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Watkins v. State

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri

September 11, 2017

CHAUNCEY LEON WATKINS, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF MISSOURI, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          AUDREY G. FLEISSIG, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on review of plaintiff's amended complaint. Based upon a review of the amended complaint, the Court finds that the complaint should be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         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. A pleading that offers “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do, ” nor will a complaint suffice if it tenders bare assertions devoid of “further factual enhancement.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

         When conducting initial review pursuant to § 1915(e)(2), the Court must accept as true the allegations in the complaint, and must give the complaint the benefit of a liberal construction. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, the tenet that a court must accept the allegations as true does not apply to legal conclusions, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, and 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). 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”).

         The Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his civil rights. Plaintiff is currently incarcerated in the St. Louis County Justice Center. He filed the present action on April 3, 2017, against three defendants. The Court reviewed his complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and found it subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Nonetheless, because plaintiff is proceeding pro se, plaintiff was provided with time to amend his pleading.

         In plaintiff's amended complaint, he has named ten (10) individuals and entities as defendants in this action, including: the State of Missouri; Brentwood Police Department; Police Officer Unknown Presson; Sergeant Unknown Carmen; Police Officer Sullivan; Judge Tom DePriest; Judge Brian May; Prosecutor Jeffrey Pauck; Public Defender Travis Martin; and Public Defender Stephen Reynolds.

         Plaintiff has not provided the Court with a full “Statement of Claim” in his amended complaint. Plaintiff has stated generally that he was subjected to “cruel and unusual punishment” and “due process [violations]” and “assault.” He has not stated the dates of the alleged violations or who purportedly perpetrated such violations in his “Statement of Claim.” Instead, in the section of the amended complaint marked, “Relief, ” plaintiff has stated:

Subpoena video from Brentwood I-64 MetroLink Station on 7-13-16, 10:22p-11:00pm, See mugshots from University City PD on 7-14-16 & mugshots from St. Louis County Justice Center on 7-15-16 for verification, afforded legal representation, a jury trial & 1 million dollars.

         Plaintiff brings this action against defendants in their official capacities only. He seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

         Discussion

          Naming a government official in his or her official capacity is the equivalent of naming the government entity that employs the official. Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). To state a claim against a municipality or a government official in his or her official capacity, a plaintiff must allege that a policy or custom of the government entity is responsible for the alleged constitutional violation. Monell v. Dep't of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978) (emphasis added). The instant complaint does not contain any allegations that a policy or custom of St. Louis County was responsible for the alleged violations of plaintiff's constitutional rights. Therefore, the complaint, as a whole, fails to state a claim against which relief may be granted.

         Additionally, the complaint is legally frivolous against the entity known as “Brentwood Police Department” because this entity is not subject to suit. See Ketchum v. City of West Memphis, Ark., 974 F.2d 81, 82 (8th Cir. 1992) (departments or subdivisions of local government are “not juridical entities suable as such.”). Furthermore, the State of Missouri, is absolutely immune ...


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