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Edwards v. Dwyer

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

August 15, 2017

LAWRENCE MARTIN EDWARDS, Plaintiff,
v.
CHUCK DWYER, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CHARLES A. SHAW, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This closed prisoner civil rights matter is before the Court on pro se plaintiff Lawrence Martin Edwards' “Plaintiff's Request for Court Order That Missouri Attorney General's Office & Department of Corrections Be Required to Pay Him From Their Legal Expense Fund” (Doc. 356), and “Memorandum in Support For Accurate Information, Identification of Tamoshanter Nicols-Cobb a.k.a. Tamara Cobbs & Motion For Reopening of Complaint” (Doc. 344). The Court ordered non-parties the Missouri Attorney General's Office (“AG's Office”) and Missouri Department of Corrections (“MDOC”) to respond to these motions and they are now fully briefed.

         For the following reasons, plaintiff's motion to order the AG's Office and MDOC to pay plaintiff's default judgment from the Legal Expense Fund will be denied. Plaintiff's motion to reopen his complaint and for other relief will be denied.

         I. Background

         The factual and procedural background of this action was set out in detail in the Memorandum and Order of January 26, 2017 (Doc. 342 at 1-7) (the “Order”), and that discussion is incorporated herein by reference. The Order was issued after plaintiff filed a motion seeking a debtor's examination of Tamoshanter Cobb, and to issue a writ of execution to non-party the MDOC and/or its insurer, in a further effort to collect the default judgment plaintiff obtained in 2008 against defendant Tamara Cobbs.

         As explained in the Order, the Court on its own review of the file became concerned that there may have been two different former MDOC employees: Tamara Cobbs, the defendant named in plaintiff's complaint, and Tamoshanter D. Cobb, who worked at Southeast Correctional Center (“SECC”) at the time of the events alleged in plaintiff's Amended Complaint. The Court stated its concern that if Tamara Cobbs and Tamoshanter D. Cobb were two different people, it was unsure which one was the “Tamara Cobbs” who was served with summons and complaint by the U.S. Marshal's Service in August 2007. Order at 7-8.

         To resolve its concern, the Court ordered the MDOC to provide information to answer three questions: (1) Were there two different persons employed by the MDOC, one named Tamara Cobbs who left the MDOC's employment in 2001, and one named Tamoshanter D. Cobb who worked at SECC in 2005; (2) what address did the MDOC provide to the Court in camera and under seal in June 2007 as the address of named defendant Tamara Cobbs; and (3) was the address provided to the Court in late June 2007 the last known address of Tamara Cobbs, or Tamoshanter D. Cobb?

         II. Clarification of the Record

         In response to the Order and the subsequent Memorandum and Order of March 23, 2017 (Doc. 349), the MDOC filed affidavits of Assistant Attorney General Deborah Bell Yates, MDOC Legal Counsel Jay Boresi, and MDOC Human Resources Director Matthew Briesacher, that sought to answer the Court's questions and described the steps each affiant undertook.

         Most significantly, a document bearing the caption of this case and titled “Addresses Filed Under Seal” was filed as Exhibit 1 to Ms. Bell Yates' Affidavit. (Doc. 351, Ex. 1.) Ms. Bell Yates averred that in response to the Court's orders, she requested the AG's Office entire archived closed litigation file of this case, and stated that Exhibit 1 “is the document we believe was submitted to the Court under seal pursuant to the Court's order of June 26, 2007. This document lists the last known address for ‘Tamoshanter Cobbs' at that time. No signed copy of this exhibit can be located.” Bell Yates Aff. at 2, ¶¶ 3, 7, Ex. 1 (Doc. 351).[1]

         Exhibit 1, the document titled “Addresses Filed Under Seal” states in full:

Pursuant to this Court's order of June 26, 2007 [Doc. 124], counsel for the Missouri Department of Corrections hereby submits, in camera and under seal, the last addresses known to the Missouri Department of Corrections for Defendants Laura Vance and Tamoshanter Cobbs [sic] (identified in plaintiff's complaint as “Tamara Cobbs”), former Missouri Department of Corrections employees:
Laura Vance: [redacted], Argyle, TX 76226
Tamoshanter Cobbs [sic]: [redacted], Sikeston, MO 63801

         Exhibit 1 bears a signature block for then-Missouri Attorney General Jeremiah W. (Jay) Nixon, by then-Assistant Missouri Attorney General Joshua N. Worthington, but the document is not signed.

         The Court accepts that Exhibit 1 is a copy of the document filed by the MDOC in June 2007 in response to Judge Buckles' order. Exhibit 1 answers the Court's second and third questions listed above. Specifically, Exhibit 1 establishes the Sikeston, Missouri address that the MDOC provided to the Court in July 2007 as the address of named defendant Tamara Cobbs, which the Court in turn provided to the U.S. Marshal for service. Second, Exhibit 1 establishes that the MDOC knew in June 2007, and informed the Court, that defendant Tamara Cobbs' name was actually Tamoshanter D. Cobb and plaintiff had misnamed her in the Amended Complaint.[2] Thus, it is clear the MDOC knew plaintiff intended to sue Tamoshanter D. Cobb and provided the Court with last known address information of Tamoshanter D. Cobb.

         Consequently, the Court finds that the address the MDOC provided in June 2007 for service on defendant Tamara Cobbs was in fact the last known address of Tamoshanter D. Cobb, sued as Tamara Cobbs.[3] As a result, the Court also finds that Tamoshanter D. Cobb was the person actually served with summons and complaint in this action, although she was sued as Tamara Cobbs. The Court's previously expressed concern as to whether the wrong person might have been served with summons and complaint was unfounded, and is now resolved.[4] The Court now turns to plaintiff's pending motions.

         III. Discussion

         A. Plaintiff Cannot Collect the Default Judgment from the State Legal Expense Fund

         Plaintiff moves that the AG's Office and MDOC be required to pay out of the State Legal Expense Fund (the “Fund”) the $1, 000 default judgment he obtained against Tamara Cobbs in 2008. Plaintiff asserts that he is entitled to payment from Fund because the State of Missouri was required to defend Cobbs in this action, and must pay out of the Fund for judgments ...


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