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Hales v. Grisham

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

October 23, 2017

ROBERT C. HALES, Plaintiff,
OFFICER GRISHAM, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court upon the motion of Robert C. Hales for leave to commence this action without prepayment of the filing fee. (Docket No. 2). Having reviewed the motion and the financial information submitted in support, the Court has determined to grant the motion, and will assess an initial partial filing fee of $2.20. In addition, for the reasons discussed below, the Court will: (1) dismiss all of plaintiff's claims against defendants Joe Taylor and Richard Lisenbe; (2) dismiss plaintiff's official capacity claims against defendant Grisham; and (3) direct the Clerk of Court to issue process as to defendant Grisham in his individual capacity.

         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 resident account summary form that shows an average monthly balance of $11.00. The Court will therefore assess an initial partial filing fee of $2.20, which is 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. To state a claim for relief under § 1983, 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.

         When reviewing a pro se complaint under § 1915(e)(2), the Court must give it 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”). In addition, 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).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Named as defendants are Mr. Grisham and Sergeant Joe Taylor (officers with the Phelps County Sheriff's Department), and Sheriff Richard Lisenbe. Plaintiff sues all defendants in their official and individual capacities.

         According to the complaint, on May 15, 2017, while plaintiff was an inmate at the Phelps County Jail, he asked Grisham for a clean uniform. Grisham became enraged. He ordered plaintiff to come into the hallway, and told plaintiff he would “beat [his] ass now and throw [him] back in the pod.” (Docket No. 1 at 6). Grisham then ordered plaintiff to sit on the hallway floor. As plaintiff was kneeling down onto the floor, Grisham fired his taser at plaintiff, hitting him in the abdomen and thigh. Plaintiff alleges that, after the incident, Taylor told plaintiff he would take appropriate action, and that plaintiff did not need to file a grievance. Plaintiff alleges that he was never contacted by internal affairs or anyone else and that Grisham was never suspended, and concludes that this means that Taylor never took any action against Grisham. Plaintiff was able to file a grievance. Plaintiff does not allege any specific conduct on the part of Lisenbe.

         Plaintiff alleges that the tasing incident caused him to experience extreme pain and suffering. He also alleges that, since the tasing incident, he has suffered from insomnia and nightmares, and he experiences extreme stress when spoken to by an officer and is having trouble functioning normally. Plaintiff seeks monetary relief, and he asks that Grisham be fired and that all officers be required to undergo sensitivity training.


         Plaintiff's allegations against Taylor fail to state a claim of constitutional dimension, and will be dismissed. Regarding Lisenbe, plaintiff does not allege that he engaged in any specific conduct that violated his constitutional rights. “Liability under § 1983 requires a causal link to, and direct responsibility for, the alleged deprivation of rights.” Madewell v. Roberts, 909 F.2d 1203, 1208 (8th Cir. 1990). To be cognizable under ยง 1983, a claim must allege that the defendant was personally involved in or directly responsible for the incidents that deprived the ...

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