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Cobb v. Madlock

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

June 25, 2019

DERRICK COBB, Plaintiff,
TRACY MADLOCK, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on the motion of plaintiff Derrick Cobb, 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 $27.89. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Additionally, as fully explained below, the Court will partially dismiss the complaint, and direct the Clerk of Court to issue process upon defendants Donna Wigfall, Omar Clark, and Cindy Griffith on plaintiffs claims that are premised upon the denial of due process.

         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 $108.41, and an average monthly balance of $139.45. The Court will therefore assess an initial partial filing fee of $27.89, which is twenty percent of plaintiff s average monthly balance.

         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 four defendants, all of whom are employed by the Missouri Department of Corrections ("MDOC"): Tracy Madlock (a corrections officer and the mailroom supervisor), Donna Wigfall (Function Unit Manager), Omar Clark (Warden or Assistant Warden), and Cindy Griffith (Deputy Division Director of Adult Institutions). He sues the defendants in their official and individual capacities.

         The events giving rise to plaintiffs claims occurred when he was incarcerated at the Southeast Correctional Center ("SECC"). They concern a single occasion in June of 2018 when mail sent to him by the St. Louis City Circuit Court was rejected, and he was not notified. Plaintiff alleges this violated his right of access to the courts, and his right to due process.

         Plaintiff begins by providing what he calls a "Brief Summary of the Case," in which he writes:

In this complaint, Plaintiff alleges that the Circuit Court for the City of St. Louis, Missouri, mailed sent him a letter or legal documents possibly relating to the Rule 29.15 post-conviction motion he mailed to the court in June 2018. However, prison staff working in SECC mailroom did not deliver the legal letter or legal documents to Plaintiff. Nor, did the prison staff notify Plaintiff that some incoming legal mail had arrived for him and was being rejected. Instead, the SECC mailroom staff returned the incoming legal ...

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