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Crawford v. Austin

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

November 6, 2017

JOHN A. CRAWFORD, Plaintiff,
v.
DAMIAN AUSTIN, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN M. BODENHAUSEN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court upon the motion of John A. Crawford, a prisoner, for leave to commence this action without prepayment of the filing fee. Having reviewed the motion and the inmate account statement submitted in support, the Court has determined that plaintiff lacks sufficient funds to pay the entire filing fee, and will assess an initial partial filing fee of $1.00. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). In addition, for the reasons discussed below, the Court will direct plaintiff 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 certified inmate account statement that shows an average monthly balance of $5.00. The Court will therefore assess an initial partial filing fee of $1.00, 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 prepared the complaint in the form of a ten-page letter. Named as defendants are Sergeant Damian Austin and Lieutenant David Cutt. Plaintiff does not specify whether he intends to sue each defendant in his official capacity, individual capacity, or both. Plaintiff describes many events in detail, including being placed in disciplinary segregation, being forced to wait too long to use the bathroom, being retaliated against, being issued a conduct violation, and not receiving a response to grievances. However, the letter is so full of extraneous information that it is difficult to discern what plaintiff alleges each defendant did to violate his constitutional rights.

         On October 27, 2017, plaintiff filed a “Motion to Amend and/or Supplement the Pleading Under Rule 15 Fed. R. Civ. P.” (Docket No. 7). Therein, plaintiff asks the court to assign an attorney to amend his pleading. He states that he is being denied treatment for cirrhosis of the liver, and that all of the issues he wants to raise have been properly grieved.

         Discussion

         The original complaint is subject to dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). However, because plaintiff is proceeding pro se, and because he has clearly indicated that he wishes to amend his pleading, [1] the Court will allow him to file an amended complaint. The Court will not, however, appoint an attorney for plaintiff at this time, as it does not appear that the appointment of counsel is man Dated: this stage of the litigation. See Phillips v. Jasper County Jail, 437 F.3d 791, 794 (8th Cir. 2006), Edgington v. Missouri Dept. of Corrections, 52 F.3d 777, 780 (8th Cir. 1995) (abrogated on other grounds, Doe v. Cassel, 403 F.3d 986, 989 (8th Cir. 2005)). In addition, plaintiff is advised that the Court does not accept amendments to pleadings by supplement or interlineation. Instead, plaintiff must file an amended complaint that fully sets forth his claims.

         In preparing the amended complaint, plaintiff must follow Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which requires (in relevant part) that a complaint contain a short and plain statement of the claim, showing that plaintiff is entitled to relief. In addition, if plaintiff wants to name more than one defendant, he should include in the complaint only claims that arise out of the same transaction or occurrence, or, simply put, claims that are related to each other. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a). If plaintiff wants to name more than one defendant and assert claims that are not related to each other, he must file each claim as a new civil action on a separate complaint form, and either pay the filing fee or file a ...


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