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Cox v. City of Brentwood

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

November 15, 2019

WILLIE COX, JR., a/k/a ABBUE-JAH, Plaintiff,



         This matter is before the Court upon the motion of plaintiff Willie Cox, Jr. for leave to proceed in forma pauperis in this civil action. Upon consideration of the motion and the financial information provided in support, the Court concludes that plaintiff is unable to pay the filing fee. The motion will therefore be granted. Additionally, the Court will dismiss the complaint, without prejudice.

         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[1]

         Plaintiff states he brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of Brentwood. Plaintiff asserts that an unnamed “attending judge” in the City of Brentwood's Municipal Court denied his request to remove his municipal court cases to federal court. Plaintiff believes that this was in violation of his civil rights.

         Plaintiff alleges in his complaint that he was subjected to malicious prosecution, lack of probable cause, violations of his due process and Fourth Amendment rights, as well as breaches of his fiduciary duties. He further purports that the citations given to him by Officer Lang, see Cox v. Lang, 4:19-CV-2585 NAB (E.D.Mo). were fraudulent documents. Plaintiff seeks a total of $4.5 million in damages.


         Although plaintiff has not specifically named the judge who denied his request to remove his municipal cases, the Court will address any claim plaintiff could have against that judge should he wish to bring one.

         Judicial immunity grants absolute immunity to judges from civil lawsuits based on alleged judicial misconduct, subject to two exceptions: (1) when a judge does not act within his judicial capacity or (2) when a judge takes judicial action in the complete absence of all jurisdiction. Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11-12 (1991). “[W]hether an act by a judge is a ‘judicial' one relate[s] to the nature of the act itself, i.e., whether it is a function normally performed by a judge, and to the expectations of the parties, i.e., whether they dealt with the judge in his judicial capacity.” Id. at 12. The municipal court judge mentioned in plaintiff's complaint took actions judicial in nature - he or she denied plaintiff's request to remove his municipal actions to federal court.

         Judicial immunity applies “even when the judge is accused of acting maliciously.” Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 554 (1967). Because the municipal court judge acted within his judicial capacity and within his court's proper jurisdiction, he is granted absolute immunity from civil suit as to plaintiff's claims against him. As such, plaintiff's claims against a Brentwood municipal court judge, should he choose to bring them, are frivolous.

         So too are plaintiff's claims against the City of Brentwood legally frivolous. A local governing body such as the City of Brentwood can be sued directly under § 1983. See Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978). In order to prevail on this type of claim, the plaintiff must establish the municipality's liability for the alleged conduct. Kelly, 813 F.3d at 1075. Such liability may attach if the constitutional violation “resulted from (1) an official municipal policy, (2) an unofficial custom, or (3) a deliberately indifferent failure to train or supervise.” Mick v. Raines, 883 F.3d 1075, 1089 (8th Cir. 2018). See also Marsh v. Phelps Cty., 902 F.3d 745, 751 (8th Cir. 2018) (recognizing “claims challenging an ...

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