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Smith v. Satterfield

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

September 17, 2019




         This matter is before the Court on the motion of plaintiff Byron T. Smith, Sr., an inmate at the Mississippi County Detention Center, for leave to commence this civil action without prepayment of the required filing fee. Having reviewed the motion and the financial information submitted in support, the Court has determined to grant the motion and assess an initial partial filing fee of $1.00. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Additionally, for the reasons discussed below, the Court will dismiss this case without prejudice.

         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 did not submit an inmate account statement in support of the instant motion. However, the Court will not require him to file one at this time and will instead assess an initial partial filing fee of $1.00. Any claim that plaintiff is unable to pay this amount must be supported by a certified copy of his inmate account statement.

         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 may be granted. An action is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis in either law or fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 328 (1989). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         "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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). 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 assume the veracity of well-pleaded facts, but need not accept as true "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements." Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         This Court must liberally construe complaints filed by laypeople. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). This means that "if the essence of an allegation is discernible," the court should "construe the complaint in a way that permits the layperson's claim to be considered within the proper legal framework." Solomon v. Petray, 795 F.3d 777, 787 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004)). However, even pro se complaints must 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). Federal courts are not required to assume facts that are not alleged, Stone, 364 F.3d at 914-15, nor are they required to interpret procedural rules so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel. See McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113(1993).


         Attached to the complaint are copies of records from the Missouri State Court criminal case State of Missouri v. Byron Smith, No. 14MI-CR00143-01 (33rd Jud. Cir. 2014), in which plaintiff is charged with first-degree statutory sodomy and first-degree statutory rape. The Court has reviewed the records of that case on Missouri, the State of Missouri's online docketing system. The Honorable Joe Z. Satterfield served as the presiding judge in that matter until July 23, 2019, when a new judge was assigned. As of the date of this Memorandum and Order, those charges remain pending against plaintiff This Court takes judicial notice of the Missouri State Court record before it, as obtained through the public records published on Missouri See Levy v. Ohl, 477 F.3d 988 (8th Cir. 2007) (district court may take judicial notice of public state records); Stutzka v. McCarville, 420 F.3d 757, 760 n. 2 (8th Cir. 2005) (courts "may take judicial notice of judicial opinions and public records.").

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Judge Satterfield. He states he brings a claim of racial discrimination. In support, he alleges that when Judge Satterfield was presiding over his criminal case, he was "motivated solely by racism to take my bond without a just legit cause," and "committed perjury" by issuing a "frivolous warrant for arrest" that contained "an unsupported lie that the Bonding Agency person Lavonda Walker and Walker Bail Bonds was not qualified in the State of Missouri." Plaintiff also alleges that on June 4, 2019 his bond was set twice as high as it was when plaintiff was originally on bond because of a "fabricated lie and bogus warrant." The complaint continues in this manner, with plaintiff alleging that Judge Satterfield told "numerous unproved made up lies" and was "racially motivated in all his decisions" regarding plaintiff's bond.

         Plaintiff attached to the complaint copies of the arrest warrant and Judge Satterfield's June 4, 2019 order setting plaintiffs bond at $500, 000, 10% cash or surety. The arrest warrant notes that the bondsman and bail bond company that agreed to insure plaintiffs appearance were no longer qualified in the State of Missouri, and the bond therefore could not be enforced. In the order setting bond, Judge Satterfield wrote he was setting bond at that ...

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