United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
A. ROSS 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 Twombty, 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 Bradley Morrow. Based upon the allegations in
the complaint, Morrow is a police officer. Plaintiff does not
specify the capacity in which he sues Morrow.
cause of action stems from two traffic stops conducted by
Morrow, one on April 6, 2019 and another on April 8, 2019.
Plaintiffs allegations in support of his claim are best
understood if directly quoted. They are as follows.
On 04/06/2019 at approximately 7:43 a.m. I was driving with
my mother when Mr. Morrow pulled me over and issued me a
citation for "auxiliary" lamps. I informed Mr.
Morrow that they were "accent" lamps and that they
were not illegal in the State of Missouri. On 04/08/2019 I
saw Mr. Morrow in the lobby of the court house and when I
exited the court room and was exiting the parking lot Mr.
Morrow was following me in a police vehicle and pulled me
over and issued me another citation for the same lights with
a different ordinance violation. Each time Mr. Morrow ordered
me to cut them off. I refused to do so. There are no
"auxiliary" lamps on my vehicle, the lamps on my
vehicle are "accent" lamps and are not illegal in
the State of Missouri. I filed a complaint against Mr. Morrow
with the City of Ferguson. Mr. Morrow violated not only my
civil rights he also breach[ed] his fiduciary duty and that
(ECF No. 1 at 5). Plaintiff seeks a total of $1.5 million in
complaint does not state whether Morrow is being sued in his
official or individual capacity. Where a "complaint is
silent about the capacity in which [plaintiff] is suing
defendant, [a district court must] interpret the complaint as
including only official-capacity claims." Egerdahlv.
Ribbing Cmty. College, 72 F.3d 615, 619 (8th Cir. 1995);
Nix v. Norman, 879 F.2d 429, 431 (8th Cir. 1989).
Naming a government official in his official capacity is the
equivalent of naming the government entity that employs him.
Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58,
71 (1989), White v. Jackson, 865 F.3d 1064, 1075
(8th Cir. 2017). Based upon the allegations in the complaint,
Morrow is employed by a police department. However, a police
department is not an entity subject to suit under §
1983. See Ketchum v. City of West Memphis,
Ark, 974 F.2d 81, 82 (8th Cir. 1992) (entities such
as police departments are "not juridical entities suable
as such."). Additionally, the complaint fails to state a
claim of municipal liability. See Monell v. Dept. of
Social Services of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658,
690-91 (1978). The complaint is therefore subject to
dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
plaintiff had sued Morrow in his individual capacity, the
complaint would be dismissed. Plaintiff does not challenge
the constitutionality of the applicable traffic law. Instead,
he seeks monetary relief from Morrow for violating his Fourth
Amendment rights by pulling him over and citing him with
traffic violations. In support of this ...