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Charles v. Bowyer

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

July 17, 2019

LESTER CHARLES, Plaintiff,
v.
BILL BOWYER, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          SHIRLEY PADMORE MENSAH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on the motion of plaintiff Lester Charles[1] for leave to commence this civil action without prepayment of the required filing fee. (Docket No. 3). Having reviewed the motion and the financial information submitted in support, the Court has determined that plaintiff lacks sufficient funds to pay the entire filing fee, and will assess an initial partial filing fee of $3.70. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Additionally, for the reasons discussed below, plaintiff will be directed to file an amended complaint on a Court-form.

         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 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 the Court each time the amount in the prisoner's account exceeds $10.00, until the filing fee is fully paid. Id.

         In support of his motion to proceed in forma pauperis, plaintiff submitted a certified inmate account statement. (Docket No. 4). The statement shows an average monthly deposit of $18.50. The Court will therefore assess an initial partial filing fee of $3.70, which is 20 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, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 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 (8th Cir. 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).

         Background

         On May 3, 2019, six inmates from the Farmington Correctional Center (FCC) in Farmington, Missouri, filed a joint lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Docket No. 1). The complaint named seven defendants, all of whom were sued in both their individual and official capacities. Plaintiff was among the inmates who filed the joint lawsuit. He also filed an individual motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Docket No. 3). Because the Court does not allow prisoners to join together and proceed in forma pauperis, the lawsuit was severed, and new cases were opened for each individual plaintiff, using the complaint in the originating action. (Docket No. 2).

         The Complaint

         As noted above, plaintiff is an inmate currently incarcerated at FCC. He, along with five other inmates, filed a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The complaint names the following defendants: Bill Bowyer, Teri Lawson, Tami White, Melanie Coffman, Edmund Jennings, Sharron Montgomery, and Paul Blair. (Docket No. 1 at 4-5). Generally, the complaint alleges that the constitutional rights of all six inmates are being violated due to unsanitary conditions of confinement. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that there is a roach infestation and “black mold” in the A-dining and B-dining areas. (Docket No. 1 at 8). He also claims that the steam machine in A-dining “was not running at proper temperatures for dish sanitation.” (Docket No. 1 at 9). Plaintiff states that prison officials have been made aware of these issues, but they have not been satisfactorily handled. The complaint also contains various declarations and grievance filings from many of the six prisoners.

         Plaintiff seeks an injunction ordering defendants to clean up the black mold, deal with the infestations, and fix the steam machines. (Docket No. 1 at 14). Plaintiff also requests $60, 000 in “nominal/actual damages” against each defendant; $40, 000 in compensatory ...


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