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Woodard v. Villmer

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

August 28, 2019

TOM VILLMER, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court upon the motion of Hunter Woodard (registration no. 42995), an inmate at Southeast Correctional Center (“SECC”), for leave to commence this action without payment of the required filing fee. For the reasons stated below, the Court finds that plaintiff does not have sufficient funds to pay the entire filing fee and will assess an initial partial filing fee of $31.75. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Furthermore, based upon a review of the complaint, the Court finds that the complaint should be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         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 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.

         Plaintiff has submitted an affidavit and a certified copy of his prison account statement for the six-month period immediately preceding the submission of his complaint. A review of plaintiff's account indicates an average monthly deposit of $158.75. Accordingly, the Court will assess an initial partial filing fee of $31.75.

         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 for relief under § 1983, 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, inter alia, draw upon judicial experience and common sense. Id. at 679.

         Pro se complaints are to be liberally construed. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). However, they still must allege sufficient facts to support the claims alleged. Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914-15 (8th Cir. 2004); see also Martin v. Aubuchon, 623 F.2d 1282, 1286 (8th Cir. 1980) (even pro se complaints are required to allege facts which, if true, state a claim for relief as a matter of law). Federal courts are not required to “assume facts that are not alleged, just because an additional factual allegation would have formed a stronger complaint.” Stone, 364 F.3d at 914-15. In addition, giving 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. U.S., 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff, who is currently incarcerated at SECC, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his civil rights during his incarceration at Farmington Correctional Center (“FCC”) in Farmington, Missouri. He names the following individuals as defendants: Tom Villmer (Warden, FCC); James Griffin (Correctional Officer, FCC); Paul Blair (Functional Unit Manager, FCC); Robin Thomas (Caseworker, FCC); and James Horn (Correctional Officer, FCC). Plaintiff brings this action against defendants in their individual and official capacities.

         Plaintiff claims that on October 25, 2016, he was in Housing Unit 3, and Officer James Griffin gave plaintiff a conduct violation for possession/use of an intoxicating substance when Griffin found “six small bullets of an unknown green leafy substance appearing to resemble K-2” at plaintiff's feet.

         Plaintiff states that after finding the “bullets” of what appeared to be K-2, Griffin took plaintiff to medical for review and then placed plaintiff in segregation that same day.

         Plaintiff asserts that after he was taken to segregation, he requested a drug test, a “truth verification exam” and a test of the “contraband, ” but he does not indicate to whom he made these requests or why the requests were denied, if indeed they were denied.

         Plaintiff states that on October 28, 2016, he “went before the adjustment board” relative to the conduct violation. Plaintiff chose not to testify on his own behalf, and he chose not to have any witnesses to testify at his hearing.

         Plaintiff states that at the hearing on that date, there was a written report submitted by James Griffin relating to the incident, as well as picture evidence of the alleged K-2 bullets. A statement from the investigator, named “Ralph” was also given by phone. During Ralph's statement, he indicated that contraband was tested and it did not test positive for THC and was suspected to be K-2.

         Plaintiff claims that a finding of guilty was made on that date by the adjustment board, even though he did not have any “documentary evidence” of his own. Plaintiff does not indicate exactly what documentary evidence he would have provided at the hearing.[1] Plaintiff alleges that the disciplinary hearing “failed to follow the mandates of” the Missouri Department of Correction's policies and procedures. Plaintiff believes this resulted in a due process violation.

         Plaintiff also complains that the adjustment board did not engage in enough fact-finding on their own. He states that he believes they placed too much weight on Officer Griffin's statement, rather than “acting impartially.”

         Plaintiff asserts that the adjustment board gave him the following as sanctions after finding him guilty of the offense of “possession/use of an intoxicating substance:” 30 days segregation, one year no premium paying job, recommended for transfer, one year no-contact visits, and referred to the Administrative Segregation Committee.

         Plaintiff claims that he went before the Administrative Segregation Committee on November 22, 2016 regarding the conduct violation. He complains that Jason Horn improperly sat on both the adjustment board and the Administrative Segregation Committee, which approved his transfer to another facility and approved the removal of plaintiff's ...

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