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Potter v. Jordan

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

September 19, 2017

DANIEL POTTER, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN JORDAN, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          ABBIE CRITES-LEONI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the motion of plaintiff Daniel Potter, a prisoner, for leave to proceed in forma pauperis in this civil action. The Court has reviewed plaintiffs financial information, and will grant the motion and waive the initial partial filing fee. In addition, as will be explained below, plaintiff will be given the opportunity to submit an amended complaint.

         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 the prisoner's 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 a "Detainee Transaction History" form showing that his account balance is $0.00. For this reason, the Court will waive the initial partial filing fee. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4) ("In no event shall a prisoner be prohibited from bringing a civil action or appealing a civil or criminal judgment for the reason that the prisoner has no assets and no means by which to pay the initial partial filing fee."). However, plaintiff is not excused from paying the filing fee. The agency having custody of plaintiff will be directed to begin forwarding payments from plaintiffs inmate account, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2), until the $350.00 filing fee is paid in full.

         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 "naked assertion[s]" 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 Complaint

         Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Named as defendants are John Jordan (the Sheriff of Cape Girardeau County), James Mulcahy (a Captain at the Cape Girardeau County Jail), T.C. Stevens (a Lieutenant at the Cape Girardeau County Jail), Ruth Ann Dickerson (a Captain at the Cape Girardeau County Jail), Tina Henderson (a Lieutenant at the Cape Girardeau County Jail), the Cape Girardeau County Jail, Kristopher Seib (an officer at the Cape Girardeau County Jail), Aaron Cheney (an officer at the Cape Girardeau County Jail), and Unknown Officers #3-10 (officers at the Cape Girardeau County Jail). Plaintiff sues all defendants in their official and individual capacities.

         Plaintiff states he was incarcerated at the Cape Girardeau County Jail from May 18, 2017 to July 7, 2017. He claims he was subjected to unhygienic conditions of confinement during his incarceration. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that the walls and doors were filthy, the toilets were stained with waste matter, the cell temperatures were freezing, and discolored water came from the faucets. Plaintiff alleges that there was an atmosphere of racial tension, and that thefts and assaults occurred. He alleges the food was inedible, he was not given recreation, and he was assaulted by other inmates on different occasions and not provided medical care afterwards. Plaintiff also alleges that "the defendants" enacted a "postcard only policy" that prevented him from receiving books, magazines, newspapers, and mail from family and friends. He alleges he was not given a change of clothing, hygiene items, necessary medication, cleaning supplies, or an adequate mattress.

         Discussion

         Plaintiff attempts to bring multiple unrelated claims against not one defendant, but against eight named defendants and eight fictitious parties. Rule 20(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs joinder of defendants, and provides as follows:

Persons . . . may be joined in one action as defendants if: (A) any right to relief is asserted against them jointly, severally, or in the alternative with respect to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences; and (B) any question of law or fact common to all defendants will arise in the action.

         Therefore, plaintiff cannot join, in a single lawsuit, unrelated claims against different defendants. See George v. Smith,507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007) ("Claim A against Defendant 1 should not be joined with unrelated Claim B against Defendant 2."). "Unrelated claims against different defendants belong in different suits, ... [in part] to ensure that prisoners pay the required filing fees - for the Prison Litigation Reform Act limits to 3 the number of ...


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