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Robison v. Lawson

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

October 7, 2019

TERRI LAWSON, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on the motion of plaintiff Dwayne Robison, a prisoner, 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 $1.79. Additionally, for the reasons discussed below, the Court will dismiss the complaint, 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.

         In support of the instant motion, plaintiff submitted an inmate account statement showing an average monthly deposit of $8.96, and an average monthly balance of $7.02. The Court will therefore assess an initial partial filing fee of $1.79, which is twenty percent of plaintiff's average monthly deposit.

         Legal Standard on Initial Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), this 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. To determine whether an action states a claim upon which relief can be granted, the Court engages in a two-step inquiry. First, the Court determines whether the allegations in the complaint are entitled to the assumption of truth. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). Allegations are not entitled to the assumption of truth if they are merely “legal conclusions” or “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action [that are] supported by mere conclusory statements.” Id. at 678. Second, the Court determines whether the complaint contains sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).

         A claim is plausible on its face where “the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged, ” id., and “raise[s] a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the inference of more than the “mere possibility of misconduct, ” the complaint has alleged, but has not shown, that the pleader is entitled to relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)); see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557 (if the well-pleaded facts are merely consistent with wrongdoing, the complaint stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility). Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim is a context-specific task that requires the court to draw upon experience and common sense. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         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).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff is currently an inmate at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center, but the events described in the complaint occurred while he was incarcerated at the Farmington Correctional Center (“FCC”). This case is one of 11 civil actions plaintiff has filed in this Court pro se and in forma pauperis since May 2, 2019. He brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Warden Terri Lawson, Deputy Division Director Jeff Norman, and Missouri Department of Corrections Director Anne Precythe.

         Plaintiff claims he is entitled to relief because prison officials do not always deliver all of his mail. In support, plaintiff alleges he has not received mail in response to all of the mail he has sent. For example, plaintiff states he is due to be released in 10 years and has sent letters to various companies requesting “catalogs to plan for when I get out so I can have everything in place, ” but he did not receive mail from all of the companies. He alleges he sends “25-30 pieces of mail” per month. He alleges: “Mrs. Upchurch caseworker refuse to bring me my legal mail I have sent at least 10 legal letters out within the last 30 days, ” “I have only received about 10 letters since I been at Farmington Correctional Center I still have not received about 6-8 letters that I have sent off in the last 2-3 months, ” and “I have 22 letters out I have only received one to two pieces.” Plaintiff alleges he was placed on suicide watch for a week and a half, and did not receive all of his mail upon release or following occasions he was moved to different housing units within the prison.

         Plaintiff refers the Court to a log sheet he prepared and attached to the complaint. The log sheet document plaintiff's outgoing and incoming mail. For example, the log sheet shows that in October of 2018 and March of 2019, plaintiff sent mail to companies including Oriental Trading, Harbor Freight, Nutrition Express, and Prism Optical, but did not receive mail in response. The log sheet also shows that in April and May of 2019, plaintiff sent legal mail to a “social security lawyer, ” mailed requests for “1983 civil forms, ” and sent mail to companies requesting catalogs, but did not receive mail in response. For some entries, plaintiff wrote the date he received mail in response or left the response column blank. Plaintiff writes he is “having numerous problems with staff at Farmington Correctional Center” and that other inmates do as well. Nowhere in the complaint does plaintiff allege he was subjected to content-based restrictions.

         Plaintiff also attached to the complaint copies of the Informal Resolution Request (“IRR”) he filed to complain about the non-receipt of mail, along with the responses he received to the IRR and to a Grievance and Grievance Appeal. In sum, the responses indicate that the only time plaintiff's mail was held was when he was on suicide watch from October 27 to November 11 of 2018, and that the ...

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