United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division
CHARLES D. SHATTUCK-KNAEBEL, Plaintiff,
JASON LEWIS, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CHARLES A. SHAW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on review of plaintiff Charles D.
Shattuck-Knaebel's amended complaint. For the reasons
discussed below, the Court must dismiss this action pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) for failure to state a
Standard on Initial Review
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. To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a
plaintiff must demonstrate a plausible claim for relief,
which is more than a “mere possibility of
misconduct.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
679 (2009). “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.” Id. at 678.
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 “accept as true the
facts alleged, but not legal conclusions or threadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements.” Barton v. Taber,
820 F.3d 958, 964 (8th Cir. 2016). 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 is not required to
“accept as true any legal conclusion couched as a
reviewing a pro se complaint under § 1915(e)(2), the
Court must give it the benefit of a liberal construction.
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). A
“liberal construction” means that if the essence
of an allegation is discernible, the district court should
construe the plaintiff's complaint in a way that permits
his or her claim to be considered within the proper legal
framework. Solomon v. Petray, 795 F.3d 777, 787 (8th
Cir. 2015). However, even pro se complaints are required to
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). See also Stone v. Harry, 364
F.3d 912, 914-15 (8th Cir. 2004) (stating that federal courts
are not required to “assume facts that are not alleged,
just because an additional factual allegation would have
formed a stronger complaint”). In addition, affording a
pro se complaint the benefit of a liberal construction does
not mean that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation
must be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who
proceed without counsel. See McNeil v. United
States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993).
is currently incarcerated at Potosi Correctional Center in
Mineral Point, Missouri. He brings this action pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983. The following individuals are named as
defendants: Warden Jason Lewis; Assistant Warden Paula Reed;
Functional Unit Manager Bruce Hannebrink; and Classification
Case Managers Cliffton Cossey, Joshua Carter, April Samples,
Unknown Price, and Unknown Peters. Defendants are sued in
both their official and individual capacities.
filed his complaint on August 24, 2018, along with a motion
for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, and a motion to
appoint counsel. He did not provide a certified inmate
account statement, and on August 28, 2018, the Court ordered
him to provide one within thirty days. Plaintiff responded to
the Court on September 13, 2018, and advised that the
Southeast Correctional Center (SECC) was refusing to provide
him a copy of his account statement. On September 27, 2018,
plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file an amended
complaint. Shortly thereafter, he also provided the Court
with a copy of his inmate account statement.
November 26, 2018, the Court granted plaintiff's motion
for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and ordered him to pay
an initial partial filing fee of $1.50. The Court also
granted his motion to amend, and directed him to file an
amended complaint on a Court-provided form within thirty
days. Plaintiff duly complied with this order and filed his
amended complaint on December 26, 2018.
Plaintiff's amended complaint is handwritten on a
Court-provided form, and is sixty-eight pages long. He has
integrated numerous exhibits into the complaint, which will
be treated as part of the pleading. See Fed.R.Civ.P.
10(c) (“A copy of a written instrument that is an
exhibit to a pleading is part of the pleading for all
purposes”). The “Statement of Claim” is
divided into eight sections, one section for each defendant.
Jason Lewis is the Warden of SECC. Doc. 16 at 2. Plaintiff
states that on two separate occasions, he sent Warden Lewis
“informal offender to staff correspondences, ”
known as “kites.” Id. at 6. He alleges
that these kites were either ignored by Warden Lewis or
handed down to Assistant Warden Paula Reed.
first kite, plaintiff complains to Warden Lewis that he was
denied a copy of his certified inmate account statement,
which had been requested by the Court in the instant case.
Id. at 6, 11. He also states that he informed Lewis
that he was not being allowed to pursue this matter through
the grievance process, because he was not being given an
informal resolution request (IRR) form. Id. at 16 at
7. He alleges that in ignoring his kite, Warden Lewis ignored
the constitutional violations of his subordinates,
specifically his right of access to the courts, his First
Amendment right of free speech, and his Fourteenth Amendment
rights to due process and equal protection.
second kite, plaintiff states that he advised Warden Lewis
that he was being unjustifiably held in administrative
segregation. Id. at 7-8, 12. According to plaintiff,
he was told his administrative segregation status was the
result of his stepping down from the “security threat
group” known as “Family Values.”
Id. at 9. He states he was also advised that he was
being held for his own safety pending transfer. Id.
at 8. Plaintiff asserts that he told Warden Lewis he had no
listed enemies at SECC, and that he was not allowed to list
enemies housed at other correctional facilities.
Plaintiff's second kite also stated his belief that the
classification unit was retaliating against him for filing
the instant case. Id. at 12. He claims that Warden
Lewis failed to remedy these problems, thereby condoning the
unconstitutional acts of his subordinates. Id. at 8.
Paula Reed is the Assistant Warden at SECC. Id. at
3. Similar to Warden Lewis, plaintiff asserts that he sent
kites to Assistant Warden Reed on two separate occasions.
Id. at 13.
first kite, plaintiff states that he informed Assistant
Warden Reed that his caseworker, Cliffton Cossey, was
ignoring his requests to obtain legal work pertaining to a
pending post-conviction relief claim in Shattuck-Knaebel
v. State of Missouri, No. 16MG- CC00035 (26th Judicial
Cir., Morgan County). Due to Cossey's alleged failure to
respond to plaintiff's requests, plaintiff claims that he
“lost his ability to claim an ambiguity in his
sentence” due to missing a filing deadline.
