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Potter v. Lineback

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

May 23, 2018

CHRISTOPHER J. POTTER, Plaintiff,
v.
NICHOLAS LINEBACK, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          AUDREY G. FLEISSI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the motion of plaintiff Christopher J. Potter for leave to commence this civil action without prepayment of the required filing fee. The Court will grant the motion, and assess an initial partial filing fee of $1.00. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). In addition, as explained 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 had received $500 to $600 to spend in the commissary. 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 is a pretrial detainee at the St. Charles County Department of Corrections. He filed the instant complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against twenty-six law enforcement officers, two prosecuting attorneys (defendants Kelly L. King and Dulany Reese Harms), the Warren County Sheriff's Department, St. Charles County and St. Charles City, and the sheriffs of St. Charles County and Warren County (defendants Scott Lewis and Nathan York). He sues the defendants in an official and individual capacity.

         Review of the State of Missouri's online docketing system shows that plaintiff is presently a defendant in a criminal case currently pending in the circuit court for St. Charles County, and in two criminal cases currently pending in the circuit court for Warren County. In State v. Christopher Jacob Potter, No. 1611-CR03563-01 (11th Jud. Cir. 2016), plaintiff is charged with multiple counts of first degree assault, and single counts of leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident and first degree property damage. In State v. Christopher Potter, No. 16BB-CR00753-01 (12th Jud. Cir. 2016), plaintiff is charged with first degree tampering with a motor vehicle. In State v. Christopher Potter, No. 16BB-CR00559-01 (12th Jud. Cir. 2017), plaintiff is charged with first degree assault. The instant complaint includes a long narrative describing events that led to plaintiff's incarceration, and events that occurred during the criminal proceedings against him.

         According to the complaint, while driving on July 5, 2016, plaintiff was pulled over by defendant Lineback, who pointed an assault rifle at plaintiff's truck and yelled for plaintiff to get out. Plaintiff complied, and Lineback handcuffed him and said there were people who ...


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