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Allen v. Echele

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

May 17, 2018

DEBBIE ECHELE, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on the motion of plaintiff Antwuan Allen for leave to commence this civil action without prepayment of the required filing fee. Having reviewed the motion and the financial information submitted in support, the Court has determined to grant the motion, and 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 give plaintiff the opportunity to file 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 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.

         Plaintiff did not file a certified inmate account statement in support of the instant motion, but he did file a financial affidavit form averring that he received “a little money to buy commissary.” (Docket No. 5). Subsequently, he filed a letter stating he was unable to obtain necessary documents to prove that his account balance was zero. The Court will therefore assess an initial partial filing fee of $1.00, an amount that is reasonable based upon the information the Court has about plaintiff's finances. See Henderson v. Norris, 129 F.3d 481, 484 (8th Cir. 1997). Any claim that plaintiff is unable to pay this amount must be supported by a copy of plaintiff's institution account statement.

         Legal Standard on Initial Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), the Court is required to dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis if it is frivolous, 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. An action is frivolous if it “lacks an arguable basis in either law or fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 328 (1989). An action is malicious if it is undertaken for the purpose of harassing the named defendants and not for the purpose of vindicating a cognizable right. Spencer v. Rhodes, 656 F.Supp. 458, 461-63 (E.D. N.C. 1987), aff'd 826 F.2d 1059 (4th Cir. 1987). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         To determine whether an action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the Court must engage in a two-step inquiry. First, the Court must identify the allegations in the complaint that are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). These include “legal conclusions” and “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action [that are] supported by mere conclusory statements.” Id. at 678. Second, the Court must determine whether the complaint states a plausible claim for relief. Id. at 679. This is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id.

         The plaintiff is required to plead facts that show more than the “mere possibility of misconduct.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. The Court must review the factual allegations in the complaint “to determine if they plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.” Id. at 681. When faced with alternative explanations for the alleged misconduct, the Court may exercise its judgment in determining whether plaintiff's proffered conclusion is the most plausible or whether it is more likely that no misconduct occurred. Id. at 680-82.

         Pro se complaints are to be liberally construed, Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976), but they still must 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). The Court must weigh all factual allegations in favor of the plaintiff, unless the facts alleged are clearly baseless. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992). 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 v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914-15 (8th Cir. 2004).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff, an inmate at the St. Charles County Department of Corrections, filed the instant complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Medical Director Debbie Echele, nurses Jessica Richard and Theresa Martin, Sargeant Baker Unknown, Sheriff Scott A. Lewis, and St. Charles County. He states that he sues the individual defendants in an official and individual capacity.

         Plaintiff claims he has a history of stomach ulcers and bacterial infection, and that he suffers frequent hot and cold flashes due to hypoglycemia. Before his incarceration, he underwent stomach surgery. He claims he “had been told, inter alia, to consume a ‘vegan' diet to get his health back on track.” (Docket No. 1 at 3). He states that once he began consuming a vegan diet, his “stomach pains began to disappear.” Id. at 4.

         Upon his arrival at the St. Charles County Department of Corrections, plaintiff told “medical staff” of his dietary needs. Id. Once he was placed in a cell block, “defendants Echele, Richard, Martin and Sargeant Baker refused to give [him] ¶ 100% vegan diet.” Id. He claims he “is being told he can ‘eat the regular food like everyone else, '” and that if he does not like the food he does not have to eat it. (Docket No. 1 at 4). Plaintiff claims this means he is “left to starve” and forced to trade his food trays for commissary items. Id. He claims he has lost weight, and that his stomach pains are “starting to return.” Id. Plaintiff states that Echele, Martin, and Richard all told him it is jail policy to not accommodate such diets, that Sheriff Lewis approved of this policy, and it is the policy of St. Charles County to deny religious and medical diet requests of inmates. He states he “brings a Monell claim” against St. Charles County for “having a blanket policy of denying inmates' requests for religious diets and medical diets that are medically necessary.” Id. He states he “brings a ...

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