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Robison v. Sanderson

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

August 22, 2019

LISA SANDERSON, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on the motion of plaintiff Dwayne Robison 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 $2.21. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Additionally, for the reasons discussed below, the Court will order plaintiff to file an amended complaint.

         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 the instant motion, plaintiff submitted a certified inmate account statement. (Docket No. 7 at 2). The certified inmate account statement shows an average monthly deposit of $11.07. The Court will therefore assess an initial partial filing fee of $2.21, 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 (8thCir. 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 the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre, Missouri. (Docket No. 8). At the time relevant to this complaint, however, he was located at the Farmington Correctional Center in Farmington, Missouri. (Docket No. 1 at 2). He brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, naming Lisa Sanderson, Elizabeth Atterberry, and Kay McIntyre as defendants.[1] (Docket No. 1 at 2-3). Defendants are sued in their official capacities only.

         Plaintiff states that defendant Sanderson is the Chief of Mental Health, that defendant Atterberry is the Regional Director of Mental Health, and that defendant McIntyre is a mental health doctor. He alleges that Sanderson is punishing him for being transgender by isolating him in a single-man cell. (Docket No. 1 at 3). He further states that this has been going on for seven months.

         Plaintiff asserts that being in a single-man cell makes it hard for him to control his mental health. He claims that Sanderson is using the “excuse” that he is a sexually active person for keeping him in a single-man cell. Plaintiff states that she is making up this “false lie” to keep him from having a cellmate.

         Plaintiff alleges that McIntyre has discriminated against him by telling him that it would be a “good idea” to keep him in a single-man cell. He states that McIntyre has “slander[ed] [his] name” and refused to let him have a chance in double-man cell.

         On October 27, 2018, plaintiff was placed on suicide watch. (Docket No. 1 at 4). Defendant Sanderson kept him on watch for a week and a half, which plaintiff states was “above and beyond her job title.” She purportedly told him the reason he could not have a cellmate was because he had reported being raped at Potosi Correctional Center. Plaintiff alleges that Sanderson has taken it upon herself to isolate him in administrative segregation, even though he is not a threat to other offenders. However, he acknowledges that other inmates have not wanted to cell with him because he is homosexual, and they are homophobic. ...

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