United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
G. FLEISSIG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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.
Standard on Initial Review
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).
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
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).
states he brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983 against the Honorable Jason David Dodson, a Circuit
Court Judge in St. Louis County. Plaintiff asserts that Judge
Dodson acted unlawfully in denying him a right to a jury
trial in an action he was defending regarding a traffic
stop. In that case, plaintiff was charged with
violations of Sections 360.010 to 360.070 regarding
automobile lights. Although the penalty for a violation of
the ordinances included a fine up to a $1, 000 or jail up to
or including 90 days, the prosecutor in that case, Darold
Crotzer, filed a memorandum indicating that he would not be
seeking jail time or confinement if plaintiff was found
guilty of the charges. Thus, the City of Clayton moved for a
finding from the Court, on June 6, 2019, that plaintiff was
not entitled to a jury trial in the case.
filed an objection to the motion to deny the jury trial on
June 28, 2019. In his complaint, plaintiff asserts that Judge
Dodson granted the City of Clayton's motion for a bench
trial. However, there is no such indication on the docket, as
reflected on Missouri Case. Net. Rather, as plaintiff has
admitted in his complaint, the Court dismissed the action,
with prejudice on August 9, 2019.
alleges in his complaint that he was subjected to malicious
prosecution and a violation of his Sixth Amendment rights. He
further purports that Judge Dodson did not have
“probable cause” to deny him a jury trial in his
case. Plaintiff seeks a total of $1 million in damages.
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. All of Judge
Dodson's purportedly unlawful actions were judicial in
nature - presiding over the City of Clayton's request to
deny plaintiff a jury trial in a misdemeanor action (and
according to plaintiff granting the motion), as well as
dismissing the action filed against him. Further, Judge
Dodson, acting as Circuit Judge in the 21st Circuit Court in
St. Louis County, took judicial action pursuant to that
court's jurisdiction granted to it by the Missouri
Constitution. See Mo. Const. art V, § 17.
immunity applies “even when the judge is accused of
acting maliciously.” Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S.
547, 554 (1967). Because Judge Dodson 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 Judge Dodson are frivolous.
carefully reading and liberally construing the complaint, the
Court concludes that this case should be dismissed at this
time pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Plaintiff
obviously prepared the complaint in a careful and thoughtful
manner, and he is clear about the claim he wishes to assert
against Judge Dodson. It is therefore apparent that the