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Robison v. Sanderson

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

November 18, 2019

LISA SANDERSON, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on review of the amended complaint filed by plaintiff Dwayne Robison pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will dismiss plaintiff's amended complaint for failure to state a claim.

         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 can be granted. To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate a plausible claim for relief, which is more than a “mere possibility of misconduct.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). “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 upon judicial experience and common sense. Id. at 679. The court must “accept as true the facts alleged, but not legal conclusions or threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Barton v. Taber, 820 F.3d 958, 964 (8th Cir. 2016). See also Brown v. Green Tree Servicing LLC, 820 F.3d 371, 372-73 (8th Cir. 2016) (stating that court must accept factual allegations in complaint as true, but is not required to “accept as true any legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation”).

         When reviewing a pro se complaint under § 1915(e)(2), the Court must give it the benefit of a liberal construction. 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 (8thCir. 2004) (stating that federal courts are not required to “assume facts that are not alleged, just because an additional factual allegation would have formed a stronger complaint”). In addition, affording a pro se complaint the benefit of a liberal construction does not mean that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation must be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel. See McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993).


         Plaintiff is a pro se litigant who is currently incarcerated at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre, Missouri. He filed his original complaint on May 2, 2019, naming Lisa Sanderson, Elizabeth Atterberry, and Kay McIntyre as defendants. (Docket No. 1). In his complaint, plaintiff alleged that he was being punished as a transgender individual by being placed in a single-man cell. (Docket No. 1 at 3).

         On August 22, 2019, the Court ordered plaintiff to file an amended complaint. (Docket No. 14). In so doing, the Court noted that plaintiff's complaint was deficient and subject to dismissal. First, plaintiff had sued defendants in their official capacities only. (Docket No. 14 at 5). However, he made no attempt to demonstrate the liability of the governmental entity that employed them. (Docket No. 14 at 5-6). Second, the Court advised plaintiff that even if defendants were presumed to be sued in their individual capacities, he had failed to state a claim against them. (Docket No. 14 at 6). In particular, plaintiff used vague and conclusory language that was insufficient to demonstrate the personal responsibility of defendants for allegedly harming him.

         The Court directed plaintiff to file an amended complaint within thirty days. The Court's order provided instructions for plaintiff to follow when completing his amended complaint. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on September 23, 2019. (Docket No. 15).

         The Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff brings his amended complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He names Kay McIntyre, Kenneth Hovis, Ashley Eastmen, Karen Salemen, and Lisa Sanderson as defendants. Defendant McIntyre is sued in both her individual and official capacities. (Docket No. 15 at 2). Defendant Eastmen is sued in her individual capacity only. (Docket No. 15 at 3). Plaintiff has failed to indicate the capacity in which defendants Hovis, Salemen, and Sanderson are sued.

         Plaintiff's amended complaint is difficult to read and understand. From what the Court can discern, plaintiff is accusing defendants of harassing him and making inappropriate statements about his sexuality. Many of these statements apparently came in relation to plaintiff's desire to be in a two-man cell. He further believes that he is constitutionally entitled to placement in a two-man cell, rather than a single-man cell.

         As to defendant McIntyre, a mental health doctor, plaintiff alleges that McIntyre made numerous “rude” statements about homosexuals when he went to see her to get taken off suicide watch. (Docket No. 15 at 2-3). He also states that she went “out of her way to keep people on suicide” watch for no reason. (Docket No. 15 at 3). When answering plaintiff's health service requests, McIntyre would question him about why he wanted to go back to a two-man cell. (Docket No. 15 at 4). Plaintiff states that when he told her his reasons, McIntyre would reply to him that he only wanted to go to a two-man cell because he wanted to “have sex and cause trouble.” He asserts that this constitutes harassment. Furthermore, plaintiff claims that McIntyre asked “rude” questions about why he wanted to become transgender, and used homosexual slurs. (Docket No. 15-1 at 4). Plaintiff also accuses McIntyre, along with defendant Sanderson, of violating his constitutional rights by not allowing him in a two-man cell. (Docket No. 15-1 at 5). Finally, he alleges that McIntyre, along with defendants Sanderson and Hovis, told other inmates in administrative segregation that he was a child molester.

         As to defendant Hovis, plaintiff claims that Hovis would “slander and discriminate against” him on the basis of “protected characteristic[s] such as [his] race[, ] color[, ] national origin[, ] and sex.” (Docket No. 15 at 3). He states that Hovis made harassing statements and improperly processed grievances. (Docket No. 15 at 4). Plaintiff also accuses Hovis of making “smart comments” when he asked him questions, and of using homosexual slurs against him. (Docket No. 15-1 at 4). Finally, he alleges that Hovis, ...

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