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Williamson v. Missouri Department of Corrections

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

September 27, 2019




         This matter is before the Court upon the amended motion of pro se plaintiff Lamont Williamson for leave to commence this action without prepayment of the required filing fee. Having reviewed the motion, the Court has determined that plaintiff lacks sufficient funds to pay the filing fee. The motion will be granted and no initial filing fee will be accessed at this time. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4). Furthermore, for the reasons discussed below, the complaint will be dismissed without prejudice.

         Filing Fee

         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, until the filing fee is fully paid. Id.

         At case initiation, plaintiff filed an unsigned motion to proceed in district court without prepaying fees or costs. ECF No. 2. Because plaintiff’s motion was unsigned, the Court issued an Order directing the Clerk of Court to return the unsigned motion to plaintiff and ordered plaintiff to either sign the motion and return it, or to pay the filing fee. ECF No. 6. Plaintiff filed the signed motion on September 19, 2019. ECF No. 8. Although the form motion states that an inmate must also submit a certified prison account statement, plaintiff has not done so. See ECF No. 8 at 3. In his motion, plaintiff states that he has no job, no income, no assets, and no money in his prison account. Taking this into consideration, the Court will not assess an initial partial filing fee at this time. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4) (“In no event shall a prisoner be prohibited from bringing a civil action . . . for the reason that the prisoner has no assets and no means by which to pay the initial partial filing fee.”).

         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, is malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. To state a claim for relief, 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 draw on its judicial experience and common sense. Id. at 679.

         When reviewing a pro se complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the Court accepts the well-plead facts as true, White v. Clark, 750 F.2d 721, 722 (8th Cir. 1984), and liberally construes the complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); 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 (8th Cir. 2004) (refusing to supply additional facts or to construct a legal theory for the pro se plaintiff that assumed facts that had not been pleaded).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Southeast Correctional Center (“SECC”), brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of the Eighth Amendment that stem from an incident which occurred at Potosi Correctional Center (“PCC”) in 2011. Plaintiff names seven defendants in their individual capacities: (1) Missouri Department of Corrections (“MDOC”); (2) Warden Troy Steele; (3) Correctional Officer Charles Sullens; (4) Correctional Officer Charles Lawson; (5) Correctional Officer Brian Brown; (6) attorney Joseph C. Blanton, Jr.; and (7) attorney Anthony H. Relys.

         Plaintiff’s complaint is disjointed and difficult to follow. It contains multiple summaries of the same incident with listings of legal citations intermixed. In summary, plaintiff alleges that correctional officers Sullens, Lawson, and Brown failed to protect him from being attacked by his cellmate on May 23, 2011, at PCC. Plaintiff asserts that the correctional officers were aware of the serious risk of bodily harm to him. Yet, they not only failed to protect him from the attack, they encouraged and assisted the attacker. Plaintiff states that an investigation of the incident by the Attorney General’s office sustained his allegations against the officers.

         Plaintiff lists only one Count in his complaint: failure to protect against defendants Brown, Lawson, and Sullens. ECF No. 1 at 13. However, plaintiff names four additional defendants in this matter. In the factual background section of the complaint, plaintiff asserts that neither Warden Steele nor the MDOC took any corrective action against the three officers who failed to protect him, even after the attorney general’s investigation results were released. Id. at 6, 10-11.

         In 2012, following the incident, plaintiff states that he filed a § 1983 action in this court for which he was appointed counsel. Id. at 11. Plaintiff alleges that his appointed counsel, defendant Joseph C. Blanton, Jr., altered the allegations of plaintiff’s case without plaintiff’s consent; concealed evidence from plaintiff; lied to plaintiff; and conspired with defense counsel in the matter, defendant Anthony Relys, to commit fraud on the Court. Id. at 11-12.

         For relief, plaintiff asks the Court for: (1) sanctions under Rules 61, 4-3.3, and 4-3.4; (2) actual damages; (3) punitive damages; (4) declaratory judgment; (5) filing fees to be paid by the defendants; (6) a letter of apology; (7) an order directing that the defendants be fired from employment with the MDOC; (8) an order referring defendants for prosecution for their ...

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