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Barnett v. Gorham

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

April 11, 2019

BRYAN GORHAM, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on the motion of plaintiff Brandon Nicholas Barnett, 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 give plaintiff the opportunity to file an amended complaint.

         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.

         After filing the instant motion, plaintiff filed a document stating he had tried unsuccessfully to obtain a copy of his certified inmate account statement. Therefore, the Court will require plaintiff to pay an initial partial filing fee of $1.00, an amount that is reasonable based upon the information before the Court. 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.”). Any claim that plaintiff is unable to pay this amount must be supported by a certified copy of plaintiff's inmate account statement.

         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 may 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 may 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).

         This Court must liberally construe complaints filed by laypeople. 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 against Case Managers Bryan Gorham and Susan Price, Functional Unit Manager Bruce Hanebrink, Assistant Wardens Alonna Wigfall and Lorene Armstrong, and Superintendent Jason Lewis. He indicates he sues Gorham and Price in their individual and official capacities, but does not indicate the capacity in which he sues the other defendants.

         Plaintiff's allegations are repetitive and vague. For example, he alleges that, from November 15, 2018 to January 18, 2019, he wrote over 20 letters in a month requesting an IRR (Informal Resolution Request), but was only given “2 in 2 months by him.” (Docket No. 1 at 4). Plaintiff states he was issued conduct violations “by him” and found guilty and referred to administrative segregation “by him.” Id. He states he wants cameras reviewed. He repeatedly alleges he wrote “over 20 letters” to other defendants he identifies by name, and alleges some form of wrongdoing concerning an IRR. He also states he was denied due process in connection with conduct violation proceedings, he states his First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated, and he states the defendants violated policies of the Missouri Department of Corrections. Portions of the complaint are printed in handwriting that is very small and often illegible. Attached to the complaint are copies of statements from other inmates about force being used against plaintiff, and copies of Disciplinary Action Reports that are largely illegible.


         The complaint is subject to dismissal. It is unclear whether plaintiff intends to claim he was denied the right to file a grievance, or whether he intends to claim his grievances were wrongfully denied or mishandled. While plaintiff obviously intends to claim his due process rights were violated in connection with prison disciplinary proceedings, plaintiff fails to allege sufficient facts to state such a claim. Additionally, it is unclear why plaintiff included the statements from the other inmates. If plaintiff intends to bring claims of excessive force, his complaint must clearly allege the facts in support of such claims. Also, if plaintiff names more than one person as a defendant in this action, he should only include claims that are related to each other. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(2). Finally, plaintiff fails to allege sufficient facts showing how each named defendant was directly involved in or personally responsible for any incident ...

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