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Upchurch v. Tillman

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

June 4, 2019

MICHAEL JAMES UPCHURCH, Plaintiff,
v.
COURTNEY TILLMAN, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JEAN C. HAMILTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff, a pretrial detainee at the St. Louis City Justice Center, seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis in this civil action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Having reviewed plaintiff's financial information, the Court will assess an initial partial filing fee of $21.00, which is twenty percent of plaintiff's average monthly deposits. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b). Furthermore, for the reasons stated below, the Court will dismiss the complaint without prejudice.

         Initial Partial Filing Fee

          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.

         Plaintiff states in his Application to Proceed without Prepaying Fees or Costs that he has no income, no savings, and no property. ECF No. 3. However, the itemized inmate account statement that he filed on March 1, 2019, indicates average monthly deposits of $105 over the most recent six-month period. ECF No. 5. The Court will therefore assess an initial partial filing fee of $21.00, which is twenty percent of plaintiff's average monthly deposits.

         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, is 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. To state a claim for relief, a complaint must plead more than “legal conclusions” and “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action [that are] supported by mere conclusory statements.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A plaintiff must demonstrate a plausible claim for relief, which is more than a “mere possibility of misconduct.” Id. at 679. “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 on its judicial experience and common sense. Id. at 679.

         When reviewing a pro se complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the Court accepts the well-pled facts as true, White v. Clark, 750 F.2d 721, 722 (8th Cir. 1984), and liberally construes the complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); 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) (refusing to supply additional facts or to construct a legal theory for the pro se plaintiff that assumed facts that had not been pleaded).

         The Complaint

          Plaintiff, a pretrial detainee at the St. Louis City Justice Center, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Justice Center employees Courtney Tillman and Warren Thomas. Plaintiff states that he received a violation at the Justice Center for damaging a mattress and that the Justice Center removed $125 from his inmate account in restitution. However, plaintiff alleges that he did not destroy the mattress. According to plaintiff, the mattress was already altered when he first received it, and he notified the officer on duty at the time. Caseworker defendant Courtney Tillman informed plaintiff of the mattress violation on January 18, 2019, and plaintiff responded that he wanted to file an IRR. Plaintiff asserts that Tillman never provided him with an IRR form but told him to write his IRR on a blank piece of paper, which plaintiff alleges that he did “over 9 times” but he has received no response. Plaintiff also alleges that he wrote and talked to Tillman's boss, Warren Thomas, and a grievance officer Bane about the situation, but he still has received no response. Plaintiff asserts that his “inmate rights” and his rights under the U.S. Constitution are being violated by “denying [him] the rights to a IRR, mental anguish, [as] well as excessive fines.” ECF No. 1 at 5.

         For relief, plaintiff seeks one hundred thousand ($100, 000) dollars for the mental anguish this has caused him, including depression and panic attacks.

         Plaintiff filed two letters with the Court, construed as supplements, after the filing of his complaint. In his first letter, plaintiff seeks to inform the Court on how staff have been “harassing” him due to his complaint filing - but none of his allegations involve Tillman or Thomas. ECF No. 4. Plaintiff describes how a correctional officer Archer refused to provide him a meal on February 6. Plaintiff states that he filed an IRR about the missed-meal incident. Plaintiff also complains that being moved to a new wing “put his life in danger.” However, for relief in his supplement, plaintiff states that he is not asking to be moved but that he “just don't want to deal with handcuffs and shackle all day that is uncomfortable” and that he “[j]ust wanted to let someone know what I was gone through in here.” ECF No. 4 at 2. In his second supplement, plaintiff seeks to add two names to his “enemy” list and he provides an inmate account statement. ECF No. 5.

         Discussion

         Plaintiff's complaint alleges two main claims: an unfair prison violation resulting in a loss of $125, and a denial of his right to file an IRR and use the grievance process generally. He names two Justice Center employees in his complaint, Tillman and Thomas, and he sues both in their official capacities only. For the following reasons, plaintiff's complaint will be ...


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