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Wright v. Wouten

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

January 18, 2018

SERGEANT JUSTIN WOUTEN, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court upon pro se plaintiff Jonathan Wright's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis.[1] The Court has reviewed the financial information plaintiff submitted in support, [2] and will grant the motion and assess an initial partial filing fee of $9.25. Furthermore, after reviewing the complaint, the Court will partially dismiss the complaint and will order the Clerk to issue process or cause process to be issued on the non-frivolous portions of the 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 for actions purportedly occurring during his incarceration at Scott County Jail in Benton, Missouri. Named as defendants are Sheriff Wes Drury, Sergeant Justin Wouten, Captain Ryan Dennis, Lieutenant Unknown Pratt and Sergeant Unknown Scoggins. Plaintiff sues all defendants in their official and individual capacities.

         According to the allegations in the complaint, on June 10, 2017, plaintiff “had some words” with “Correctional Officer Misty” that resulted in him being placed on “lock-down” for a threat on June 11, 2017.

         Plaintiff claims that on June 13, 2017, while he was locked in his cell, plaintiff asked defendant Justin Wouten to explain why he had been placed on lock down. Defendant Wouten replied that plaintiff should “shut up and deal with it.” Plaintiff asserts that he 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. Plaintiff claims that he then suffered an asthma attack and required a breathing treatment as a result. As a result of the incident, plaintiff asserts that he was on “lock-down” from June 10, 2017 through September 30, 2017. He claims he was “denied everything” and “talked and wrote” to other defendants but his grievances were denied.

         Plaintiff has not made any other specific allegations against the remaining named defendants. He seeks ...

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