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Wright v. Drury

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

September 19, 2017

WES DRURY, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court upon pro se plaintiff Jonathan Wright's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Docket No. 2). The Court has reviewed the financial information plaintiff submitted in support, and has determined to grant the motion. 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 an affidavit and an inmate account statement showing an average monthly balance of $46.28. The Court will therefore assess an initial partial filing fee of $9.25, 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. 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 Wes Drury, Justin Wouten, Ryan Dennis, Unknown Pratt, Unknown Scoggins, and Ryan Unknown. Plaintiff sues all defendants in their official and individual capacities.

         According to the allegations in the complaint, on April 15, 2017, defendant Ryan Unknown, a corrections officer, slammed plaintiffs right hand while plaintiff was handcuffed, causing injuries serious enough that plaintiff sought medical attention and was taken to the hospital. On June 13, 2017, while he was locked in his cell, plaintiff asked defendant Wouten to explain why he had been placed on lock down. Wouten replied that plaintiff should "shut up and deal with it." (Docket No. 1 at 5). Plaintiff protested, and Wouten returned with a can of mace and told plaintiff to lay on his bed. Plaintiff refused, and Wouten sprayed mace through the "choke hole" and then slammed it shut. (Id. at 6). Plaintiff suffered an asthma attack and required a breathing treatment as a result. Regarding the remaining named defendants, it is unclear exactly what plaintiff alleges they did to violate his constitutional rights.


         Plaintiff attempts to bring unrelated claims against not one but six defendants. 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. In other words, plaintiffs claim that Ryan Unknown slammed his hand on April 13, 2017 should not be joined with his claim that Wooten unjustly maced him on June 13, 2017. SeeGeorge 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 ...

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