8th Cir. 1985).

         In the case at hand, the complaint does not contain allegations sufficiently specific to permit the identity of “Unknown CSCPO 11462" or John Doe Police Officer to be ascertained after reasonable discovery. Although plaintiff has provided a number after “Unknown CSCPO, ” he has not identified what the number is in reference to, or how this number would assist the Court in the identification of the only named defendant in this lawsuit. Moreover, as plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court is charged with service of the complaint on defendant on plaintiff's behalf. The Court cannot obtain service on a defendant who is identified only as “Unknown CSCPO 11462” with no indication who this individual works for, their last name, their work or home address, or some other identifying information.

         Additionally, plaintiff's other “John Doe" defendants are both unidentified and indeterminate in number. This is not permissible. See Estate of Rosenberg v. Crandell, 56 F.3d 35, 37 (8th Cir. 1995) (suit naming ‚Äúvarious other John Does to be named when identified" not permissible). As a result, the complaint ...


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