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Whittaker v. St. Louis Justice Center

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

March 8, 2019

ST. LOUIS JUSTICE CENTER, et al., Defendants.



         This matter comes before the Court on the motion of plaintiff Robert L. Whittaker for leave to commence this civil action without prepayment of the required filing fee. (Docket No. 2). Having reviewed the motion and the financial information submitted in support, the Court has determined that plaintiff lacks sufficient funds to pay the entire filing fee, and will assess an initial partial filing fee of $1.50. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Additionally, for the reasons discussed below, the Court will dismiss plaintiff's complaint without prejudice. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         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 or her 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 the 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 a certified inmate account. (Docket No. 3). The certified inmate account statement showed an average monthly deposit of $7.50. The Court will therefore assess an initial partial filing fee of $1.50, which is 20 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. 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 factual allegation”).

         When 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).

         The Complaint

          Plaintiff is currently an inmate at the Southeast Correctional Center in Charleston, Missouri. At the times relevant to this complaint, however, he was incarcerated at the St. Louis City Justice Center, in St. Louis, Missouri, and later, at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic & Correctional Center in Bonne Terre, Missouri (ERDCC). He brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His complaint names the St. Louis City Justice Center and the Missouri Department of Corrections as defendants.

         Plaintiff states that he entered the St. Louis City Justice Center on August 1, 2015. (Docket No. 1 at 5). At that time, he was “negative of tuberculosis.” On or about March 20, 2017, the facility tested everybody on every floor for tuberculosis. Plaintiff thought this was unusual, since inmates were typically only tested upon arrival or on their birthday. His tuberculosis test in March of 2017 was negative.

         Two to three weeks later, plaintiff states that he was sentenced and transferred to ERDCC to serve his time. On April 17, 2017, plaintiff asserts that he was again tested for tuberculosis. This time, the results came back positive. Plaintiff alleges that the St. Louis City Justice Center and the Missouri Department of Corrections “are responsible in negligence” and should be held accountable. He further states that he was disease-free while at the St. Louis City Justice center between August of 2015 and April of 2017. He asserts that he is seeking compensation for his stress, discomfort, mental health, and physical health.

         Plaintiff states that ERDCC started him on a nine-month medication program to treat his tuberculosis. (Docket No. 1 at 6). He claims that this will damage his kidney and that he will always have this disease. He seeks to be compensated for the negligence of these facilities in allowing ...

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