United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
EUGENE V. LAMARTINA, Plaintiff,
ANNE L. PRECYTHE, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
C. HAMILTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court upon review of plaintiff Eugene V.
LaMartina's amended complaint. For the reasons explained
below, this action will be dismissed, without prejudice.
Plaintiff is presently incarcerated at the Eastern Reception,
Diagnostic and Correctional Center (“ERDCC”). He
is proceeding herein pro se and in forma pauperis. On March
11, 2019, plaintiff filed a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 against the Missouri Secretary of State and
officials from the Missouri Department of Corrections
(“MDOC”). He filed the action jointly with
another prisoner named William Scott Sours, and together they
proceeded to set forth claims on behalf of themselves and
other inmates. Plaintiff was severed from that case, and the
instant action was opened on his behalf. On April 18, 2019,
the Court entered an order directing plaintiff to file an
amended complaint to set forth his own claims for relief.
Plaintiff complied, and the Court now reviews the amended
complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
filed the amended complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
against Anne Precythe (Director of the MDOC), John Ashcroft
(Secretary of State for the State of Missouri), Alana Boyles
(MDOC's Director of Adult Institutions), Cindy Griffith
(Zone Director for MDOC), Stanley Payne (Warden of the
ERDCC), Gil Long (MDOC's Offender Finance Officer), and
John Doe. He sues the defendants in their official and
amended complaint, plaintiff alleges that parole intervention
fees were erroneously assessed against him and debited from
his inmate trust account. He alleges the events giving rise to
his claims occurred when he was confined at four different
MDOC facilities. He alleges that the facilities had a
grievance procedure, but it did not cover his claims. He
alleges he filed a grievance at those facilities in which he
claimed he was exempt from the fees when he was suspended
from parole in 2012. He alleges he received responses stating
that “intervention fees were not a grievable issue and
I could not pursue this through the prison grievance
procedure.” (Docket No. 7 at 11).
alleges that Precythe, as the Director of the MDOC, is
directly responsible for all policies, rules and customs, and
has therefore shown a deliberate indifference to the
Plaintiff's due process rights in avoiding an erroneous
assessment of parole intervention fees against
Plaintiff's inmate trust fund account which has caused
the defendants of the Missouri Department of Corrections to
have and continue to take money from the Plaintiff without
providing a means to contest these erroneous assessments
through the prison grievance system.
Id. at 3, 6. Plaintiff alleges that Secretary of
State Ashcroft is responsible for validating MDOC's rules
and policies, and is therefore liable for the other
defendants' failure to allow plaintiff a means to contest
erroneous assessments through the prison grievance system. He
alleges he told Boyles, Griffiths, Payne, and Long that
erroneous parole intervention fees were being debited from
his account and he was not provided a means to contest the
erroneous assessments through the prison's grievance
system. He also states that “the Defendants” are
liable to him because they did not “provide Plaintiff
with indigent legal supplies to be able to have access to the
courts.” Id. at 7-8. After setting forth the
foregoing, plaintiff wrote: “Plaintiff herein alleges
that the prison grievance program is inadequate to address
erroneous assessments to his inmate trust fund account and it
is futile to pursue because the Defendants claim intervention
(parole) fees and the collection thereof is not a grievable
matter.” Id. at 8.
relief, plaintiff asks the Court to: “[i]ssue a
declaratory judgment stating that: The taking of the
Plaintiff's money from his inmate trust fund account for
parole intervention fees without allowing the Plaintiff to
contest erroneous assessments through the prison grievance
system violates the Due Process Clause of the United States
Constitution.” Id. at 10. Plaintiff also asks
the Court to order the defendants to return his money, and
award him compensatory and punitive damages, fees, and costs.
thoroughly reviewed and liberally construed the amended
complaint, the Court concludes this action must be dismissed.
To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff
must allege the violation of a right secured by the
Constitution or laws of the United States. West v.
Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). Prisoners have a First
Amendment right to seek redress pursuant to established
grievance procedures. See Sprouse v. Babcock, 870
F.2d 450, 452 (8th Cir. 1989); see also Nelson v.
Shuffman, 603 F.3d 439, 449-50 (8th Cir. 2010). However,
in the case at bar, plaintiff does not allege he was
prevented from filing grievances, or subjected to retaliation
or discipline for doing so. Instead, plaintiff claims the
prison grievance system is inadequate to address erroneous
parole intervention fee assessments to his inmate account,
and that the defendants violated his due process rights by
not providing a means for him to grieve that issue through
the prison grievance system. These allegations do not
establish the violation of a right secured by the
Constitution or laws of the United States. Prisoners have no
federally-protected right to a particular grievance system,
or to have prison officials entertain their grievances.
Buckley v. Barlow, 997 F.2d 494, 495 (8th Cir.
1993). A prison grievance system “is a procedural right
only, it does not confer any substantive right upon the
inmates. Hence, it does not give rise to a protected liberty
interest requiring the procedural protections envisioned by
the fourteenth amendment.” Id. (internal
quotation omitted); see also Flick v. Alba, 932 F.2d
728 (8th Cir. 1991). “When the claim underlying the
administrative grievance involves a constitutional right, the
prisoner's right to petition the government for redress
is right of access to the courts, which is not compromised by
the prison's refusal to entertain his grievance.”
Flick, 932 F.2d 728. Therefore, to the extent
plaintiff's claims against any defendant are premised
upon this alleged inadequacy of the prison grievance system,
plaintiff fails to establish the violation of a
federally-protected right and therefore fails to state a
viable § 1983 claim.
extent plaintiff can be understood to proceed against any
defendant on the theory that his due process rights were
violated by the erroneous assessment of the fees, such claims
fail. First, nothing in the amended complaint can be
construed as alleging that any named defendant was directly
involved in or personally responsible for assessing or
calculating the parole intervention fees plaintiff owed.
“Liability under § 1983 requires a causal link to,
and direct responsibility for, the alleged deprivation of
rights.” Madewell v. Roberts, 909 F.2d 1203,
1208 (8th Cir. 1990). Additionally, in Jackson v.
Chairman and Members of Missouri Bd. Of Probation and
Parole, No. 4:10-cv-104-CDP, 2010 WL 5070722, *5, *6
(E.D. Mo. Dec. 7, 2010), this United States District Court
ruled that the imposition of parole intervention fees did not
violate the plaintiff's due process rights. In reaching
that determination, the Court recognized that while the
plaintiff had an interest in avoiding an erroneous fee
assessment, if he believed he was exempt from the fee he
could either speak to his parole officer or request a waiver
from the Parole Board under 14 C.S.R. 80-5.020(1)(H). That
decision was affirmed on appeal. Jackson v. Chairman and
Members of Missouri Bd. Of Probation and ...