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Lewis v. Louis

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

July 3, 2018

SAINT LOUIS, MISSOURI, CITY OF, et al., Defendants.



         This matter, brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging due process violations in connection with Plaintiff Charles Lewis's (“Plaintiff”) prolonged incarceration after he was legally entitled to release, as well as a Missouri common law claim for false imprisonment, is before the Court on the motion of Defendant Kimberly Gardner (“Gardner”) to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted, and on the basis of qualified or absolute immunity. (Doc. 13). For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be denied.


         Plaintiff's claims arise out of his eight-day detention at the St. Louis City Medium Security Institution (“MSI”) and the St. Louis City Justice Center (“Justice Center”) after criminal charges against him were dismissed, and out of the unsanitary conditions of his confinement, which lasted for approximately twelve months in total.

         Plaintiff names as Defendants the City of St. Louis (the “City”) and the following individuals, solely in their individual capacities: Vernon Betts, the Sheriff of the City; Jeff Carson, Superintendent of MSI; Charlene Deeken, the Director of the City's Department of Public Safety; Kimberly Gardner, the City's Circuit Attorney; Dale Glass, the Commissioner of the City's Division of Corrections; and five “unknown” defendants.

         Plaintiff alleges that he was arrested in May 2016, and charged with two counts of making terroristic threats. (Doc. 1 at 4). Because Plaintiff could not afford to post bond, he was detained at MSI pending trial. Plaintiff was tried on criminal charges in the City's circuit court in March 2017. Id. At trial, Plaintiff was acquitted of one count of making terroristic threats, with ten jurors in favor of acquittal and two in favor of conviction. After trial, Plaintiff was returned to MSI. Id. at 4-5.

         On May 15, 2017, Defendant Gardner and an “unknown” Assistant Circuit Attorney of the Circuit Attorney's office filed a Memorandum of Nolle Prosequi, which the state court accepted and which dismissed the charges against Plaintiff. Id. at 5. After May 15, 2017, Plaintiff continued to be held in MSI. Id. On May 20, 2017, Plaintiff's public defender was notified that the charges against Plaintiff had been dismissed. Id. On May 22, 2017, his public defender noticed that Plaintiff's name was still on the MSI jail roster, and she verified with the St. Louis City Sheriff's Office that Plaintiff was being held because Plaintiff was subject to a hold issued by Jefferson County, Missouri. Id. at 5-6. Plaintiff's public defender then called the Jefferson County court and was informed that no such hold had been issued. Id. at 6.

         Sometime after May 22, 2017, Plaintiff was transferred from MSI to the Justice Center. Id. Plaintiff alleges that he repeatedly informed various officers that he should be released. Id. Upon being detained at the Justice Center, Plaintiff asked two “unknown” Lieutenants why he was being held, and was informed that he was subject to a hold issued by Jefferson County. Id. Plaintiff told them he was not subject to any such hold. Id. Plaintiff was eventually released “on or after May 23, 2017.” Id. at 7.

         Plaintiff alleges that for the duration of his stay at MSI he was subjected to unconstitutionally poor conditions of confinement. Id. at 7-8. He asserts that throughout his confinement he endured leaking sewage, collapsing ceilings, extreme hot and cold temperatures, visible mold, outbreaks of scabies and lice, infestations of mice, rats, snakes, spiders and raccoons, and exposed asbestos. Id.

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Gardner has a responsibility to communicate the dismissal of criminal charges to those with direct custody over people incarcerated by the City to ensure the immediate release of innocent citizens. Id. at 8. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant has the responsibility to set policies, direct staff training, and establish patterns or practices of the City of St. Louis with respect to the incarceration and release of innocent citizens and people who are subject to release because they have completed their sentences, and that Defendant knowingly failed in these responsibilities, thus causing Plaintiff to be wrongfully incarcerated and wrongfully punished. Id. at 9.

         Plaintiff further alleges that, aside from him, other people residing in corrections institutions in St. Louis City were unlawfully detained after charges had been dropped against them, and that the Office of the Missouri State Public Defender System informed all Defendants that this was the case. Id. at 9.

         Finally, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants' actions caused him physical harm and severe emotional distress. Id. at 12.

         Plaintiff's complaint contains 10 counts: Fourth Amendment, due process, and state-law false imprisonment claims, arising out of his eight-day wrongful incarceration and asserted against Betts, Carson, Deeken, Gardner, Glass, and certain of the unknown Defendants (Counts I, II, and IV); a due process claim arising out of his conditions of confinement and asserted against Carson, Deeken, and Glass (Count III); supervisory claims asserted against all Defendants for failure to establish policies, failure to properly train staff, and establishing a pattern or practice with respect to wrongful incarceration of citizens (Counts V, VI, and VII); and supervisory claims against the City of St. Louis, Betts, Carson, Deeken, Glass, and an “unknown” Sheriff's employee with respect to safe and sanitary conditions of confinement for pretrial detainees (Counts VIII, IX, and X). In Counts I, II, and IV, Plaintiff alleges that the named Defendants “knew or should have known that Plaintiff was wrongfully imprisoned” and that these Defendants were “directly responsible for depriving Plaintiff of his freedom.” Id. at 13-14. As the claims related to conditions of confinement (Counts III, VIII, IX, and X) are not directed against Defendant Gardner, the Court will not address those claims in this Order. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, attorney's fees and costs.

         ARGUMENTS ...

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