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Hinderman v. Sancegraw

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

July 30, 2019

FRANCIS B. SANCEGRAW, et al., Defendants.


          Stephen N. Limbaugh, Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on the motion of plaintiff Karl Hinderman for leave to commence this civil action without prepayment of the required filing fee. (Docket No. 2). 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 $2.31. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Additionally, for the reasons discussed below, the Court will direct the Clerk of Court to issue process on defendants Francis Sancegraw and Kyle Smith in their individual capacities.

         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 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 copy of his certified inmate account statement. (Docket No. 4). The account statement shows an average monthly deposit of $11.57. The Court will therefore assess an initial partial filing fee of $2.31, 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 plaintiffs 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).

         The Complaint

          Plaintiff is a pro se litigant who is currently incarcerated at the Potosi Correctional Center in Mineral Point, Missouri. He brings this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He names Correctional Officer Francis Sancegraw and Correctional Officer Kyle Smith as defendants. (Docket No. 1 at 2-3). Both are named in their individual capacities only.

         Plaintiff states that on January 15, 2018, he advised Officer Sancegraw and Officer Smith that he was suicidal. (Docket No. 1-1 at 1). Per institutional policy, an offender who declares that he is suicidal is supposed to be extracted from his cell, assessed by medical personnel, and placed into a camera cell on suicide watch.

         When plaintiff declared he was suicidal, he states that both defendants "stopped in their tracks" and started towards his cell door. He asserted that Officer Sancegraw "had a fervently angry scowl on his face" and told plaintiff that he was "tired of this sh-t." He further states that Officer Sancegraw asked him if he was willing to submit to restraints. Plaintiff answered in the affirmative.

         Officer Sancegraw unlocked plaintiffs food-port and plaintiff "dangled both hands out of the slot." He alleges that Officer Sancegraw quickly grabbed the food-port door "and began to slam it, in short burst[s], on [his] hands, fingers, [and] wrist." Then, Officer Sancegraw held the door against plaintiffs wrist, preventing him from pulling away. Plaintiff states that this caused him "excruciating pain" and drew blood.

         Plaintiff claims that he pled with both officers to stop, but they did not. Instead, Officer Sancegraw began to yell at plaintiff to "pull [them] in," even though plaintiff could not withdraw his hands with Officer Sancegraw holding him. Plaintiff states that Officer Sancegraw kept him in this position for approximately one-and-a-half minutes, before finally allowing him to submit to restraints. During this period, Officer ...

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