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Artis v. Satterfield

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

March 1, 2019

DEXTER ARTIS, Plaintiff,
HON. JOE SATTERFIELD, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on the motion of plaintiff Dexter Artis, a prisoner, 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). Additionally, 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.

         Plaintiff did not submit the required inmate account statement in support of the instant motion. However, in a statement attached to the complaint, plaintiff averred that he requested the statement, but his request was ignored. (Docket No. 1, attch. 5). The Court will therefore assess an initial partial filing fee of $1.00. 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), 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).

         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 layperson's claim to be considered within the proper legal framework." Solomon v. Petray, 795 F.3d 777, 787 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004)). However, even pro se complaints 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). Federal courts are not required to assume facts that are not alleged, Stone, 364 F.3d at 914-15, nor are they required to interpret procedural rules so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel. See McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His complaint lists three defendants: the Honorable Joe Satterfield, Prosecuting Attorney Russell Oliver, and Sheriff Carl Hefner. Plaintiff sues the defendants in their official and individual capacities. He alleges as follows.

         Plaintiff was imprisoned in Mississippi County, but was able to get his charges dropped. However, Stoddard County charged him with a robbery he did not commit. On July 20, 2018, Oliver put out a warrant for his arrest "with lack of evidence only a glove that had multiple DNA in it. He was only supposed to question me about it." (Docket No. 1 at 5). Plaintiff alleges "they held it over my head like it was and used it to hold me at Stoddard Co." Id. Judge Satterfield "signed off on the warrant, he failed to do his job he allowed this to happen," and he chose to hold plaintiff with no evidence. Id. Plaintiff writes "Sheriff Carl Hefner holding me unlawfully in Stoddard County." Id. Plaintiff wrote to Judge Satterfield, but he is still being held. Plaintiff alleges "they" put him on the news, and he felt humiliated. Id. Plaintiff alleges he has suffered false imprisonment, pain and suffering, and mental stress. He seeks monetary relief in the amount of $250, 000.


         Plaintiff seeks damages against Judge Satterfield for wrongs he allegedly committed in the course of his judicial duties. These claims will be dismissed. Judges are absolutely immune from civil lawsuits based on alleged judicial misconduct. Imbler v. Pachtman,424 U.S. 409, 434-35 (1976) (citing Pierson v. Ray,386 U.S. 547 (1967)). This judicial immunity is subject to two exceptions: (1) when a judge does not act within his judicial capacity, or (2) when a judge takes judicial action in the absence of jurisdiction. Mireles v. Waco,502 U.S. 9, 11-12 (1991). "[W]hether an act by a judge is a 'judicial' one relate[s] to the nature of the act itself, i.e., whether ...

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