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Toucheshawks v. United States

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

June 7, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants.



         This matter comes before the Court on the motion of plaintiff Deborah Toucheshawks for leave to commence this civil action without prepayment of the filing fee. (Docket No. 2). Having reviewed the motion and the financial information submitted in support, the Court finds that it should be granted. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Additionally, for the reasons discussed below, the Court will dismiss plaintiff's complaint without prejudice.

         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, 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 (8thCir. 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).


         Plaintiff filed a pro se complaint on February 15, 2019, naming the United States of America and the State of Missouri as defendants. (Docket No. 1). The complaint itself consists of a single paragraph on a single page, in which plaintiff:

[R]equests the Court and the Clerk of the Court to enter the following request to end abuses by the Federal and State governments and respective agencies, to the Constitution and Bill of Rights of the United States of America. The Constitutional violations are[, ] inter alia to our Fourth, Fifth, and…Fourteenth Amendments[, ] as well as in violation of federal statutes[, ] inter alia[, ] [the] Social Security Act of 1935, [t]he Medicare/Medicaid Act [of] 1965 and multiple federal and state antitrust laws.

(Docket No. 1 at 1). Attached to the complaint is a “brief” that includes “history and legal arguments in support of these factual allegations.” The Court notes that the complaint and brief are nearly identical to others that have been filed in various United States District Courts across the country, with the exception that plaintiff has included her own name and has inserted “Missouri” into the section requesting relief from the Court.[1]

         The thirty-three-page brief contains generalized grievances about federal and state policies pertaining to opioid pain medication. The brief opens with a section captioned “History, ” which asserts that “[w]e the people are guaranteed certain inalienable rights which are protected by our Constitution.” (Docket No. 1 at 5). Included among these rights is “the ability to make autonomous decisions regarding our health.” To that end, plaintiff asserts that “recent attacks on opioid based medications makes no sense.”

         Several pages in this section are devoted to referencing studies on untreated pain. (Docket No. 1 at 6-8). Based on these studies, plaintiff claims that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines regarding opioid therapy are flawed. (Docket No. 1 at 8). Nevertheless, both the federal government and state governments have implemented policies and legislative acts based on these purportedly flawed CDC guidelines. (Docket No. 1 at 9). Plaintiff alleges that the guidelines are illegal and violate the United States Constitution.

         The “Legal Argument” section is made up of sixteen separate subsections. The first subsection states that pro se plaintiffs are not required to set forth a legal theory. (Docket No. 1 at 12). The second claims that “laws and policies” against “Americans and veterans” with chronic pain or intractable pain disease are the result of a “falsified crisis” and amount to a discriminatory “disparate impact.” Further subsections allege that these policies violate the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment, and the Fourteenth Amendment. (Docket No. 1 at 13-14). Other subsections in the “Legal Argument” section touch upon the workability of an injunction against the federal and state governments, Skidmore deference, and the definition of genocide. (Docket No. 1 at 17-18). There are also subsections devoted to attacking the scientific basis of the CDC's guidelines, while asserting that the opioid crisis is a myth. (Docket No. 1 at 22-26).

         The brief closes with four requests for the Court. (Docket No. 1 at 26-28). First, plaintiff asks “that all Americans be allowed to join this litigation against the state of Missouri and the United States of America.” (Docket No. 1 at 26). Second, plaintiff seeks an order for “the DEA” to stop “persecuting licensed medical professionals.” (Docket No. 1 at 27). Next, plaintiff seeks to stop pharmacy employees from “profiling” individuals “to determine who may or may not receive controlled medications.” Finally, plaintiff asserts that the Administrative Procedure Act gives the Court oversight over government agencies and thus the Court has jurisdiction over the allegedly illegal and unconstitutional acts perpetrated by “an overzealous Legislative Branch.” (Docket No. 1 at 28).

         Following the filing of the complaint and brief, sixteen movants sought to join this action. (Docket Nos. 4-19). The motions are all nearly identical and appear to have been filed on a boilerplate form used in other jurisdictions, as several of the motions direct their request to join to “the Court and the Clerk of Court for the District of Washington.” (Docket Nos. 4-12). Some of the movants are involved in similar cases filed in other jurisdictions.[2] Eight of the movants have attached a “story demonstrating the harm” they have suffered. (Docket Nos. 9-10, 14-19). Generally, these “stories” assert that the movant ...

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