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Jones v. Davis

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

January 31, 2018

RANDALL DAVIS, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on the motion of plaintiff Ralph Baby Jones, a prisoner, for leave to commence this action without payment of the required filing fee. For the following reasons, the Court will grant plaintiffs motion, and assess an initial partial filing fee of $40.97. In addition, the Court will dismiss all but plaintiffs individual capacity claims against Ryan Buscemi and Edward Gonzales.

         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, until the filing fee is fully paid. Id.

         Plaintiff has submitted an affidavit and a certified copy of his prison account statement for the period immediately preceding the submission of his complaint. The account statement shows an average monthly deposit of $204.84, and an average monthly balance of $25.13. The Court will therefore order plaintiff to pay an initial partial filing fee of $40.97, which is twenty percent of his average monthly deposit.

         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.

         Pro se complaints are to be liberally construed. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). However, they still must allege sufficient facts to support the claims alleged. Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914-15 (8th Cir. 2004); see also Martin v. Aubuchon, 623 F.2d 1282, 1286 (8th Cir. 1980) (even pro se complaints are required to allege facts which, if true, state a claim for relief as a matter of law). Federal courts are not required to "assume facts that are not alleged, just because an additional factual allegation would have formed a stronger complaint." Stone, 364 F.3d at 914-15. In addition, giving 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, an inmate at the Potosi Correctional Center, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of his constitutional rights. He seeks monetary relief against Randall H. Davis (a bail bondsman), Johnathan Alfaro (a "bounty hunter"), and St. Louis City police officers Ryan Buscemi and Edward Gonzales, III. Plaintiff sues all defendants in an official and individual capacity.

         According to the complaint, plaintiff was driving in St. Louis on February 12, 2014 when an unknown vehicle intentionally swerved into his lane, causing a collision. Plaintiff sped away from the scene, and the unknown vehicle followed. After a long chase, plaintiff saw Officers Buscemi and Gonzales sitting in a marked police car. Plaintiff approached them to seek their protection. The unknown vehicle then arrived, and Davis and Alfaro exited. They identified themselves and stated they were pursuing plaintiff because he was wanted for jumping bail. The police officers then took plaintiff into custody, handcuffing him.

         After plaintiff was handcuffed, Alfaro said he wished he could "do something" to plaintiff. (Docket No. 1 at 5). Buscemi replied: "Go ahead I ain't seen nothing." Id. Plaintiff states: "[g]etting the green-light to assault me from Officer Buscemi and the other two men, standing there, Alfaro walked over to me, as I laid on the ground handcuffed, and began stomping on my leg/thigh." Id. Alfaro then raised plaintiff up and punched him very hard in the right eye. The police officers summoned paramedics, who took plaintiff to St. Louis University Hospital. Plaintiff was told his eye would have to be surgically removed. He seeks $3.5 million in damages.


         Plaintiffs claims against Davis and Alfaro are not cognizable in these proceedings. To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that (1) the defendant acted under color of state law, and (2) the defendant's alleged conduct deprived the plaintiff of a federally-protected right. Schmidt v. City of Bella Villa,557 F.3d 564, 571 (8th Cir. 2009). A person acts under color of state law when he acts in his official capacity "clothed with the authority of state law, " or acts under "pretense" of law by purporting to act with official power. See West v. Atkins,487 U.S. 42, 49 (1988), Parker v. Boyer,93 F.3d 445, 447-48 (8th Cir. 1996). The requirement that a defendant acted under "color of state law" is jurisdictional. Polk County v. Dodson,454 U.S. 312, 315 (1981). Private conduct is beyond the ...

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