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Winters v. Lytle

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

June 19, 2019

CEDRIC L. WINTERS, Plaintiff,
v.
JEREME GEORGE LYTLE, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HENRY EDWARD AUTREY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court upon the motion of pro se plaintiff Cedric L. Winters for leave to commence this action without prepayment of the required filing fee. Having reviewed the motion and the financial information submitted in support, the Court will grant the motion, and assess an initial partial filing fee of $1.50. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Furthermore, after reviewing the complaint, the Court will dismiss this action 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 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, until the filing fee is fully paid. Id.

         In support of the instant motion, plaintiff submitted an inmate account statement showing only a one-month time period. ECF No. 3. However, the brief accounting does support plaintiff's statement in his motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, that he receives $7.50 per month for his prison job. ECF No. 2. The Court finds that plaintiff has insufficient funds in his prison account to pay the entire filing fee and will therefore assess an initial partial filing fee of $1.50, which is twenty percent of plaintiff's average monthly deposit.

         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 brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the State of Missouri and prosecuting attorney Jereme George Lytle, in both his individual and official capacities. On April 3, 2018, plaintiff pled guilty to third degree assault in the 34th Judicial Circuit Court in Pemiscot County, Missouri. Plaintiff asserts his claims against the defendants in one sentence on his complaint: “Mr. Jereme George Lytle failed Mr. Winters because he filed Mr. Winters with 3rd degree assault then State of Missouri harmed Mr. Winters by accepting Mr. Winters guilty plea while Mr. Winters were mentally unstable.” ECF No. 1 at 3. Plaintiff claims that he has suffered financial and mental health injuries, including admittance to a “ward for psychotic mental illness” following his sentencing. Id. at 4. For relief, plaintiff seeks money damages and dismissal of the third degree assault charge.

         Discussion

         Both the federal habeas corpus statute, 28 U.S.C. § 2254, and the civil rights statute, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, provide access to a federal forum for claims of unconstitutional treatment at the hands of state officials. But these statutes differ in both scope and operation.

         Generally, a prisoner's challenge to the validity of his confinement or to matters affecting its duration falls within the province of habeas corpus and, therefore, must be brought pursuant to § 2254. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973). On the other hand, challenges involving the circumstances of confinement, or how one ended up in confinement, may be presented in a § 1983 action. Often, the Court looks to the relief requested by plaintiff to see what type of action he is seeking. If plaintiff is seeking money damages for civil rights violations relating to his conditions of confinement, the case is most likely a § 1983 action. However, if plaintiff is seeking to expunge or vacate his conviction, the action is most likely one brought pursuant to habeas corpus, or § 2254.

         In this case, plaintiff is seeking both money damages and to vacate and expunge his conviction. This appears to be a “hybrid” action of some sort, where plaintiff is seeking both relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.[1] The Court will not allow plaintiff to proceed under both statutes simultaneously in one action. If he wishes to bring both ...


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