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Garrett v. ST. Louis County

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

December 29, 2017

MYCHAEL J. GARRETT, II, Plaintiff,
v.
ST. LOUIS COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          PATRICIA L. COHEN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Mychael J. Garrett, II (registration no. 216034), a pretrial detainee at the St. Louis County Justice Center, [1] seeks leave to proceed without paying the filing fee for this civil action he pursues under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 [ECF No. 2]. Additionally, this matter is before the Court on review of Plaintiff's pro se complaint under 28 U.S.C. Sections 1915(e)(2) and 1915A. For the reasons stated below, the Court finds that Plaintiff does not have sufficient funds to pay the entire filing fee and assesses an initial partial filing fee of $22.90. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Furthermore, after reviewing Plaintiff's complaint, the Court directs the Clerk to issue process or cause process to be issued on the complaint.

         Plaintiff's in forma pauperis status

         The fee required to file a civil action, other than an application for a writ of habeas corpus, in a district court is $350.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a).[2] A plaintiff in a civil action may seek leave to proceed without paying a filing fee, otherwise known as proceeding in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915. A court has discretion to grant or deny in forma pauperis status under Section 1915. Lee v. McDonald's Corp., 231 F.3d 456, 458 (8th Cir. 2000). Importantly, a litigant does not need “to demonstrate absolute destitution” to attain in forma pauperis status. Id. at 459.

         A district court may authorize the commencement of any civil action without the prepayment of fees by “a person who submits an affidavit that[, in addition to other information, ] includes a statement of all assets such [person] possesses [and] that the person is unable to pay such fees.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). In addition to filing the affidavit, a

prisoner seeking to bring a civil action . . . without prepayment of fees . . . [must] submit a certified copy of the trust fund account statement (or institutional equivalent) for the prisoner for the 6-month period immediately preceding the filing of the complaint . . ., obtained from the appropriate official of each prison at which the prisoner is or was confined.

28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2). Section 1915 defines a “prisoner” as “any person incarcerated or detained in any facility who is accused of, convicted of, sentenced for, or adjudicated delinquent for, violations of criminal law or the terms and conditions of parole, probation, pretrial release or [a] diversionary program.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(h); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(c).

         When a prisoner pursues a civil action in forma pauperis, the statute requires that “the prisoner . . . pay the full amount of [the] filing fee.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). A prisoner's payment of the full filing fee occurs through the court's assessment and collection of an “initial partial filing fee” followed by required “monthly payments.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b). The initial partial filing fee is “20 percent of the greater of - (A) the average monthly deposits to the period immediately preceding the filing of the complaint.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). After the initial partial filing fee is paid, the prisoner is “required to make monthly payments of 20 percent of the preceding month's income credited to the prisoner's account, ” with the “agency having custody of the prisoner . . . forward[ing] payments from the prisoner's account to the clerk of the court each time the amount in the account exceeds $10.00 until the filing fee[ is] paid.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). Section 1915 provides that “[i]n no event shall a prisoner be prohibited from bringing a civil action . . . for the reason that the prisoner has no assets and no means by which to pay the initial partial filing fee.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4).

         In support of his motion to proceed in forma pauperis, Plaintiff submitted an affidavit [ECF No. 2] and a certified copy of his institutional account statement for the period November 2016 until mid-September 2017 [ECF No. 3]. A review of Plaintiff's institutional account for the six months immediately before Plaintiff filed his complaint[3] shows an average monthly deposit of approximately $114.52 and an average monthly balance of approximately $25.00. Plaintiff has insufficient funds to pay the entire filing fee. Having reviewed Plaintiff's available financial information, the Court grants Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis and assesses an initial partial filing fee of $22.90, which is twenty percent of the average monthly deposits reported on Plaintiff's institutional account statement since March 2017. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1)(A). Having granted Plaintiff in forma pauperis status to pursue this lawsuit, the Court must consider whether the complaint should nevertheless be dismissed under 28 U.S.C. Sections 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A(b).

         Standard of review under Sections 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b)

         The Court must dismiss a civil complaint filed in forma pauperis if it is frivolous, is malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.[4] 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b). A complaint is “frivolous” when “it lacks an arguable basis either in law or fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989) (addressing what constitutes a frivolous complaint for the predecessor to Section 1915(e)(2), 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d)). A court may dismiss a claim as frivolous if it is “based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, ” Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327, or “if the facts alleged are ‘clearly baseless, ' [which includes] allegations that are ‘fanciful, ' ‘fantastic, ' and ‘delusional, '” Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32-33 (1992) (internal citations omitted). More specifically, a court may dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint as factually frivolous “when the facts alleged rise to the level of the irrational or the wholly incredible, ” but not “simply because the court finds the plaintiff's [factual] allegations unlikely.” Id. at 33. Notably, the requirement for a dismissal based on frivolousness is not the same as a dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 331.

         A complaint fails to state a claim if it does not plead enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). When reviewing a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the Court accepts the well-pled facts as true and liberally construes the allegations. See Geitz v. Overall, 62 Fed.Appx. 744, 746 (8th Cir. 2003) (unpublished per curiam opinion) (viewing the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff when deciding whether to dismiss the complaint under 28 U.S.C. Section 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted). Although the court must liberally construe a pro se complaint, the allegations must provide “sufficient facts to support the claims advanced.” Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004). In giving a pro se complaint a “liberal construction, ” the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit instructed, a “district court should construe the complaint in a way that permits the layperson's claim to be considered within the proper legal framework” when “the essence of an allegation is discernible.” Solomon v. Petray, 795 F.3d 777, 787 (8th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         More specifically, to state a claim for relief 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 draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679.

         The ...


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