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Moore v. City of St. Louis

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri

March 27, 2018

EDWARD ALLEN MOORE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF ST. LOUIS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN A. ROSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on motions to dismiss filed by Defendants City of St. Louis and Mayor Lyda Krewson (Doc. No. 33); Peter and Paul Community Services, Inc. (Doc. No, 40); and St. Patrick Center[1] (Doc. No. 52). Plaintiff was granted several extensions of time to respond to the motions (Doc. Nos. 44, 46, 63, 70), and most recently up to and including March 21, 2018 (Doc. No. 68). To date he has not responded. The Court will, therefore, rule on Defendants' unopposed motions.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Edward Allen Moore, proceeding pro se, filed this action on July 5, 2017, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of his civil rights, against the City of St. Louis (“the City”); St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson (“Mayor Krewson”); Biddle House Opportunity Center[2] (“Biddle House”); St. Patrick Center (“St. Patrick”); Peter and Paul Community Services, Inc. (“Peter and Paul”); Biddle House Staff Person Keneesha Unknown; Biddle House Staff Person Emma Unknown; and Six John Doe Biddle House Staff Persons. (Doc. No. 1) In his original complaint and motions for injunctive relief, Plaintiff asserted he was a homeless resident of the City of St. Louis seeking services from Biddle House, a facility owned by the City which purportedly “serves the needs of the homeless and is staffed by St. Patrick Center, ” and serviced by Peter and Paul. Plaintiff alleged that in June of 2017, he was given a “routing” slip[3] at Biddle House that allowed him to take showers, do laundry and obtain meals. Plaintiff further alleged that after he became an “outspoken critic” of Biddle House, voicing his criticisms on certain media websites as well as on Defendants' websites, Biddle House began to retaliate against him by denying him services. Plaintiff sought an ex parte hearing on his motion for temporary restraining order, but was instructed to notify Defendants of his intent to seek a hearing prior to being given a hearing date.

         On July 10, 2017, Plaintiff amended his complaint to add a claim that he was being denied an overnight bed by Biddle House. (Doc. No. 7) On July 13, 2017, he filed a second amended complaint (Doc. No. 8), and renewed his motions for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction (Doc. Nos. 9, 11). Plaintiff alleged that Biddle House was refusing to renew his routing slip, effectively cutting him off from services, including food, laundry, showers and a bed.

         Based on Plaintiff's allegations in his renewed motion for temporary restraining order, the Court held an emergency hearing on July 13, 2017. A representative from the City testified that Plaintiff was in good standing at Biddle House, able to receive services there, and provided Plaintiff with contact information in order to attain services. On July 14, 2017, this Court denied Plaintiff's motion for temporary restraining order and renewed motion for temporary restraining order based on his failure to present any evidence showing a likelihood of success on the merits or a threat of irreparable harm (Doc. No. 17). His motion for reconsideration was denied on August 4, 2017. (Doc. No. 32)

         Plaintiff alleges three claims against Defendants in his second amended complaint. First, he alleges that all of the Defendants, in their individual and official capacities, retaliated against him in violation of the First Amendment by failing to provide him services at Biddle House. Second, Plaintiff alleges he was denied property, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, when Defendants kept his clothing at Biddle House after an alleged verbal dispute. Lastly, Plaintiff asserts that Defendants deprived him of procedural due process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and injunctive relief in connection with his claims.

         II. Legal Standard

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint. “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Although pro se complaints are to be construed liberally, “they still must allege sufficient facts to support the claims advanced.” Stringer v. St. James R-1 Sch. Dist., 446 F.3d 799, 802 (8th Cir. 2006) (quoting Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004)). “[P]ro se litigants must set [a claim] forth in a manner which, taking the pleaded facts as true, states a claim as a matter of law.” Id. (internal quotation omitted).

         III. Discussion

         A. Peter and Paul Community Services and St. Patrick Center

         To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that he has been deprived of a constitutional right by a person acting under color of state law. Sabri v. Whittier All., 833 F.3d 995, 999-1000 (8th Cir. 2016) (citing Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 942 (1982)). Importantly, “[o]nly state actors can be held liable under Section 1983.” Carlson v. Roetzel & Andress, 552 F.3d 648, 650 (8th Cir. 2008). There is no allegation that Peter and Paul and St. Patrick, both private non-profit organizations, are state actors. However, a private party may be held liable under § 1983 if it is a “willful participant in joint action with the State or its agents.” Mershon v. Beasley, 994 F.2d. 449, 451 (8th Cir. 1993).

         To hold a private party liable under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege, at the very least, “that there was a mutual understanding, or a meeting of the minds, between the private party and the state actor.” Miller v. Compton, 122 F.3d 1094, 1098 (8th Cir. 1997); Mershon, 994 F.2d. at 451. The facts alleged with respect to a mutual understanding or conspiracy must be specific and may not be merely conclusory. Deck v. Leftridge, 771 F.2d 1168, 1170 (8th Cir. 1985). A threadbare recital of an element of a cause of action is insufficient to sustain a § 1983 claim against a private party. See Murray v. Lene, 595 F.3d 868, 870 (8th Cir. 2010) (stating a plausible § 1983 “conspiracy claim” among state actors and non-state actors “requires allegations of specific facts tending to show a ‘meeting of the minds' among the alleged conspirators”).

         Plaintiff has alleged no facts plausibly suggesting that Peter and Paul and/or St. Patrick acted in concert with state authorities to violate his constitutional rights. See Carlson, 552 F.3d at 651 (holding that to find “private parties liable as state actors, this court has required joint action or conspiracy with state authorities”). Although Plaintiff alleges that St. Patrick “staffed” the Biddle House and that Peter and Paul “supervised” the Biddle House (FAC ¶ 7), a private corporation cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a theory of respondeat superior. Johnson v. The Bridge, No. 4:14-CV-884 JAR, 2014 WL 2711795, at *2 (E.D. Mo. June 16, 2014) (citing Boyd v. Knox, 47 F.3d 966, 968 (8th Cir. 1995)). Instead, a private corporation will only be liable for its own unconstitutional ...


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