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Woods v. Hutcheson

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

July 17, 2018

TECO V. WOODS, Plaintiff,
v.
COREY HUTCHESON, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          RODNEY W. SIPPEL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the motion of plaintiff Teco V. Woods 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 dismiss the complaint, without prejudice.

         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.

         In support of the instant motion, plaintiff states that he has tried unsuccessfully to obtain a copy of his inmate account statement. He also states that he received some money to purchase commissary items. The Court will therefore assess an initial partial filing fee of $1.00, an amount that is reasonable based upon the information before the Court. See Henderson v. Norris, 129 F.3d 481, 484 (8th Cir. 1997) (when a prisoner is unable to provide the Court with a certified copy of his prison account statement, the Court should assess an amount “that is reasonable, based on whatever information the court has about the prisoner's finances.”).

         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 presently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Memphis, Tennessee. However, the events giving rise to his claims occurred when he was incarcerated in the Mississippi County Detention Center. He filed the instant complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law against Corey Hutcheson (the Jail Administrator at the times relevant to the complaint), Mississippi County, the City of Charleston, Missouri, Prosecuting Attorney Darren Cann, and Unknown Officers of the Charleston, Missouri Police Department. Plaintiff sues the defendants in an individual and official capacity, and he seeks monetary and injunctive relief. He alleges as follows.

         In September of 2014, a shooting occurred and plaintiff was identified as the shooter. He turned himself in and was detained at the Mississippi County Detention Center. He was involved in a fight with other inmates over a dispute involving the television. An inmate named Richard Humphrey signed his commissary over to plaintiff. An inmate named Kenny Irvy became upset about the commissary, and another fight ensued. Hutcheson investigated the incident and told plaintiff he knew that Humphrey had signed his commissary over to plaintiff. Irvy wrote a false statement against plaintiff, stating that he had been trying to extort other inmates, and was a bully. Later, Hutcheson claimed that plaintiff robbed another inmate of a mattress, and threw a mattress from the top tier of the pod. Hutcheson reported this to Cann, who filed a criminal complaint against plaintiff, charging him with robbery and assault. Plaintiff alleges these charges were ultimately dropped.

         One day, plaintiff called his girlfriend from jail. She told plaintiff that her cell phone displayed a local number instead of the number it usually displayed when plaintiff called from jail. According to plaintiff, this means that ...


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