Id. at 14. Furthermore, plaintiff asserts that he
informed Assistant Warden Reed that Cossey was ignoring his
requests for special unit legal request forms, and for status
as an indigent offender “so that he wouldn't have
to choose between required legal materials and necessary
hygiene items.” Id. Plaintiff states this also
caused him to lose his ability to bring forth a
non-frivolous, arguable claim in Shattuck-Knaebel v.
State of Missouri, No. 16MG-CC00035.
second kite, sent on September 24, 2018, plaintiff again
informed Assistant Warden Reed that he had made further
attempts to obtain assistance in pursuing his post-conviction
case and the instant civil case. This kite stated that his
attempts to obtain IRR forms so that he could address his
grievance concerns per SECC policy were ignored. Id.
at 14-15. Plaintiff asserts that because he brought this to
Assistant Warden Reed's attention, she is “just as
guilty as her subordinate officers who were the actual,
direct offending parties.” Id. at 15.
Bruce Hannebrink is the Functional Unit Manager (FUM) at
SECC. Id. at 4. Plaintiff states that his original
problem with FUM Hannebrink concerned the delivery of
plaintiff's legal mail. Id. at 19. On April 20,
2018, plaintiff received legal mail postmarked April 5, 2018.
He claims that this evidences the fact that his legal mail
was held for fifteen days. He states that this “was
just one event in a series of events that led to plaintiff
losing his opportunity to bring forth a nonfrivolous,
arguable claim of an ambiguity in his prison sentence.”
Id. at 19-20. He further states that FUM Hannebrink
did not provide a copy of his mail signature receipt,
violating his right to due process. Id. at 20.
Eventually, plaintiff did receive a response to his
mail-related grievance stating that plaintiff's legal
mail was received in the mailroom on April 17, 2018, and
delivered to plaintiff on April 20, 2018. Id. at 25.
other complaint regarding FUM Hannebrink concerns
plaintiff's inability to retrieve a copy of his certified
inmate account statement, which plaintiff was directed to
provide in the instant case. Id. at 18. Plaintiff
states that FUM Hannebrink did nothing to remedy this
situation. He further states that FUM Hannebrink's
failure to respond to his kite was a retaliatory tactic to
sabotage the instant case, because Hannebrink had been named
as a defendant. Id. at 19.
Cliffton Cossey is a Classification Case Manager (CCM) at
SECC. Id. at 4. Plaintiff states that on December
23, 2017, plaintiff was assigned to administrative
segregation for a major conduct violation. Id. at
27. At the time, he had a pending post-conviction action
pending in Morgan County Circuit Court, docketed as
Shattuck-Knaebel v. State of Missouri, No.
16MG-CC00035. On numerous occasions over a period of three
weeks, plaintiff requested approval for a qualified legal
claim. This would give plaintiff access to the library and
also allow him to purchase extra materials and postage in
order to maintain contact with his attorney. Plaintiff states
that CCM Casey denied his ability to apply for a qualified
legal claim, though he was eventually approved by FUM Lorene
20, 2018, plaintiff states that he was released from
administrative segregation. Id. at 28. Shortly
thereafter, on July 22, 2018, he was reassigned to
administrative segregation after being assaulted by another
inmate. Plaintiff claims that he asked the inmate why he had
assaulted him, to which the inmate replied that plaintiff
“had better stop filing all those complaints against
classification.” Id. Plaintiff states that he
“assumed the other inmate was talking about complaints
he had filed against…[CCM] Cossey and…[CCM]
Joshua Carter.” Id.
his time in administrative segregation, plaintiff alleges
that he sent five kites to CCM Cossey asking for approval for
a qualified legal claim; to be provided his legal work from
property; to be provided special legal request forms; and for
approval to be listed as an indigent offender. These requests
were all ignored. Id. at 31. Plaintiff alleges that
CCM Cossey also denied his requests for IRR forms to file
Joshua Carter is a CCM at SECC. Id. at 4. On or
about February 14, 2018, plaintiff states that he moved
cells, and that CCM Carter became his caseworker.
Id. at 33. On April 20, 2018, plaintiff states that
CCM Carter “presented” him with a signature form
to confirm the receipt of legal mail from plaintiff's
post-conviction counsel. The envelope was marked “legal
mail” and was postmarked April 5, 2018. Plaintiff
claims that CCM Carter held plaintiff's legal mail for
fifteen days before delivery.
allegedly-withheld legal mail contained correspondence from
plaintiff's post-conviction attorney Arthur Allen.
Plaintiff states that the letter advised him “that the
deadline to raise the claim to his post-conviction relief
claim of an ambiguity in his sentence was now expired.”
Id. at 34. Despite admitting that his
ambiguous-sentence claim was already untimely as of the time
his attorney wrote the letter, plaintiff asserts that CCM
Carter denied him access to the courts, and kept him from
being able to timely raise a non-frivolous claim in
Shattuck-Knaebel v. State of Missouri, No.
April 23, 2018, plaintiff filed an IRR alleging interference
with his access to the courts and to his attorney. On June 1,
2018, after expiration of the forty-day deadline for IRR
responses, plaintiff requested a grievance form to continue
his claims. He alleges that CCM Carter hindered this process,
and that he assumes it was because Carter was attempting to
avoid being submitted to disciplinary measures.
accuses CCM Carter of causing him to lose the ability to
raise a non-frivolous, arguable post-conviction claim by
withholding his legal mail. Id. at 35. He also
alleges that CCM Carter's refusal to assist plaintiff in
attaining indigent offender status and hindrance of the