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Cox v. Anello

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

December 9, 2019

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



         This matter is before the Court on the motion of plaintiff Willie Cox, Jr. for leave to commence this civil action without prepayment of the required filing fee. Having reviewed the motion, the Court finds that it should be granted. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). Additionally, for the reasons discussed below, the Court will dismiss this action without prejudice 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).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff is a pro se litigant who brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendant Michael Anello. (Docket No. 1 at 3). He does not indicate the capacity in which Anello is sued. Defendant Anello's job or title is given as “PO, ” which is apparently a reference to “police officer.” (Docket No. 1 at 2).

         The cause of action appears to arise out of a traffic stop.[1] Plaintiff states that the date and approximate time this occurred is on the original citation; however, no copy of the citation has been attached. The “Statement of Claim” is best understood if quoted in its entirety:

First of all, “accent lights” are not illegal in the State of Missouri. Secondly, “auxiliary” lights are not “accent” lights. The light bar, which is an “auxiliary” light and not an “accent light” was made illegal in the State of Missouri [on] July 13, 2017. On (date and approximate time on the original citation) I was parked on the southwest part of the Quick Trip parking lot when Michael Anello pulled up behind me and stayed in his vehicle for [approximately] 10 minutes[.] Then he exited his vehicle[, ] walked up to my vehicle[, ] and said, “The reason I pulled you over was your lights[.]” I said to Mr. Anello, “How can you pull over a parked car?” He did not answer that question, but issued me a citation for the lights that are not illegal in the State of Missouri. In doing so he breached his [fiduciary] oath thereby waiving his immunity. The case is open. Mr. [Anello] clearly violated or breached his oath! From this incident I now believe no place to be safe. When I went before the judge he ask[ed] me to talk to the prosecutor to “work something out[.]” He said he (the prosecutor) was a good guy, of course I refused. I now have a phobia about these type[s] of people.

(Docket No. 1 at 5). Attached to the complaint is a document that purports to give a brief description of his cause of action. (Docket No. 1-1 at 2). The description lists fiduciary duty violation, probable cause violation, illegal citation, no corpus delicti, no mens rea, and no actus reus.

         As a result of this incident, plaintiff seeks a total of $1.5 million in damages. (Docket No. 1 at 5). He asserts that a “clear and powerful message must be sent, ” because “they are making up bogus violations on the street.” (Docket No. 1 at 6).


         Plaintiff brings this pro se civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The sole defendant named in the complaint is Michael Anello. Plaintiff does not indicate the capacity in which defendant Anello is sued.

         A plaintiff can bring a § 1983 claim against a public official acting in his or her official capacity, his or her individual capacity, or both. Baker v. Chisom, 501 F.3d 920, 923 (8th Cir. 2007). However, if a plaintiff's complaint is silent about the capacity in which the defendant is being sued, the complaint is interpreted as including only official capacity claims. Id. See also Johnson v. Outboard Marine Corp., 172 F.3d 531, 535 (8th Cir. 1999) (“[I]n order to sue a public official in his or her individual capacity, a plaintiff must expressly and unambiguously state so in the pleadings, otherwise, it will be assumed that the defendant is sued only in his or her official capacity”); Artis v. Francis Howell North Band Booster Ass'n, Inc., 161 F.3d 1178, 1182 (8th Cir. 1998) (“If the complaint does not specifically name the defendant in his individual capacity, it is presumed he is sued only in his official capacity”); ...

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