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Daniel v. Williams

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

August 2, 2017

JAMES WILLIAMS, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court upon the motion of plaintiff MeShaw Daniel, a pretrial detainee at the Scott County Jail, [1] for leave to commence this action without prepayment of the filing fee. The motion will be granted. In addition, the Court will dismiss the official capacity claims against all defendants and the individual capacity claim against Williams, and direct the Clerk of Court to issue process upon the complaint as to defendants Keith Bickford and Anthony Moody in their individual capacities.

         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 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, plaintiff submitted an affidavit and an inmate account statement showing an average monthly balance of $14.72. The Court will therefore assess an initial partial filing fee of $2.94, twenty percent of plaintiff s average monthly balance.

         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 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 seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Charleston, Missouri law enforcement officers James Williams, Keith Bickford, and Anthony Moody. Plaintiff sues each defendant in both his official and individual capacity.

         Plaintiff claims that, on February 4, 2017, he was arrested and taken to the police department and placed in an interview room. Williams asked him to take a gunshot residue test, and plaintiff refused. Williams left the room and reentered thirty minutes later, moved plaintiff to a different room with a bench, shackled him to the bench, and left. He returned with a gunshot residue test kit, and was accompanied by Bickford and Moody. Williams demanded a sample from plaintiff, and he refused. Williams told Bickford and Moody to grab plaintiff, and Williams himself grabbed plaintiffs left arm. Moody repeatedly punched plaintiff in the face, and Bickford stood on the bench plaintiff was shackled to and put plaintiff in a choke hold, lifted and held him off the floor by his neck, and pressed his fingers into plaintiffs neck "trying to make [plaintiff] pass out." (Docket No. 1 at 6). Plaintiff alleges this continued for approximately three minutes.

         In his prayer for relief, plaintiff states he "would like relief in the form of money do [sic] to physical and emotional abuse" and specifies he seeks "$500, 000 do [sic] to emotional and physical abuse." (Id. at 7).


         Plaintiffs official capacity claims against Williams, Bickford and Moody will be dismissed. Naming a government official in his official capacity is the equivalent of naming the government entity that employs the official, which in this case is the City of Charleston Police Department. Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police,491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). Municipal departments, such as police departments, are not suable entities under § 1983. Ketchum v. City of West Memphis, Ark,974 F.2d 81, 82 (1992). Even if plaintiff had named a proper party defendant, the complaint would not state a claim of municipal liability because it fails to allege a direct causal link between a municipal policy or custom and the alleged constitutional violation. Monel ...

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