United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
G. FLEISSIG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court upon the motions of plaintiff
Rachel Michele Hicks for leave to proceed herein in forma
pauperis. (Docket Nos. 3 and 5). The Court has reviewed the
financial information submitted in support, and will grant
the motions. The Court will also dismiss the complaint,
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, 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.
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”).
Giving 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).
states she seeks relief for intentional infliction of
emotional distress and invasion of privacy. She also claims
“Color of Law violation (Section 242:Title 18), ”
violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and
violation of the Missouri House of Worship Act. (Docket No. 1
at 1). She names ten defendants: the St. Louis County Police
Department, law enforcement officers Aaron Dilks, John
Wheeler, Jeremy Romo, and Chris Koester, Lifechurch, Rick
Shelton, Joshua Shelton, Mike Lemp, and Dawn Hewitt.
Plaintiff alleges that her claims concern incidents that
occurred over a 20-year period in connection with her
attendance at Lifechurch in Fenton, Missouri. She purports to
bring claims on behalf of herself and her daughter.
statement of claim, plaintiff details a long history of
interpersonal conflict between herself and members of the
Lifechurch congregation and leadership. For example,
plaintiff claims that the Lifechurch bookstore sold cassette
tapes of a personal encounter that occurred in her home;
Lifechurch, church staff and pastors failed to honor a
promise to provide plaintiff a house, apartment, or car;
various people at Lifechurch failed to respond to
plaintiff's attempts to communicate; people at Lifechurch
asked her to leave, watched her, talked about her, and
accused her of stalking a pastor; people at Lifechurch
complained to police about plaintiff's conduct; and Dawn
Hewitt threatened to call the police if plaintiff did not
exit the church building. Plaintiff claims that the law
enforcement defendants failed to help her resolve the
conflicts. Plaintiff states that she and her daughter now
attend a different church.
claim for relief, plaintiff states: “I would like to be
reimbursed for my financial hardships this has caused me. We
were promised an apartment and it was so hard for me to find
one on my own . . .”. (Docket No. 1 at 6). Plaintiff
claims she spent approximately $15, 000 in hotel costs, and
Lifechurch ignored her when she asked for help with housing.
She also seeks unspecified damages for emotional distress.
Plaintiff also asks that the law enforcement defendants be
“held responsible for their actions. I feel that they
neglected to help me with the church when they were told that
they were. [sic] They seemed to have used
information or my history with the church in order to make
derogatory comments to me, and say hurtful things that only
made matter [sic] worse in my case.”
complaint is subject to dismissal for a myriad of reasons.
Plaintiff states she intends to proceed pursuant to the
Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but she fails to allege
how it applies to her case. In addition, the Court notes that
law was held unconstitutional as applied to the states by the
Supreme Court in City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S.
507 (1997). Plaintiff also cites the Missouri House of
Worship Protection Act. Again, she fails to explain how that
law applies to her case, and the Court notes that law has
been deemed unconstitutional. See Survivors Network of
Those Abused by Priests, Inc. v. Joyce, 779 F.3d 785
(8th Cir. 2015). Plaintiff also claims “Color of Law
violation (Section 242:Title 18).” (Docket No. 1 at 1).
However, that statute pertains to criminal law, and provides
no “civil cause of action or any civil remedies.”
Thibeaux v. U.S. Attorney Gen., 275 F.Appx. 889, at
*4 (11th Cir. 2008).
does not cite 42 U.S.C. § 1983, but to the extent
plaintiff can be understood to assert claims thereunder, the
complaint is subject to dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(i)-(ii). None of plaintiff's allegations
amount to a claim that a state actor deprived plaintiff of a
right secured by the Constitution or federal law. Plaintiff
does not allege that Lifechurch met on public property, or
that any defendant excluded her from public property. In
addition, plaintiff does not allege that Lifechurch, Rick
Shelton, Joshua Shelton, Mike Lemp and Dawn Hewitt are state
actors, and she alleges no facts permitting the inference
that their conduct was fairly attributable to the state.
“[M]erely private conduct, no matter how discriminatory
or wrongful, ” is excluded under § 1983.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State v.
Prison Fellowship Ministries, Inc., 509 F.3d 406, 412
(8th Cir. 2007). The complaint is legally frivolous as to the
St. Louis County Police Department because police departments
are not suable entities under § 1983. Ketchum v.
City of West Memphis, Ark., 974 F.2d 81, 82 (1992).
Finally, the complaint fails to allege that defendants Dilks,
Wheeler, Romo, or Koester were personally involved in or
directly responsible for any constitutional harm. See
Madewell v. Roberts, 909 F.2d 1203, 1208 (8th Cir. 1990)
(liability under § 1983 requires a causal link to, and
direct responsibility for, the alleged deprivation of
rights); Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1338 (8th
Cir. 1985) (claim not cognizable under § 1983 where
plaintiff fails to allege defendant was personally involved
in or directly responsible for incidents that injured
plaintiff). Regarding Dilks, plaintiff alleges that he yelled
at her on the telephone. Threatening statements and gestures
of a state actor, even if true, do not amount to
constitutional violations. Hopson v. Fredericksen,
961 F.2d 1374, 1378 (8th Cir. 1992). Regarding Koester and
Romo, plaintiff alleges that they talked to her and suggested
they would help her with her conflicts within Lifechurch, but
never did so. These allegations simply fail to state any
claim of constitutional dimension. Finally, the complaint
merely lists Wheeler as a defendant without alleging he
engaged in any specific conduct. See Potter v.
Clark, 497 F.2d 1206, 1207 (7th Cir. 1974) (“Where
a complaint alleges no specific act or conduct on the part of
the defendant and the complaint is silent as to the defendant
except for his name appearing in the caption, the complaint
is properly dismissed, even under the liberal construction to
be given pro se complaints”).
also attempts to bring tort claims based upon state law.
However, there is no basis for the exercise of supplemental
jurisdiction over these claims, and the complaint provides no
basis for concluding that federal subject matter jurisdiction
exists. Diversity jurisdiction exists in civil cases where
the matter in controversy exceeds $75, 000 and the parties
are completely diverse. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Here,
plaintiff alleges that she and defendants are Missouri
residents, and she fails to plead damages in excess of the
jurisdictional threshold. Therefore, to the extent plaintiff
seeks to bring any claim based upon state law, such claims
are subject to dismissal for lack of jurisdiction. Finally,
plaintiff purports to bring this action not only for herself
but also for the benefit of her minor child. Plaintiff is
proceeding pro se in this matter, and she does not
allege, nor is it apparent, that she is a licensed attorney.
While federal law provides that “parties may plead and
conduct their own cases personally, ” 28 U.S.C. §
1654, this right does not extend to representation of
one's child. See Osei-Afriyie by Osei-Afriyie v.
Medical College of Pennsylvania, 937 F.2d 876, 882-83
(3d Cir. 1991) (“[A] non-attorney parent must be
represented by counsel in bringing an action on behalf of his
or her child”).
for all of the foregoing reasons, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that
plaintiffs motions for leave to proceed in forma