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Shattuck-Knaebel v. Leija

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

March 18, 2019

MOLLY LEIJA, et al., Defendants.



         This matter comes before the Court on the motion of plaintiff Charles D. Shattuck-Knaebel for leave to commence this civil action without prepayment of the required filing fee. Having reviewed the motion and the financial affidavit 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 $1.71. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1), Additionally, the Court will require plaintiff to file an amended complaint on a Court-provided form within thirty days of the date of this order.

         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 Court each time the amount in the prisoner's account exceeds $10.00, until the filing fee is fully paid. Id.

         In support of his motion to proceed in forma pauperis, plaintiff has submitted a certified inmate account statement. The certified inmate account statement shows an average monthly deposit of $8.58. The Court will therefore assess an initial partial filing fee of $1.710, which is 20 percent of plaintiff's average monthly deposit.

         28 U.S.C. § 1915

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), the Court may dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis if the action is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. An action is frivolous if “it lacks an arguable basis in either law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 328 (1989). An action is malicious when it is undertaken for the purpose of harassing litigants and not for the purpose of vindicating a cognizable right. Spencer v. Rhodes, 656 F.Supp. 458, 461-63 (E.D. N.C. 1987), aff'd 826 F.2d 1059 (4th Cir. 1987).

         To determine whether an action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the Court must engage in a two-step inquiry. First, the Court must identify the allegations in the complaint that are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950-51 (2009). These include “legal conclusions” and “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action [that are] supported by mere conclusory statements.” Id. at 1949. Second, the Court must determine whether the complaint states a plausible claim for relief. Id. at 1950-51. This is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 1950. The plaintiff is required to plead facts that show more than the “mere possibility of misconduct.” Id. The Court must review the factual allegations in the complaint “to determine if they plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.” Id. at 1951. When faced with alternative explanations for the alleged misconduct, the Court may exercise its judgment in determining whether plaintiff's proffered conclusion is the most plausible or whether it is more likely that no misconduct occurred. Id. at 1950, 1951-52.


         Plaintiff is currently an inmate at Potosi Correctional Center in Mineral Point, Missouri. On February 1, 2019, plaintiff filed a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 relating to events that occurred during his time at Southeast Correctional Center (“SECC”).

         The complaint names the following individuals as defendants in this action: Molly Leija (Nurse); Larry Graham (Nurse); Megan Crowe (Nurse); Rebekah Graham (Nurse Practitioner); Kimberly Delusio (Infectious Disease Nurse); J. Cofield (Director of Services, Constituent Services); T. Bredeman (Director of Operations, Assoc. Regional Medical Director); R. Anderson (Director of Nursing); Unknown Defendant (Acting Warden). Defendants are named in both their individual and official capacities.

         Plaintiff has handwritten his allegations on a forty-four (44) page complaint. His allegations are serious, and they concern his assertion that he did not receive proper treatment for the Hepatitis C virus during his time at SECC. Intertwined with plaintiff's claims, however, is a claim that he was hindered from receiving proper treatment and/or an access to the courts by refusal of defendants to comply with their own grievance process. Additionally, plaintiff asserts that many of the supervisory defendants in this action should be held liable for damages as a result of their role as supervisors, rather than for direct or personal conduct.

         There is no federal constitutional right to a prison grievance procedure, and neither state law nor state policy creates one. Therefore, if a state elects to provide a grievance mechanism, violations thereof will not give rise to a § 1983 claim, unless violation of that grievance procedure was done in retaliation. Buckley v. Barlow, 997 F.2d 494, 495 (8th Cir. 1993) (a prison officials' failure to process or investigate grievances, without more, is not actionable under § 1983; grievance procedure is procedural right only and does not confer substantive right on inmate); but see Sprouse v. Babcock, 870 F.2d 450, 452 (8th Cir. 1989) (“a filing of a disciplinary charge against [plaintiff], although otherwise not actionable under section 1983, is actionable under section 1983 if done in retaliation for his having filed a grievance pursuant to established procedures”). In addition, it is well established that there is no federal constitutional liberty interest in having prison officials follow prison regulations. Phillips v. Norris, 320 F.3d 844, 847 (8th Cir. 2003) (citing Kennedy v. Blankenship, 100 F.3d 640, 643 (8th Cir. 1996)).

         Thus, plaintiff's allegations that he was hindered in receiving treatment for his Hepatitis C by defendants' failure to adhere to the grievance procedure, as stated in his complaint, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted at this time, as does his First Amendment access to courts claim in this same vein. Moreover, plaintiff's assertions that supervisors who were not directly involved in responding to his treatment ...

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