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Dayton v. Lisenbee

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

March 13, 2019

RICHARD LISENBEE, et al., Defendants.



         This matter comes before the Court on the motion of pro se plaintiff Douglas E. Dayton to commence this civil action without prepayment of the filing fee. (Docket No. 2). Upon review of the motion, the Court finds that it should be granted. Additionally, for the reasons discussed below, the Court must dismiss plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         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

         At all times relevant to this complaint, plaintiff was a detainee incarcerated at the Phelps County Jail in Rolla, Missouri. (Docket No. 1 at 1-2). His complaint names Phelps County Sheriff Richard Lisenbee and Lieutenant Matt Shults, the Phelps County Jail Administrator, as defendants. (Docket No. 1 at 2). The defendants are sued in both their individual and official capacities. Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that defendants acted under color of law to deprive him of his rights secured by the United States Constitution. (Docket No. 1 at 1).

         Plaintiff alleges that he was brought to the Phelps County Jail on December 5, 2014 and placed on a twenty-four hour hold. (Docket No. 1 at 3). The following day, he was charged with unlawful use of a weapon, a class D felony.

         Approximately two weeks after being charged, plaintiff began asking the staff at the Phelps County Jail about being taken to court for arraignment. He was advised by staff that the jail did not decide when plaintiff went to court. Rather, he would be taken to his arraignment when the court called for him. Despite this answer, plaintiff alleges that he “kept asking about an arraignment for about another week or two.” He states that he was told “over and over” that it was up to the court to call down to the jail. Plaintiff states that he eventually gave up on asking about his arraignment. (Docket No. 1 at 4).

         On January 28, 2015, after fifty-three days of incarceration in the Phelps County Jail, plaintiff was taken to his arraignment. When he got to the courtroom, plaintiff asked his attorney why it took so long for him to get arraigned. His attorney advised plaintiff that “sometimes that just happens.” Plaintiff notes that his attorney was not concerned with his constitutional right to due process of law. He also states that he pled not guilty at the arraignment hearing.

         Plaintiff asserts that Missouri Revised Statute § 544.260[1] requires the accused to be arraigned as soon as practicable, without unnecessary delay. He alleges this statutory provision was violated. He also alleges that being incarcerated in the Phelps County Jail for fifty-three days violated his rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, as well as the Missouri Constitution.

         Plaintiff seeks $500, 000 in actual damages and $100, 000 in punitive damages. (Docket No. 1 at 5).


         Plaintiff brings this § 1983 action against defendants Lisenbee and Shults, alleging that they violated his constitutional rights when plaintiff had to wait fifty-three days before appearing for his arraignment. Having thoroughly reviewed and liberally construed plaintiff's complaint, and for the ...

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