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Lewis v. Dickerson

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

October 18, 2019

RICK J. LEWIS, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
RUTH ANN DICKERSON, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HENRY EDWARD AUTREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the motion of plaintiff Rick J. Lewis, Jr., an inmate at the Cape Girardeau County Jail, for leave to commence this civil action without prepayment of the required filing fee. (ECF No. 2). For the reasons explained below, the Court will grant the motion and assess an initial partial filing fee of $4.26. The Court will deny as moot plaintiff's two duplicative motions for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Additionally, for the reasons discussed below, the Court will give plaintiff the opportunity 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 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 filed an inmate account statement showing an average monthly deposit for the relevant time period of $21.31, and an average monthly balance of $14.20. The Court will therefore require plaintiff to pay an initial partial filing fee of $4.26, which is twenty percent of his 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 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).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Sheriff Ruth Ann Dickerson, corrections officers Williams, Rivas, Golden, and Ladner, and Sergeant Umphlett. He states he sues the defendants in their official capacities. He alleges as follows.

         Since June 17, 2019, “there have been insufficient portions served no meal the standard for adult prisoner.” The jail has also failed to provide the inmates with sufficient clothing, towels, mattresses and bedding. The jail is dirty, there is “mold and filth hanging from the ceiling, ” and inmates' photographs are refused. There is no law library access, which plaintiff claims amounts to cruel and unusual punishment and violates his due process rights. Plaintiff alleges that “by working here each defendant is responsible for perpetrating these injuries to my rights. By failing to correct them when brought to their attention they condone them and continue them.” As relief, plaintiff asks this Court to order the jail to remedy these problems, install a law library, buy adequate clothing and linens for inmates, inspect the building for health hazards, and so forth. Plaintiff also seeks damages in the amount of $1, 650, 000.

         After filing the complaint, plaintiff filed a motion seeking to add parties and a motion seeking his release from ...


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