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Cook v. Adams

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

July 3, 2019

DONNIE COOK, Plaintiff,
DANNY ADAMS, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on the motion of pro se plaintiff Donnie Cook, an inmate at Eastern Reception Diagnostic and Correctional Center (“ERDCC”), for leave to commence this action without payment 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 $1.70. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Additionally, for the reasons discussed below, the Court will partially dismiss the complaint and will order the Clerk to issue process or cause process to be issued on the non-frivolous portions of the complaint.[1]

         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.

         In support of the instant motion, plaintiff submitted an inmate account statement showing average monthly deposits of $8.50. The Court finds that plaintiff has insufficient funds in his prison account to pay the entire fee and will therefore assess an initial partial filing fee of $1.70, 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 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against two defendants, both of whom are Missouri Department of Corrections (“MDOC”) employees: Danny Adams (Disciplinary hearing officer at ERDCC) and Unknown Bingham (Assistant Warden at ERDCC). Plaintiff sues both defendants in their official and individual capacities.

         According to the allegations of plaintiff's complaint, at some unspecified time in the past, plaintiff and his cellmate Jerald Martin were issued a major conduct violation for dangerous contraband after a homemade knife was found “wrapped around the railing of [plaintiff's] cellmate's bunk” during a cell search. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 5. Plaintiff requested that defendant Adams, as the disciplinary hearing officer, review video camera footage to prove plaintiff's assertion that another prisoner had planted the knife in his cell. Adams denied plaintiff's request to review video footage and found plaintiff guilty of the conduct violation. Id. at ¶¶ 8-9. As a result, plaintiff was punished with thirty (30) days of disciplinary segregation; indefinite assignment to administrative segregation; one (1) year of no-contact visits; one (1) year premium pay restriction; and the violation was referred for prosecution. Id. at ¶ 9. Defendant Bingham approved Adams' denial of plaintiff's request to review the video camera footage and Adams' decision on plaintiff's punishment. Id. at ¶ 10. Plaintiff complains that his cellmate Martin's conduct violation was eventually dismissed and Martin was released from administrative segregation.

         Plaintiff asserts that as a result of the conduct violation, he is suffering “atypical and significant conditions, ” including: 24-hour lock-in periods; no work or rehabilitation programs; indefinite assignment to administrative segregation with no meaningful review of when he can be released; lack of access to recreational periods during inclement weather due to a lack of winter clothing; and only one hour of recreational time three times a week that is confined to an outdoor cage approximately eight by four feet in size and shared by another prisoner. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 12. As a result of inadequate recreation time, plaintiff alleges that his muscles have atrophied and his chronic knee problem is worse. Plaintiff also claims that “[d]ue to the sensory deprivation in segregation, [he] is experiencing psychological problems of hallucinating, sleep deprivation, anxiety attacks, and extreme weight loss.” Id.

         Plaintiff seeks declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and damages. He would like a declaration that his constitutional rights have been violated; a preliminary and permanent injunction dismissing and expunging the conduct violation from his record; $100 per day from each defendant for ...

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