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Paul v. Pacheco

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

February 13, 2019

RICO PAUL, Plaintiff,
v.
TRAVIS PACHECO, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          AUDREY G. FLEISSIG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the motion of plaintiff Rico Paul, an inmate at the Potosi Correctional Center, 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 $5.08. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Additionally, for the reasons discussed below, the Court will dismiss all but plaintiff's individual capacity claims against defendant Travis Pacheco.

         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 submitted an inmate account statement showing an average monthly deposit of $25.41. The Court will therefore assess an initial partial filing fee of $5.08, which is twenty percent of plaintiff's average monthly deposit.

         Legal Standard on Initial Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court is required to dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis if it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. 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 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).

         “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw upon judicial experience and common sense. Id. at 679. The court must assume the veracity of well-pleaded facts, but need not accept as true “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555); see also Brown v. Green Tree Servicing LLC, 820 F.3d 371, 372-73 (8th Cir. 2016) (stating that court must accept factual allegations in complaint as true, but “does not accept as true any legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation”).

         Pro se complaints must be liberally construed. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). This means that if the essence of an allegation is discernible, the court should construe the complaint in a way that permits the plaintiff's claim to be construed within the proper legal framework. Solomon v. Petray, 795 F.3d 777, 787 (8th Cir. 2015). However, even pro se complaints must allege facts that state a claim for relief as a matter of law. Martin v. Aubuchon, 623 F.2d 1282, 1286 (8th Cir. 1980).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against corrections officer Paul Pacheco, and Warden Troy Steele.[1] He states he sues the defendants in their official and individual capacities.

         According to the complaint, on January 8, 2018 plaintiff was incarcerated at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center (“ERDCC”). He was on suicide watch. He was attempting suicide by hanging himself from the metal bars on the window. Pacheco “walked up to the window as [plaintiff] was hanging by [his] neck, and walked away and let [him] hang, and walked out the wing as [he] passed out.” (Docket No. 1 at 3). When plaintiff awoke, nurses were checking his vitals. He now must take Ibuprofen for neck and upper back pain, and engage in a spine conditioning program. Plaintiff alleges that Pacheco violated his Eighth Amendment rights. Plaintiff alleges that Steele is liable to him because he was responsible for prison operations and inmate welfare, and because he employed Pacheco, who was incompetent. He seeks declaratory and monetary relief.

         Discussion

         Plaintiff's allegations against Steele fail to state a claim under § 1983. As indicated above, plaintiff does not allege that Steele was personally involved in or directly responsible for any allegedly unconstitutional conduct. “Liability under § 1983 requires a causal link to, and direct responsibility for, the alleged deprivation of rights.” Madewell v. Roberts, 909 F.2d 1203, 1208 (8th Cir. 1990); see also Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1338 (8th Cir. 1985) (to be cognizable under § 1983, a claim must allege that the defendant was personally involved in or directly responsible for the incidents that deprived the plaintiff of his constitutional rights). “[A] warden's general responsibility for supervising the ...


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