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Saffell v. Wilson

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

May 13, 2019

HERBERT A. SAFFELL, Plaintiff,
v.
UNKNOWN WILSON, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN A. ROSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the motion of Herbert A. Saffell, an inmate at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center ("ERDCC"), 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 $25.25. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Additionally, for the reasons discussed below, the Court will dismiss plaintiffs claims against defendants Unknown Hendricks and John Doe Correctional Officer without prejudice, but will direct the Clerk of Court to issue process on defendants Correctional Officer Unknown Wilson, Bubble Officer Unknown Liggett, Unknown Functional Unit Manager Housing 6 in July 2017 and Caseworker Frances Unknown in their individual capacities as to plaintiffs claims for failure to protect in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

         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.

         In support of the instant motion, plaintiff submitted an inmate account statement showing an average monthly deposit of $126.25. The Court will therefore assess an initial partial filing fee of $25.25.

         Legal Standard on Initial Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), the Court is required to dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis if it is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 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 is malicious if it is undertaken for the purpose of harassing the named defendants 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, $26 F.2d 1061 (4th Cir. 1987). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can 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).

         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, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (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 678. Second, the Court must determine whether the complaint states a plausible claim for relief. Id. at 679. This is a "context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.

         The plaintiff is required to plead facts that show more than the "mere possibility of misconduct." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. The Court must review the factual allegations in the complaint "to determine if they plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief." Id. at 681. When faced with alternative explanations for the alleged misconduct, the Court may exercise its judgment in determining whether plaintiffs proffered conclusion is the most plausible or whether it is more likely that no misconduct occurred. Id. at 680-82.

         Pro se complaints are to be liberally construed, Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976), but they still 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). The Court must weigh all factual allegations in favor of the plaintiff, unless the facts alleged are clearly baseless. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992). Federal courts are not required to "assume facts that are not alleged, just because an additional factual allegation would have formed a stronger complaint." Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914-15 (8th dr. 2004).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Unknown Wilson (Correctional Officer); Unknown Liggett (Bubble Officer); Frances Unknown (Caseworker); Functional Unit Manager Unknown; Unknown Hendricks; Jesse Morgan (Caseworker); and John Doe Unknown Correctional Officer. Plaintiff sues the defendants in their individual capacities.

         Plaintiffs claims stem from a single assault that occurred in August of 2017. According to the complaint, plaintiff was assigned to a cell with another offender who had a "notorious reputation with staff and inmates alike for violently assaulting staff members throughout his tenure in the MDOC." Plaintiff does not give any specific information relative to his cellmate's purported violent history. Instead, plaintiff merely states that on or around June 2017, after being placed in a cell with Derrick Hubbard, Hubbard began 'threatening to do great bodily harm" to plaintiff.

         Plaintiff states that around July 13, 2017, he reported the threats from Hubbard to Unknown Wilson, who was the officer on duty. Plaintiff claims that he asked to be moved at that time, and that there were cells available to be moved to, but Wilson "turned a blind eye." However, plaintiff admits Wilson told him that "he would see about getting me some paperwork to affect a room move, which would take in excess of a week or more to transpire." Plaintiff states that he complained to ...


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