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Howard v. Missouri Department of Corrections

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

November 3, 2017

LARRY TERRELL HOWARD, Plaintiff,
v.
MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN A. ROSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the motion of plaintiff Larry Terrell Howard for leave to commence this civil action without prepayment of the required filing fee. Having reviewed the motion and the financial information submitted in support, the Court has determined that plaintiff is unable to pay the entire filing fee, and will assess an initial partial filing fee of $3.72. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). In addition, for the reasons discussed below, the Court will dismiss the complaint, without prejudice.

         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 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 inmate account statement showing an average balance of $18.61. The Court will therefore assess an initial partial filing fee of $3.72, which is twenty percent of plaintiffs average 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 defendant is the Missouri Department of Corrections. For his statement of claim, plaintiff writes: "Officers in 2004, failed to have the duress button on when I pressed it for help." (Docket No. 1 at 5). Plaintiff claims that, because of this, he was raped by an offender. He claims that he went to the medical building the following morning and reported the incident. He states he believes staff failed to perform their job duties as scheduled, but does not explain why he believes this. He seeks monetary damages.

         Discussion

         The complaint will be dismissed because it was filed after the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations. Section 1983 claims are analogous to personal injury claims, and are subject to Missouri's five-year statute of limitations. See Sulik v. Taney County, Mo., 393 F.3d 765, 766-67 (8th Cir. 2005) (finding § 1983 claims subject to Missouri's five-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims); see also Mo. Rev. Stat. § 516.120(4). "Although the statute of limitations is an affirmative defense, a district court may properly dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915[] when it is apparent the statute of limitations has run." Myers v. Vogal, 960 F.2d 750, 751 (8th Cir. 1992) (per curiam).

         Plaintiff claims that the incidents giving rise to the complaint occurred in 2004. He filed the complaint on October 13, 2017. The Court will therefore dismiss the complaint based upon the expiration of the statute of limitations. See Myers, 960 F.2d at 751; 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         In addition, plaintiffs claims against the Missouri Department of Corrections, the sole named defendant, are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Pennhurst State School & Hosp. v. Halderman,465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984); Nix v. Norman,879 F.2d 429, 432-33 (8th ...


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